The History of Men’s Suit's

November 03, 2011 Tom Burtingdon

Today, the suit is something that we wear on formal occasions, when we go to work, or simply when we want to dress pretty and show off. While for some men wearing a suit is something that only happens once in a while, for other men, suits are not only a necessity, but a hobby.

But, the question is, did you ever wonder where it all started? How old is the suit? How it became what it is today? Well, there are some things in the history of the suit that might surprise you – and that without any doubt changed the way men’s clothes look today!

Early history of a man's suit
The earliest “suits” date back to 1666. We should note that a suit is traditionally a form’s of men’s clothing that is comprised of a matching coat, waistcoat and trousers.  While what we call today’s suit is relatively new having its roots in the 19th century, we can thank one man and one man alone for it: King Charles II from the mid 17th century.  He was the one that ordered for all English Cour men to wear a cravat (a ancient form of tie) alongside a waistcoat and long coat, but also a wig, a hat and trousers (they were called breeches back then).

However, we can thank a very special friend of King George IV, the one who made dandyism a style, Beau Brummell, who popularized an early form of suit in the early 19th century. Back then, he mesmerized European men with his somber colors well-cut tailored clothes because this style was highly contrasting with the extravagant men’s clothes worn before.  Nevertheless, perhaps one of the most important things Beau popularized was daily bathing as part of men’s toilet  (did you know that perfume was invented in France to hide the bad smell of the nobles  who hated to wash themselves).

The men’s suit popularized by Brummell included a tight tailcoat with white or non-matching pants, a waistcoat in a pale color, a white shirt, and a cravat, accompanied by tall boots.

However, the men’s suit seen another change in the early days of the Victorian era, with the popularization of the frock coat – a knee length coat. However, rather shortly, the “morning coat” basically a less formal coat with a cut away front replaced the frock coat.

Now, what should be mentioned is that what it is today seen as a suit, was a very informal garment, that was usually worn at the seaside or for sports, or in the country.

Early 20th century suits
As the morning coat became being more and more popular and formal, the beginning of the 20th century seen the decline of frock clothes, and seen the lounge suit more and more as a regular and quite fashionable way of dressing in town.  The black tie became quite common at the same time.

The time between the two wars seen another change in men’s clothes and how they were worn, as men started wearing  lounge suits for informal meetings and frock coats for formal meetings.

However, most men started wearing the short lounge coated suit after WWI, making the “morning coat” seen as formal.

The 1920s saw men wearing suits with straight legged trousers, that measured 23 inches around the cuff. However, younger men preferred even wider legged trousers, the infamous “Oxford Bags”. This was a style that was popular until WWII.

Another thing that needs to be mentioned is that the 1920s also seen the popularization of high-waist trousers, that lasted well into the 1940s.

Mid and late 20th century suits and men clothing style
After WWII men’s suits started to enjoy simplicity and became modernized by fashion designers. In the 1960s, the size of the lapel shrunk tremendously, and suit coats began being cut very straight, letting no waistline show. Of course, as a result of post war clothing rationing many cuts were not available anymore, which led to a change in style.

The 70s seen the snug-fitting suit coat raise to popularity again, and this also meant a rebirth of the waistcoat, making the three piece suit a very popular thing to wear.

The 80s  saw yet another simplification of the suit, with a looser jacket and the disappearance of the waistcoat.  The suits’ waistline radically dropped in the 80s, and also introduced two piece single breasted and double breasted suits.

The 21st century and today’s suits and men’s clothes
During the first decade, the two piece three button suit was extremely popular, but wore of quite quickly.

Today, men’s suits are seen as extremely conservative in the Western culture, but there are a number of extravagant variations used by many subcultures.

However, parts of the a man’s suit are still worn individually, making the full suit something appropriate only for formal occasions as the individual parts of the suit aka pants, jacket, shirt can be worn individually in what we so gracefully call “casual”

Truth be told, today it’s not uncommon to see mens designer clothing featuring a matching pair of pants and coat with a t-shirt.

All of today’s combinations make possible for people to express their true personality, but, for those who really want to show a sign of class a suit is a must – as seen all around us. Suits make a person distinct, classy, and stylish!

Take a look all around you: with every formal even, you see all the celebrities opting to wear one or another form of suit: some opt for today’s modern suits, while others, with conservative tastes opt for “gangster suits” just like the ones wore by the ‘20s mobsters!

As a conclusion: if you want to show good taste in clothes, make sure that you have at least a suit (and make it black as it works perfectly with all occasions)

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