Debrett’s: The Famous Guide to Etiquette and British Style

Ana Angarita

The best resource to avoid the dreaded "faux pas" in the many social occasions that fill London's social calendar.

Debrett’s—the undisputed arbiter of British etiquette—has retained its essence while adapting to changing times. The guide is such an important source of British etiquette and manners that various authors such as William Thackeray, Oscar Wilde, George Orwell, and John Le Carré have referenced it in their books. Debrett’s also appears in the work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and even in the blockbuster British series Downton Abbey.

This publication played a significant role in the cultural fabric of Britain and its Empire. Since 1789, it has dictated the details of proper manners and morality of the British ruling class.

In its early days, the guide—which carries the name of its editor John Debrett—was published under the title of The New Peerage, a British noble yearbook that explored the hierarchy of titles and ranks granted by the sovereign to his/her subjects. To this day, it continues to feature—in the Debrett’s Peerage & Baronetage—a brief history of the family of each knighthood.

In the mid-1900, Debrett’s started to diversify and demonstrate its knowledge of every aspect of British style when it published The English Gentleman, Debrett’s Etiquette and Modern Manners, and Debrett’s Guide to Correspondence.

The publishing house based in Mayfair, central London, started to cover the stories of the great families of England and Scotland, as well as their engagements and royal weddings, among other topics important to the upper classes. But with the passage of time the publication had to evolve. Some manuals were discontinued and others updated—including its iconic Guide to Correct Behavior. After 2006, some central aspects were included, such as the more relaxed etiquette in the United States, as well as business etiquette.

Also, Debrett’s publishes “People of Today” dedicated to recording the biographies of tens of thousands of influential people around the world who have had an impact on the social, political and cultural life of Britain.

A more modern approach

More than a publishing house, Debrett’s is—today—a company that has skillfully handled the British heritage, becoming not only a network of products and services but also a propsperous business.

In addition to its traditional publications, the company now offers “the academy”, a series of training courses that help build trust and achieve personal and professional success in particular situations. These courses range from Finishing School, aimed at young adults, to Business School, where issues related to executive impact are addressed. They also include voice coaching, speech writing, training to cope with the media, business etiquette, networking in person and online, and more.

Debrett’s does not neglect the social dilemmas of our times. It addresses modern concerns such as appropriate dress for every social occasion and etiquette for weddings, as well as more mundane issues such as the proper use of cellular phones and electronic cigarettes.

The iconic guide has also published a digital version for teenagers with advice on how to cope with social networks. The famous guide continues to be an authority on British social etiquette.

© | 2019