Jermyn Street is not only where our founder Thomas Mayes Lewin opened his first shop, it is a mecca for gentlemen around the world. But this renowned address’ history is much more than luxurious suits and polished shoes; in fact, the whole story of the street is anything but strait-laced.
At the beginning of the Restoration, politician Henry Jermyn wasn’t the most popular member of the royal court, although he was extremely friendly with Henrietta Maria, mother of Charles II (as well as one of her maids of honour). The Queen Consort liked Henry so much she appointed him Earl of St Albans and bestowed him with a large parcel of land north of St James Palace.
Jermyn’s initial attempts to develop the land were met with resistance from the City of London, but he managed to persuade the King on the basis that there was a local need for houses fit for members of the court.
Permission in hand, Jermyn carved out various streets which exist to this day including Jermyn, King, Charles II and Babmaes (the latter named after the King’s servant Baptist May). He also established St Alban’s Market and set aside land for a brand new parish church, St James Church, Piccadilly, designed and built by Sir Christopher Wren.
The presence of the aristocracy attracted the capital’s finest merchants, offering every type of luxury imaginable, from the finest wine, the sweetest perfume and the best clothing money could buy.
The prosperous area was also popular with notorious socialites and trendsetters. Long before reality television and Instagram, 19th century gentleman Beau Brummel was busy becoming one of the first people who was famous for simply being famous.
Credited with introducing the modern man’s suit (as well as other hygienic habits such as the daily routine of brushing one’s teeth, shaving and bathing) it is claimed that Brummel spent five hours each day getting dressed. It is also rumoured that Brummel’s long-suffering servants were forced to redo his necktie hundreds of times to get it right.
His look quickly became a trend, dubbed ‘dandyism’, which influenced every echalon of British society, echoes of which are still seen in modern styles and taken to the extreme at acclaimed menswear events like Florence’s Pitti Uomo. In 2002, a statue created by Czech sculptor Irena Sedlecka was erected in Jermyn Street in his honour.
As a result the area flourished and by the 19th century, Jermyn Street was soon lined with shop window after shop window of luxury tailoring and craftsmanship – including T.M.Lewin. London was now the leading fashion centre in Europe, setting the standard for formal dress and defining what it means to be a gentleman.
On 17 April 1941, disaster struck – a Luftwaffe parachute mine exploded on Jermyn Street, leaving the famous street severely damaged and producing many casualties. Those that survived the blast found themselves either trapped under buildings or surrounded by fire, which spread through King’s Street, Bury Street and Duke Street.
After the war, Jermyn Street rebuilt and recovered thanks to its willingness to remain open-minded about new styles (unlike Savile Row) while refusing to compromise on quality.
Today, business on Jermyn Street is booming (42,000 people visited in 2016 – up 37.9% on the previous year). Throughout its 300-year history, its bastion of elite shops and has ensured its distinctive character continues to inspire a new generation to seek out the best traditional menswear and a quintessentially British experience. We hope you pay us a visit soon!
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