The way he wore: landmark Yorkshire exhibition showcases history of men’s fashion from lords to landworkers

Leyburn auctioneers Tennants launches a ground-breaking exhibition focusing on the history of male dressing for work and show. Stephanie Smith reports.

An exhibit at the Man & Boy exhibition which opens on January 16 at Tennants in Leyburn.

From fops to farmworkers, swells to swineherds, men’s fashion and its history take centre stage as the subject of a ground-breaking exhibition which opens tomorrow in North Yorkshire.

Man & Boy: Male Dress 1730-1930, which is at The Garden Rooms at Tennants Auctioneers in, Leyburn, North Yorkshire, tell the story of clothes worn by men and boys at work and play, at war and peace, in the schoolroom and in mourning, over two centuries. Using real garments drawn from two private collections, the exhibition explores not only the luxurious attire of the elite, but also the plain workaday clothes of the ordinary man and boy.

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The history of male fashion plays out at Tennants in Leyburn.

“With an increasing interest in the construction of gender, the exhibition will offer a rare and timely opportunity to look in detail at changing historical attitudes to the representation of masculinity from early childhood to adulthood,” says Tennants, adding: “The exhibition will introduce visitors to the attire of fops, dandies and swells, to bridegroom’s clothing across the centuries, to the costumes worn on trips to the seaside and much more. A special focus will also be given to clothing made or worn in Yorkshire.”

The auction house says it is delighted to play a leading role in moving the discussion of male dress from the side lines to centre stage, pointing out that the study of male clothing has long been overshadowed by female fashion by both costume historians and museums.

It adds that there has been only one previous public exhibition focusing solely on male dress, and that took place more than 40 years ago in New York.

The exhibition at Tennants runs from tomorrow until February 16 and is free but there will also be a ticketed illustrated talk on February 15 at 2pm by Mark Wallis and Alasdair Peebles, who will examine two forms of male dress in 1850s England – printed shirts for gentleman and silk dresses worn by young boys. Called Shirted & Skirted: Men’s Printed Shirts and Boys Silk Dresses in mid Victorian England, tickets cost £12 to include tea, coffee and cakes.

Exploring mens fashion at Tennants Auctioneers, Leyburn, the exhibition Man & Boy: Male Dress 1730-1930 runs until February 16. February 15 sees a talk by Mark Wallis and Alasdair Peebles on mens printed shirts and boys dresses. Left: A French Lyons Silk Coat or Justaucorps, c. 1760. Right: A boys coat, made circa 1760 in Italian or French Silk Brocade. Picture Sebastian Bone Photography.

Open since 2014, The Garden Rooms is a multi-purpose venue for weddings, conferences, events, auctions and exhibitions at Tennants Auctioneers, the largest family owned auction house in the UK. It showcases collections and items for forthcoming sales, many of which are on public view for the first and only time. Tennants works with educational and cultural bodies including schools, universities and museums,hosting loan exhibitions from museums. Past exhibitions have included paintings by artist Norman Cornish, the first ever exhibition of the furniture of Robert ‘Mouseman’ Thompson, and annual loan displays from The Bowes Museum.

To book tickets for the Shirted & Skirted talk, contact Tennants on 01969 6211746 or email [email protected] Further details on

Inside the exhibition space at Tennants.
Left: A 19th Century Silver-Laced Coattee made for Captain John Abraham Russell who served in India in the army of the Honourable East India Company. Right: A miniature uniform, made for a boy whose father was in the Towcester Yeomanry Cavalry circa 1840.