Suits have been around for a very long time, but despite their old age, a man in a suit never gets old. Suits make a man look distinguished and bring an air of respectability with them that other clothing items simply don’t. There’s no denying that suits have a certain je ne sais quoi that have made them stand the test of time through many centuries. That being said, they definitely have gone through their fair share of changes over the years as well. Here’s everything you need to know about the history of men’s suits.
At the beginning of the turn of the century, there was little leeway when it came to men’s fashion, and strict rules were set in place. Frock coats and powdered wigs were commonplace up until Beau Brummell, an English dandy, came around with his full-length trousers and simple jackets that were more similar to the suits worn today. This was just the beginning of a big turning point for men’s fashion, which really began to take form in the 1900s.
The Victorian era was coming to a close during the 1900s, and the frock coat was exchanged for sack and lounge coats. Three-piece suits paired with a matching vest or waistcoat and contrasting trousers became a widely adopted style. In terms of the tailoring of these pieces, dark, heavy woollens and sturdy fabrics were widely used.
The roaring ’20s was a period of time where people prioritized showing off their wealth. Shorter jackets with two or three buttons came in style and they were embellished with elaborate pins and tie bars. When WWI came around, military uniforms heavily influenced men’s fashion and they began sporting extremely high waisted jackets paired with high waisted, baggy pants and a belt.
The Great Depression hit everyday working folk hard during the 1930s and their style followed suit. Wide-legged pants worn with dull-coloured, double-breasted suits became the norm. Movie stars that weren’t facing the same struggles as the rest of the population adopted a softer and more flexible suit dubbed the “London Drape.”
A new decade brought a new war with it, and during this trying time, minimalism was the name of the game. Natural fibres were being used to make military uniforms for soldiers who were fighting in WWII, so there wasn’t much material left over for the men still at home. Three-piece suits, ticket pockets, and cuffs were a direct result of this lack of fabric.
The fabulous ’50s were a time for celebration – the war had finally ended! Broad-shouldered, double-breasted dark suits worn with dark ties, white shirts, and white pocket squares were worn by businessmen. Loose-fitting pants were also fashionable once again – think Elvis Presley.
Men’s style in the 1960s was a stark contrast to what was popular during the ’50s. Skinny fit suits, collarless jackets, and ankle bearing drainpipe trousers were all the rage. The hippie movement and the disco era brought some interesting stylistic choices along with them, and polo-neck sweaters were worn under suits.
Fashion is cyclical in nature, and the suits of the ’70s are a prime example of that. During this decade, the 3-piece suit made a comeback, as did wider lapels and the use of synthetic fabrics.
Sometimes referred to as the “Greed Decade,” the ’80s started off with a bang in the form of tons of shoulder padding. Thankfully, Armani introduced the visually appealing Armani suits that did away with over-the-top padding and jacket lining. Over on Wall Street, businessmen began wearing “The Power Suit,” which was characterized by its wide shoulder pads, rigidity, and sharp cuts. Powerhouses that were of the “greed is good” mentality often sported suspenders, pinstripes, and banker stripes.
The ’90s is not a decade that’s known for good fashion choices. In fact, some people think this was the worst decade for fashion. Suits were pretty boring during this era with black and grey colours mostly being worn and the super baggy style that did no one any favours.
Suits were saved for formal occasions at the start of the 2000s, but toward the end of the decade they became a more mainstream style. Retro and indie suits came back into style, as did the classic narrow-lapeled suits of the ’60s (thanks in large part to Mad Men). Today, you can’t go wrong with a well-styled and tailored suit!
Why Love Your Tailor
At Love Your Tailor, we value men’s suits and handle them with the respect they deserve. We’ve been tailoring suits for over 25 years, and our experienced tailors are capable of handling the trickiest alterations. Contact us today to get guaranteed clothing alterations and repairs at competitive prices.