The History of Suits


Learn the history of suits for the evolution of menswear's most enduring ensemble. Here's how men's suits have changed over time.

The History of Suits

Modern suits are made up of a matching jacket and trousers, a shirt, neck-tie and optional waistcoat. The history of suits, however, can be traced back much further.

During the Victorian era the coat, waistcoat, trousers, shirt and neck-tie were established. The coats were long and all were bespoke tailored suits.

This period saw (long) frock coats being replaced by morning coats (shorter). They were less formal and allowed for riding due to a cut-away at the front.

In the late 19th century the informal lounge suit was also created whilst the white tie gave way to the black tie. The latter was renamed the 'tuxedo' when it was imported to the United States.

Throughout the Edwardian period the popularity of the new informal alternatives increased. They were slowly becoming the norm.

Then, after World War I, traditional forms of dress were viewed as old fashioned. Trousers also became wider and cuffed with high-waists.

In the 1930s men's suits were looser fitting with tapered cuffs. Waistcoats were also relaxed even though there were complaints that they rode up.

World War II and the rationing of fabric encouraged the simplification of men's suits. Fabrics like flannel also became fashionable.

The leisure-wear of the 1950s cemented the modern suits role as business-wear and formal-wear. The decade's Teddy Boys favoured loose fitting longer jackets with velvet lapels.

The 1960s saw youth culture and mods re-imagine the suit with a skinny-fit at the fore and the return of Savile Row. Polo-necks and collar-less jackets were also introduced.

Then in the 1970s fitted suits returned along with the waistcoat which were revived by the disco era. Although there was quickly a backlash against this style of music and as a result the fashion that came with it.

The 1970s brought consumer changes to the suit with brands like Haggar offering separates. Trousers and jackets could be bought in separate sizes reducing the use of bespoke tailoring.

Looser suits were back once more in the 1980s and the waistcoat was almost entirely left behind. It, however, came in and out of fashion through the current day.

Post-millennium metrosexuals, conspicuous wealth and celebrity culture were all the rage. This transformed into the suave luxurious suits of recent years.

Take a look back at the history of suits with the famous faces who made them fashionable.

(Images: Modern Style Review, You Sing, I Write, Buzzfeed, NBC News, Rotten Tomatoes and Film Reference.)

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(Main image: Just Jared.)