The Colorful History of Gentlemens Wear – Neckties, Tuxedos, & More
Long before there were double breasted business suits and trousers, there were gentlemen of means dressed in the highest of fashions fit perfectly to their frames by a professional tailor. There is long and glorious history to mens formal wear. What was fashionable and Corinthian in Regency times has evolved into the trends men wear today.
When a gentleman of means decided to take a stroll through the park, his valet (the man that dressed him) would dress him in a morning coat, shockingly tight pantaloons, black Hessian boots, and a beaver hat. What, exactly, are all of these things? Well, a mans morning coat was originally designed to be worn while horseback riding through the park. Historically, gentlemen road through the parks in the mornings, the coat was called the morning coat. The morning coat featured tails in the back that could be buttoned up out of the way when a gentleman was seated on the horse.
Morning coats came in several different popular colors with the brightest colors reserved for the more flamboyant of males (nabobs and popinjays).
Besides the morning coat, a gentleman could also don a tailcoat. A tailcoat is much like the morning coat except that the tails to do not button in the back. The tailcoat was usually worn throughout the day. Because of how formal they appeared, tailcoats eventually became the must wear at balls and other evening events.
Balls, Masquerades, and Elegant Dinner Wear
During the Regency era, gentlemen would deck themselves in formal evening wear and grace the parlors and ballrooms of societys matrons and matchmaking mothers. Each gentleman had a different style, fit, and cut of dress that would set them apart from the masses that crowded into these undersized rooms.
Mens elegant evening wear consisted of a crisp, starched long sleeved white shirt, dark colored waistcoat, also known as a vest; a stylishly tied cravat, the ancestor to the bow tie; dark colored tailcoat, dark colored pantaloons (usually daringly tight); highly polished black high boots and white gloves. As stuffy and uncomfortable as that all sounds, men were actually quite comfortable and capable of waltzing the night away with a beautiful single lady in their arms. They could thank their overpaid tailors for that.
The Masquerade Ball was the social event of the season.
Men and women would dress up as characters from fictional literature or history (Caesar, Goddess Diana, Robin Hood, Helen of Troy). Because everyone was required to wear a mask, this was the one event where men and women dared to be shocking. Not only was the conduct sensual and very naughty, but clothing was shockingly bereft. Women dared to bare their shoulders and ankles. Men would wear whatever they felt like wearing, in hopes that they came wearing the complimentary outfit to the one their lady loves were wearing (Robin Hood and Marion, Marc Antony and Cleopatra).
Historically, men were harbingers of fashion trends and were highly regarding based on the cut of their coats and the polish of their boots. The same is true for men today gentlemens wear has changed little since the Regency Era, but woman are still drawn to a man in a snug pair of pants.