Bond Street. A street name that oozes luxury. A prestigious piece of London that stretches between Oxford Street and Piccadilly, which hosts extremely expensive residences and, of course, gorgeously chic shops. Fashion houses, auctioneers, jewellers, and art dealers all enjoy an immense sense of satisfaction when they have an address on Bond Street. But how did this extraordinary reputation come to be? We thought we’d investigate…
How it all began
Back in the late 17th century, a property called Clarendon House was built on Piccadilly, surrounded by fields. The house itself has a strangely contentious history, but we won’t head down that story line today. The consortium of developers who bought it included a certain Sir Thomas Bond; they had big plans. And before too long, Clarendon House was demolished and the area came to be known as Albemarle Street, Dover Street, and Bond Street.
The street itself is actually two streets that join; Old Bond Street and New Bond Street. The old version originally ran from Burlington Gardens to Piccadilly. The new version was completed in 1720 and extended up to Oxford Street. However, within a few decades, it had become THE place to socialise for those who lived in Mayfair.
The high society that attended the area was an attractive magnet for up-market shops and brands. They swiftly swooped in and established themselves. From such beginnings, thus Bond Street became the most expensive retail road in Europe.
The Bond Street reputation grows
Bond Street runs straight through the Burlington Estate in Mayfair. Back in the eighteenth century, it was where the highest echelons of society resided. Naturally, as a result of the surrounding customer base, highly prestigious brands had entrenched themselves there in the early decades, and Bond Street had become a popular place to shop and browse. However, what was of greater importance, was that it had become THE place to be seen. Nothing would make a resident’s day more than to inadvertently bump into an acquaintance whilst sauntering along looking for a little something for the missus.
This continued for a few years, but then Bond Street reached its zenith in the Regency period of the early nineteenth century; an outcome catalysed by an infamous dandy called ‘Beau’ Brummell.
Brummell was a popular guy who counted the Prince Regent amongst his circle of acquaintances. He was a style guru. A stickler for immaculate tailoring. And an avid supporter of chic over peacock. Where the Georgian age had been ridiculously flamboyant, Regency became the purveyor of understated elegance.
Brummell favoured muted colours and pristinely tailored clothing that flattered the male shape; as an aside, many attribute the development of the classic three-piece suit to him. But he was a canny man. He used many tailors, in order that no single one could claim sovereignty over his custom, and this will have kept them hungry to please him. He was the adored dandy who had an expensive lifestyle. The leader of the style pack.
Pride comes before a fall
Brummell, however, became a victim of his own success. As they say, live by the sword, die by the sword, and his weapon of choice was society’s regard. A dangerous and unreliable weapon at any time. He attended a masquerade ball one evening and was slighted by the Prince Regent, who pretended not to recognise him. Clearly believing himself unconquerable, Brummell turned to another acquaintance and asked, “Who’s your fat friend?”. This alone didn’t go down well. However, losing royal favour was just the start, for his situation was then made worse.
The lifestyle that Brummell lead began to catch up with him. He accrued vast gambling debts which he could not repay. Once word had got out that his financial honour was decimated, he made a hasty escape to France in 1816, where he eventually died in an asylum in 1840.
Interestingly, however, it was the writing of Conan Doyle and others, including TS Eliot, that brought Brummell back to fame. He was played by well-known actors both on the screen and the stage, and his renown for fashion remained so widely acknowledged that the exclusive salons on Bond Street still fed off his name.
Bond Street in the 21st century
Bond Street is now, as much as it ever was, known for its elegant offering and exclusive labels. It is still the home of prestigious brands such as Burberry, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Louis Vuitton, and Prada… to name but a few. So as a final thought, we reckon it still absolutely deserves its place on the Monopoly board. Though nowadays, you will need more than £200 to pass go!