Max Beerbohm

Max Beerbohm on ‘The Curse of Uniformity in Costume’

From the Whitefriars Journal, Vol. II, no. 5, March 1904, pp. 101-02.

On 8 January 1904 the Club guest was the writer, caricaturist, wit and dandy, Max Beerbohm, who gave us a humorous address on ‘The Curse of Uniformity in Costume’.

Himself attired in the most orthodox of costumes, Mr Beerbohm vigorously inveighed against the sameness and tameness of modern dress the neat reefer suits and billycocks. the neat frock coats and top hats, of precisely the same cut and pattern. He sounded the bugle note of courage, and called upon us to be original in our dress, and to permit our personalities to be apparent in our outward appearance. ‘Cease your craven efforts towards uniformity,’ he recommended. ‘Take a little less trouble in ordering your clothes and arranging your hair. When next you go to your tailor order the first kind of coat that comes into your head, and see that the tailor makes the coat exactly according to your inspiration. Adopt the same method at your hatter’s and your hosier’s. Above all, let your hair be as you will it. Personality is a sacred trust, and the man who, when he passes through the streets, is unattended by a mob of ribald urchins hardly deserves to be called a man.’

Friar Carruthers Gould was in sympathy with the tendency of our guest’s plea, that our emotions should be more bold in introducing colour into our attire. He considered that the present uniformity in costume was largely due to the uniformity of the lives we have to lead, and that it would be impossible for modern men to clothe themselves in the gay apparel of the sixteenth century. The man who should go through Fleet Street today dressed in the costume of Elizabeth’s time would, he said, be like a dragon-fly walking through hell. The conversation was continued on lively lines by Mr Frankfort Moore, who was in support of uniformity; Mr Walter Emanuel, who looked with dread upon a possible competition between men and women in the matter of millinery; Mr D. C. Calthorp, Mr Desmond Coke, Mr Osman Edwards, and Friars Dr Robertson Nicoll, Algernon Rose, Walter Bayes, G. B. Burgin, and Revd C. H. Grundy.