While this might sound a little odd, and give rise in pictures of a very different kind of ‘gentlemen’s club’ in other areas of the world; living in London means that you’ll experience the concept of a Gentlemen’s Club at least once, and it might be a good idea to understand what it is if your new boss, or one of the city boss asks you to his ‘Club’ for lunch one day.
The history of gentlemen’s Clubs stretches right back to the eighteenth century with the formation of several private and member’s only clubs in London. They were mostly set up by the gentry and the upper class titled members of society. Until fairly recently no women have been allowed, although, some clubs have relaxed their gender rules to admit women as members. They have become popular in the upper middle classes and many business men in London are members of a number of clubs where they go to relax away from the city and the business world. Talk of business or the carrying out of business is strictly discouraged, and some clubs today do not allow mobile phones or laptops onto the premises. Despite this, a gentlemen’s club is where a large proportion of business is discussed and informal agreements are often made over a handshake.
Upper Class Only
The original London clubs such as White’s or Boodles were for the titled gentlemen of the era. While they may have seemed to be ultra respectable, there was a fair amount of gambling and gaming that occurred on a nightly basis, as gambling at the time was illegal if it was not in a member’s only club. The popularity of these clubs rose during the nineteenth century until there were over 500 of them in London alone. Many of the clubs came into existence because of the member’s interests or political bent and have remained so until today, excluding members who do not fall into the narrow regulations of the club statutes.
Even today, you cannot merely apply for membership of a club; you have to be proposed by another member who vouches for you and your ‘gentlemanly status’. In some of the top clubs there is a membership waiting list of years and then there is still the possibility of having your membership refused. In the strictest clubs there was a system called ‘blackballing’ which is when the member who proposed you for membership resigned if your membership was not accepted. It made sure that only the best were accepted!
Being a member of one of the establishment clubs in London is of course pretty meaningless in the world of business today, where results matter more than you family connections, but in London there is a particular quirk that still exists in business, which is that of the members of the different clubs being more open to business deals with other members. Most of the people who join clubs today do so for a status lift and the modern clubs are far less rigid and operate more like modern business centres with food and drink in, convivial surroundings that the upper class snob factor that used to permeate the streets of St. James.