The Gentleman’s Chest Explained


Gentleman’s Chest Explained

Over the ages, furniture has undeniably changed to fit current interior design trends. Some of these fade out and become obsolete, while others are hailed as antiques to be sought after. Still others are modified for modern use, though they still retain the feel of their original intentions. The gentleman’s chest falls under the last two options.

A gentleman’s chest is different from a normal chest of drawers because it typically includes a wardrobe section meant for hanging clothes. This section is often used to hang suits or other dress apparel, while the drawers can include accessories and other wearable items.

Whether you are simply curious about this unique furniture piece or looking for something different to liven up your bedroom or dressing area, a gentleman’s chest can fit the bill. Read on to learn more about this often overlooked furniture option.

What is a Gentleman’s Chest?

Hailing from the Victorian era, a gentleman’s chest is reminiscent of times past when fashion largely dictated society. As such, people would need appropriate storage for their wardrobes, which were often much larger and more involved back then.

As men had their own unique apparel, the need for appropriate storage resulted in the gentleman’s chest, designed for traditionally male articles of clothing. Because this item was designed several centuries ago, men’s outfits at the time were significantly more complicated than they are these days. This created a need for specialty storage and the gentleman’s chest was born.

Inside the Cupboard Section

Traditionally, the cupboard of a gentleman’s chest will have a clothing rod. This rod is used for storing many clothing articles. The most traditional options are as follows:

  • Dress pants
  • Suit coats
  • Ties
  • Button-down shirts

While most cupboards inside a gentleman’s chest will have a hanging rod, there are other options. Some gentleman’s chests would instead have shelves for folded clothing or even baskets. Others would include a rotating hanger for ties or belts.

Drawer Storage in the Gentleman’s Chest

Drawers in a gentleman’s chest were originally designed to hold articles of clothing, some of which are not often used anymore. Typically, these would be a safe storage place for formal dress. These articles often included:

  • Handkerchiefs
  • Undergarments
  • Standard and bow ties
  • Cravats
  • Gloves
  • Hats

Clothing is not all a gentleman’s chest is used for. Outfits back in the day were far more complicated than these days, with many accessories being part of the daily outfit. As a result, items other than clothing would be appropriately stored in a gentleman’s chest. These include:

  • Pocket watches and wristwatches
  • Wallets and bill clips
  • Pipes

With so many articles worn and used by people, the contents of a gentleman’s chest would naturally vary from person to person and often reflected their daily lives.

How is a Gentleman’s Chest Used? 

These days, wardrobes have changed significantly. Even so, this furniture option is appealing to people who want to make their space unique. They may choose it to fit in with a classic interior design theme or simply because it is a pleasing substitute for more standard versions.

Used now by both men and women, the cabinet section is often used for clothing that easily wrinkles, the most notable being silk or dresses. The drawers can be used for all manner of items, depending on what you own and need to store.

Gentleman’s chests are also often used as end tables in the living room due to their larger size and drawer space. This gives the owner a unique place for everyday items being kept out of sight, resulting in less visible clutter in the living space.

Where to Find a Gentleman’s Chest

There are many modern versions of gentleman’s chests sold at furniture stores everywhere. This whitewashed wood option is a beautiful modern version available online. This chest has a much taller cabinet section, which is more appropriate for dresses or complete suits. The Amish are also well-known for producing beautiful chests that you cannot find on the traditional market.

If the history of this unique piece or a more antiquated style of the chest appeals to you, you might consider hunting through estate sales or antique barns to find an original. Be prepared to spend a pretty penny, though. You will not find a cheap one without some serious luck involved.

If you are on the hunt for a bachelor’s chest, this version can be used as a nightstand, while this one is more acceptable as a stand-in for a chest of drawers.

Unique Uses for a Gentleman’s Chest

In today’s world, people commonly use furniture pieces for things other than their intended purpose. A gentleman’s chest is no different and its unique style leads to many uses outside of clothing. Some examples include:

  • Winter wear storage by the front door. The cabinets and drawers are perfect for hats, scarves, and gloves.
  • A gentleman’s chest can be perfect for storing infant clothing in a nursery
  • Many people store craft materials inside a gentleman’s chest, particularly in models where the cabinet contains shelving.
  • The varied spaces in a gentleman’s chest are perfect for keeping electronics and cords stored out of view.
  • You can use a gentleman’s chest to store various keepsakes accumulated in life. Photo albums, baby paraphernalia, and children’s crafts made over the years are all excellent options.
  • If you make and sell your own products, these could be a great storage option for completed products awaiting sale.

Beyond these few ideas, your lifestyle is sure to come with many more options. Thinking of a gentleman’s chest as only a dresser does this versatile product a disservice. The sky is the limit when deciding where and how to use yours.

What is a Bachelor’s Chest?

A bachelor’s chest is smaller than a gentleman’s chest. Traditionally, they have three to four drawers and do not include the cabinet that is seen on a gentleman’s chest. 

While the height can vary, they do tend to have a much lower height, to the point where it is often seen used as a larger than average nightstand next to the bed. They are also narrower than their larger counterparts. Using a bachelor’s chest next to the bed has the added bonus of more storage space than a standard nightstand.

How is a Bachelor’s Chest Different from a Dresser?

Taller models mimic the more widely known chests of drawers that are mass produced today. Since they can look very similar, it can be hard to tell the difference between a chest of drawers and a bachelor’s chest. 

Unlike a regular dresser, the topmost drawers in a bachelor’s chest can be shallower than the ones beneath it. A traditional dresser often has five or six drawers, which is more than the three to four drawers generally found on a bachelor’s chest. Even the taller ones are shorter than traditional dressers.

Because of their similarities, the term “bachelor’s chest” has largely fallen out of style. If you are on the hunt for a tall bachelor’s chest that can serve as a dresser, you will have more luck using keywords online such as “dresser” or “chest of drawers,” then limiting those results to three and four drawers.

Final Thoughts

Both the gentleman’s chest and bachelor’s chest can be unique additions to any bedroom, particularly if you are going for the mid-century modern or Victorian style. They are more complicated than traditional dressers, which can make your space feel more individualized to your tastes.

In a world of mass produced, cookie cutter goods, this historic furniture piece could be just the ticket for transforming your space into something for you to be proud of, while also being incredibly functional at the same time.

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