History of the Suit: Part 1

We know and understand suiting and work with brands that “get it”. For those in the industry, or those who can appreciate a good suit – this one is for you.

The modern men’s suit which exists today was made possible by a fashion journey starting from over 400 years ago. Originally a traditional attire for formal occasions, matching jacket, pants and waistcoats have come and gone as the go-to outfit of style.

The “lounge” suit we know now became more prevalent in the late 19th century. It was made common by the English King Charles II but it originally appeared as early as the 17th century. A courtier would don a long coat, waistcoat or “petticoat”, cravat, wig and knee breeches with a hat to top it off.

A British man by the name of Beau Brummell influenced and shaped the direction of this popular style encouraging European men to wear well-tailored suiting and neckties. Likely inspired by French suiting, these garments were mainly worn by the upper classes, at least at first.

Enter the Victorian period (1837-1901) which popularized the suit as daily wear for gentlemen.

Moving away from the long coat was born from practical purposes so that men could wear a suit that was fit for riding a horse wearing an outfit that wouldn’t get in the way. Thus the less formal cut was developed for sports and country wear. At the same time, the dinner jacket was created for casual events creating the new dress lounge code.

Continuing through Edwardian time, less formal suiting became a staple.

Post-war era, the simplification of the suit came out of necessity with standardization, streamlining the amount of cloth used moving away from the double-breasted style.

From iconic musicians like the Beatles donning mod suits to the various styles of blazers we now see in various styles of lapels, to the boardroom with business attire, the suit has become the staple in every man’s wardrobe.

Anatomy of a Suit

A suit is usually a two or three-piece set with a jacket, pants and occasionally a vest. Traditionally worn with a dress shirt, some men wear a tie or keep it more casual without.

It’s become acceptable in a more laid back environment to wear a suit jacket with a t-shirt and jeans as a way to dress up and elevate everyday outfits.

The main forms are single or double breasted with slack, structured and fitted silhouettes. Various cuts are seen in English, Italian or American styles where fit and slimness vary in the shoulders, lapels, waist, pockets and vents.

Standard jackets today are two or sometimes three buttons. Common lapel styles are: Peak, Standard Notch, Shawl, Wide Peak, Narrow Notch, and Wide Notch.

Depending on how formal the occasion, you can dress up or down. For example, a tuxedo may be more appropriate at a formal event versus showing up in a t-shirt and jeans. With the standards of formal attire being challenged all the time, modern fashion is pushing the boundaries of the suit and how it’s worn.

The “broken suit” style or “Spezzato” can be seen mixing and matching suit jackets with different style/colour pants.

Stay tuned for the history of the suit part 2!

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