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6 Iconic Emblems of British Style

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British style is at the heart of the Bown of London loungewear brand. Our British-designed bathrobes and designer dressing gowns take inspiration from current trends and confident prints and patterns and classic and traditional colours that ooze panache and style. Some take their names from towns, cities and locations in Great Britain, but they're loved worldwide. Take the Threadneedle and its signature pinstripes, for example, named after the London street, that housed the old Bank of England. Or the soothing blue stripes of The Salcombe, titled after the stunning coastal town in South Devon. There's history in our gowns, just like the deep history for which Britain is charmed.

Brits have always been famed for their style and admired for it internationally. But what is British style, and what makes it so unique? Here are just six of the most iconic emblems of British style and how they came to be a rich part of our cultural tapestry.

gentlemans bowler hat

The Bowler Hat

Could there be a more British symbol of gentleman's style than London hatmakers', Thomas and Williams Bowler's hard felt creation of 1849? Theories abound about the origins of the masterpiece. Legend has it that it was requested by a former military man who found his top hat to be a hindrance with the lower roof in his car. Other stories suggest that it was designed for gamekeepers on horseback – more stable and a snug fit close to the crown, designed not to topple off or come into contact with close branches overhead. Another tale suggests that when William Coke went to collect his hat from the hatmakers, that he stamped on it twice to test the hat's strength.

Whatever its origins, The Bowler hat was a popular fashion accessory in the 19th century, worn as a formal accompaniment to suits and most often associated with London City gents and financial traders. You might even recall Bradford and Bingley Building Society's former logo depicting two silhouetted gents in bowlers?

Charlie Chaplin's adoption of the hard canopy with the curved brim gave way to its alternative name of the 'Chaplin Hat'. Other celebrities associated with the Bowler hat are Laurel and Hardy, John Cleese, The Beatles, Alfred Hitchcock and Winston Churchill. The protagonist of Stanley Kubrick's famed A Clockwork Orange donned one; the Royal Family is partial to one, and of course, it was the hat of choice for Bond's Oddjob.

burberry tench coat 

The Trenchcoat

As the name suggests, this British beauty can be traced back to army officers and British wartime trenches. The traditional colour was khaki or 'army green', but we're most accustomed to Burberry's camel coloured check-lined combo.

Both Burberry and Aquascutum claim to have created the world-famous trench coat with the latter claiming its creation as far back as the 1850s.

The trench's shoulder straps were used to attach epaulettes or other rank insignia and the cuff straps designed to keep water from dripping down the arms when using surveillance equipment like binoculars. Both features remain an intrinsic part of the designs we see today, even if they are worn strictly for fashion.

In many ways, there's a striking resemblance to the dressing gown with a self-belt to the waist, ample storage pockets and the notion of wearing over other garments to keep warm.

The trenchcoat is a stalwart of British style, and this timeless piece shows no signs of waning in popularity any time soon.

dressing gown 

The Dressing Gown

Dressing gowns were first introduced to Europe in the 17th century by the Silk Road traders. Although not strictly a British invention this garment is linked to famous historical figures like the diarist, Samuel Pepys, who opted for one over his nightgown and with his cravat. The humble dressing gown or modern-day bathrobe also has strong links to The Brits, perhaps because of our distinct seasons and the inclement temperatures that lead to it being a year-round bed and bathroom staple?

The classic dressing gown has come a long way since the terry-towelling robe of the 1970s. The highly absorbent terry gown is still part of the quality Bown of London collection but is now joined by a range of altogether more fashion-oriented pieces with tailored features like foldback cuffs, double loops to the waist and a half shawl collar.

The common dressing gown has experienced a resurgence in recent years with the rise of loungewear. This has been fuelled further by the Covid-19 pandemic and more time spent in our homes rather than out socialising in public spaces. There's a real appetite for comfortable but stylish attire, and Bown of London designer bathrobes fit the bill perfectly. Bold stripes, striking patterns and prints and an uplifting palette of colours mean there's no excuse for boring bathrobes and drab dressing gowns.

classic british brogues 

The Brogue

Did you know that the distinctive punched holes that we've come to associate with gentleman's brogues used to perforate all the way through the upper shoe? This is because brogues started life as a Gaelic outdoor shoe and the holes were a functional feature rather than a decorative one - designed to let water out when traversing boggy ground. Initially made for Scottish and Irish farmers at the turn of the 19th century the brogue was used primarily for outdoor and country wear but has now become a modern wardrobe staple. Most commonly seen in shades of tan, they're worn casually with chinos and turned-up jeans and formally with trousers and bespoke suits.

Prince Charles cemented their status as a coveted fashion accessory when he wore black and white contrast (spectator) brogues to play golf in 1930.

Timeless, versatile and part of every true gent's wardrobe, a good investment pair will set you back at least £250, but John Lobb's Stowey brogues ring in as high as £1,015.

 union jack wellington boots

Wellington Boots

Where would British culture be without a trusty pair of Wellington boots, but do you know the origins of the humble welly?

In the late 1700's army officers wore boots called Hessians. Made of soft, highly polished calfskin, they were knee-high, curved at the top and similar to a riding boot, but with a 'V' shape, and decorated with a tassel, cut into the front.

Arthur Wellesley, also known as 'The Duke of Wellington,' famous for his victory at the Battle of Waterloo fought during this period. In the early 1800s, he asked his London shoemaker to modify the boot, removing the tassel and raising the calf leather to the knee. This new boot was waxed and now appropriate for not just wearing to battle but informal evening wear.  The updated version caught on fast and was named after the Duke. The rest is history.

Wellies are now a staple of country living, and in non-Covid times, a fashion essential at boutique festivals and ultra-chic glamping.

 bow tie

Bow Tie

Just about as dapper as it gets, a bow tie has the ability to turn a regular shirt or suit into Dandy with a capital D. It's a true British classic that has evolved from the preserve of old gents to the trendy and the hip.  

As for its origins, like many of the iconic British fashion accessories, the classic bow tie dates back to the 1700s. It's one of the oldest forms of neckwear in men's fashion and shares a history with the cravat – originally worn by Croatian mercenaries in the 30 Years War.

Between 1850 and the turn of the century, bow ties dominated menswear and they most commonly manifested in black or white or variations thereof. No longer just a black-tie accoutrement, the bow tie or dicky bow now comes in a bevvy of fabrics and colours and is just as easily teamed with a tweed blazer and jeans.

 

Of course, there are many other staples of British style. The three-piece suit credited to King Charles II. Scottish Tartan adopted by haute couture houses worldwide and linked to designers like Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood. Pea coats, Mackintosh's, Chelsea boots and more. New styles and fads come and go, but the British Classics remain steadfast. How many do you have in your wardrobe and which is your favourite fashion item of British origin?

 

British style is at the heart of the Bown of London loungewear brand. Our British-designed bathrobes and designer dressing gowns take inspiration from current trends and confident prints and patterns and classic and traditional colours that ooze panache and style. Some take their names from towns, cities and locations in Great Britain, but they're loved worldwide. Take the Threadneedle and its signature pinstripes, for example, named after the London street, that housed the old Bank of England. Or the soothing blue stripes of The Salcombe, titled after the stunning coastal town in South Devon. There's history in our gowns, just like the deep history for which Britain is charmed.

Brits have always been famed for their style and admired for it internationally. But what is British style, and what makes it so unique? Here are just six of the most iconic emblems of British style and how they came to be a rich part of our cultural tapestry.

gentlemans bowler hat

The Bowler Hat

Could there be a more British symbol of gentleman's style than London hatmakers', Thomas and Williams Bowler's hard felt creation of 1849? Theories abound about the origins of the masterpiece. Legend has it that it was requested by a former military man who found his top hat to be a hindrance with the lower roof in his car. Other stories suggest that it was designed for gamekeepers on horseback – more stable and a snug fit close to the crown, designed not to topple off or come into contact with close branches overhead. Another tale suggests that when William Coke went to collect his hat from the hatmakers, that he stamped on it twice to test the hat's strength.

Whatever its origins, The Bowler hat was a popular fashion accessory in the 19th century, worn as a formal accompaniment to suits and most often associated with London City gents and financial traders. You might even recall Bradford and Bingley Building Society's former logo depicting two silhouetted gents in bowlers?

Charlie Chaplin's adoption of the hard canopy with the curved brim gave way to its alternative name of the 'Chaplin Hat'. Other celebrities associated with the Bowler hat are Laurel and Hardy, John Cleese, The Beatles, Alfred Hitchcock and Winston Churchill. The protagonist of Stanley Kubrick's famed A Clockwork Orange donned one; the Royal Family is partial to one, and of course, it was the hat of choice for Bond's Oddjob.

burberry tench coat 

The Trenchcoat

As the name suggests, this British beauty can be traced back to army officers and British wartime trenches. The traditional colour was khaki or 'army green', but we're most accustomed to Burberry's camel coloured check-lined combo.

Both Burberry and Aquascutum claim to have created the world-famous trench coat with the latter claiming its creation as far back as the 1850s.

The trench's shoulder straps were used to attach epaulettes or other rank insignia and the cuff straps designed to keep water from dripping down the arms when using surveillance equipment like binoculars. Both features remain an intrinsic part of the designs we see today, even if they are worn strictly for fashion.

In many ways, there's a striking resemblance to the dressing gown with a self-belt to the waist, ample storage pockets and the notion of wearing over other garments to keep warm.

The trenchcoat is a stalwart of British style, and this timeless piece shows no signs of waning in popularity any time soon.

dressing gown 

The Dressing Gown

Dressing gowns were first introduced to Europe in the 17th century by the Silk Road traders. Although not strictly a British invention this garment is linked to famous historical figures like the diarist, Samuel Pepys, who opted for one over his nightgown and with his cravat. The humble dressing gown or modern-day bathrobe also has strong links to The Brits, perhaps because of our distinct seasons and the inclement temperatures that lead to it being a year-round bed and bathroom staple?

The classic dressing gown has come a long way since the terry-towelling robe of the 1970s. The highly absorbent terry gown is still part of the quality Bown of London collection but is now joined by a range of altogether more fashion-oriented pieces with tailored features like foldback cuffs, double loops to the waist and a half shawl collar.

The common dressing gown has experienced a resurgence in recent years with the rise of loungewear. This has been fuelled further by the Covid-19 pandemic and more time spent in our homes rather than out socialising in public spaces. There's a real appetite for comfortable but stylish attire, and Bown of London designer bathrobes fit the bill perfectly. Bold stripes, striking patterns and prints and an uplifting palette of colours mean there's no excuse for boring bathrobes and drab dressing gowns.

classic british brogues 

The Brogue

Did you know that the distinctive punched holes that we've come to associate with gentleman's brogues used to perforate all the way through the upper shoe? This is because brogues started life as a Gaelic outdoor shoe and the holes were a functional feature rather than a decorative one - designed to let water out when traversing boggy ground. Initially made for Scottish and Irish farmers at the turn of the 19th century the brogue was used primarily for outdoor and country wear but has now become a modern wardrobe staple. Most commonly seen in shades of tan, they're worn casually with chinos and turned-up jeans and formally with trousers and bespoke suits.

Prince Charles cemented their status as a coveted fashion accessory when he wore black and white contrast (spectator) brogues to play golf in 1930.

Timeless, versatile and part of every true gent's wardrobe, a good investment pair will set you back at least £250, but John Lobb's Stowey brogues ring in as high as £1,015.

 union jack wellington boots

Wellington Boots

Where would British culture be without a trusty pair of Wellington boots, but do you know the origins of the humble welly?

In the late 1700's army officers wore boots called Hessians. Made of soft, highly polished calfskin, they were knee-high, curved at the top and similar to a riding boot, but with a 'V' shape, and decorated with a tassel, cut into the front.

Arthur Wellesley, also known as 'The Duke of Wellington,' famous for his victory at the Battle of Waterloo fought during this period. In the early 1800s, he asked his London shoemaker to modify the boot, removing the tassel and raising the calf leather to the knee. This new boot was waxed and now appropriate for not just wearing to battle but informal evening wear.  The updated version caught on fast and was named after the Duke. The rest is history.

Wellies are now a staple of country living, and in non-Covid times, a fashion essential at boutique festivals and ultra-chic glamping.

 bow tie

Bow Tie

Just about as dapper as it gets, a bow tie has the ability to turn a regular shirt or suit into Dandy with a capital D. It's a true British classic that has evolved from the preserve of old gents to the trendy and the hip.  

As for its origins, like many of the iconic British fashion accessories, the classic bow tie dates back to the 1700s. It's one of the oldest forms of neckwear in men's fashion and shares a history with the cravat – originally worn by Croatian mercenaries in the 30 Years War.

Between 1850 and the turn of the century, bow ties dominated menswear and they most commonly manifested in black or white or variations thereof. No longer just a black-tie accoutrement, the bow tie or dicky bow now comes in a bevvy of fabrics and colours and is just as easily teamed with a tweed blazer and jeans.

 

Of course, there are many other staples of British style. The three-piece suit credited to King Charles II. Scottish Tartan adopted by haute couture houses worldwide and linked to designers like Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood. Pea coats, Mackintosh's, Chelsea boots and more. New styles and fads come and go, but the British Classics remain steadfast. How many do you have in your wardrobe and which is your favourite fashion item of British origin?

 

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