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The History of the Suit

If you've got a business meeting, job interview or booking at an expensive restaurant, chances are you'll be wearing a suit, a uniform that has stood the gent in good stead for four hundred years. Here is a timeline to explain how the modern suit has evolved.

The history of the suit: 1666

It was King Charles II who established a uniform for men of the English Court that the modern business suit evolves from. He decreed they should wear a long coat, waistcoat, cravat, wig and breeches, an ensemble inspired by those worn at King Louis XIV's court at Versailles.

The History of the suit: 1800s

The early 1800s

British dandy Beau Brummell (a statue of whom watches over London's Jermyn Street today) updated the above ensemble so that gentlemen wore tailored outfits in muted tones with neckties. These consisted of dark coloured trousers, matching trousers, waistcoat, white shirts and cravats.

The mid-1800s

The Victorian period saw the popularity of the frock coat and morning suit soar. The frock coat was a smart item worn on a daily basis, and the morning coat was a more informal alternative. Around the same time the dinner jacket was born and worn to the most formal of events. Evolving from the white tie dress code, which included the tail coat, it was known as 'lounge dress' and later 'black tie'. The style made it's way across the Atlantic to the United States, where it became known as the 'tuxedo'.

The History of the suit: 1900s

The early 1900s

The morning coat's popularity started to rise above that of the frock coat and it became standard business dress. Many gentleman favoured 'lounge dress' as a modern informal alternative to the morning coat. Meanwhile, 'black tie' dress continued to be the standard ensemble at formal functions.

The 1920s

Between the two World Wars, men wore short suits almost all the time, apart from formal occasions when morning suits or black ties dress were still favoured. These short suits consisted of straight-legged trousers and younger gents began to wear trousers of the high-waisted and wide-legged variety. The most fashionable men would don double-breasted waistcoats with single breasted suit jackets.

The 1930s

Suits became more loose-fitting during the 1930s. Trousers tapered at the bottom and suit jackets would taper slightly at the arms. Waistcoats also became looser. The double-breasted suit coat became increasingly popular with fashionable gents, a trend which continued for the next two decades.

The History of the suit: Suits since the 1950s

The 1950s saw the suit simplified, with straighter cut styles, smaller jacket lapels and less defined waistlines. These were worn with more muted shirts. However, the 1970s changed all this when the more tailored suit coat became popular again, along with the three-piece suit that was inspired by the hit film Saturday Night Fever. When the 1980s arrived, so did looser suit styles of double-breasted suits and two-piece single breasted suits. The early 21st century saw the popularisation of the three-button and two-button suits.