A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the hurdles I’d jumped over (and, on occasion, fallen at). while republishing vintage books. Some of you may have noticed that the covers for my four Aikenhead Honours books did not feature any heroes.
The dreaded designer stubble.
Designer stubble, I contend, is the bane of a cover designer’s life, if she’s trying to create something that’s reasonably faithful to the Regency period.
Regency men often had side-whiskers, but their chins were clean shaven.
Today’s cover models? Not so much.
In fact, hardly at all.
Try typing “Regency gentleman” into any site that offers stock images — places like Shutterstock, Adobe, and so on. I bet that at least half of the images that come up will show a male model with designer stubble. Or a beard. On some sites, almost every single so-called “Regency gentleman” has chin hair of some kind. Even Period Images has lots of them. (That organisation boasts that clients will not end up with a Cover image of models wearing cheap Halloween costumes. But see my rant on boots, below…)
How, I ask you, would a Regency gentleman have created designer stubble, anyway? Don’t think a cut-throat razor would cut it, do you? [Sorry, couldn’t resist] He might stop shaving for a few days, but he couldn’t keep his stubble designer-length, I don’t think. He’d have to shave it off and start again. Unless you know better?
Stubble to the fore (or two, at least)
The two “Regency gentlemen” in this image are both sporting shirts that are a little reminiscent of Darcy after that famous swim, but Darcy did not have stubble. A five o’clock shadow, perhaps, but that was after a long hot journey to Pemberley. (That was why he went for a dip, wasn’t it?) Eye-candy below 😉
Darcy has me thinking about that seminal BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. The BBC goes to enormous lengths to get costumes right. They employ historical costume consultants. How many of the males on screen had a moustache or a beard?
Not any that I can recall.
On the right are some of the BBC’S costumes for Lizzie Bennet and Mr Darcy (from a Bath costume museum exhibit). You can see that Darcy has side whiskers but NO stubble.
The officers at the party above (Wickham and co) have long sideburns (though they weren’t called that at the time). They don’t have other facial hair. It would have spoiled the look of those splendid side-whiskers, wouldn’t it? Mr Darcy had side-whiskers, too.
Interestingly, the Wikipedia article about the BBC’s P&P says this about the male actors’ appearance:
[The producers] instructed all male actors to let their hair grow before filming and shave off their moustaches.
I think I rest my case.
And before stubble, we had boots
Ah yes, boots. Specifically, long riding boots. In practically every cover image that shows the model’s lower legs. Worn with every kind of Regency dress, including evening dress for a ball. I’ll spare you the examples, but you’ll easily find them on the image sites using the links I’ve included alongside the Iron Duke (above).
Gentlemen did wear riding boots or top boots for day wear. But not all of them. You’ll see top boots sitting on the right in this Tom and Jerry cartoon called “Jerry is training for a Swell” from 1820. But his friend on the left is wearing pantaloons and slippers without heels.
In the cartoon below, depicting Tom, Jerry and Logic at Vauxhall in 1820, I don’t see any boots at all. I see lots of knee breeches, with silk stockings and low shoes. And some men are wearing pantaloons instead of breeches, a fashion favoured by Wellington from about 1805. (He was, famously, barred from entering Almack’s because he turned up at the door in pantaloons instead of knee breeches.) The producers of cover model shots do not seem to be aware of the dress code for Almack’s, or any other evening venue, sadly.
All is not lost? Boots, yes. Stubble, no.
For covers, it’s usually possible to crop the image so that the pesky boots don’t show.
But how to get rid of the designer stubble? I’m struggling with that one. Hence this rant.
For my hero cover, I think I might be forced to go into decapitation mode since I’m determined to have a live model, not a Regency print. Do you have better sources of male cover models where the images don’t flout so many Regency dress conventions? Do please share.