Men’s fashion clothing trends really started in the seventeen hundreds – in eighteenth-century France, during the reign of Louis XIV, men were referred to as the ‘peacocks of fashion’. They wore very decorative Rhinegrave breeches covered in lace and bows made of the finest silks and satins; impeccably clean white linen shirts with lavish cravats; and overcoats called justaucorps adorned with lavish buttons and gold braid that stretched from chin to knee.
This form of conspicuous consumption was considered the epitome of good taste. After the French Revolution (1789), however, the canons of tasteful dress changed dramatically. Simplicity, starkness and refinement became the order of the day with long trousers, vests, frock coats and top hats defining the role of the gentleman in society.
Well-tailored suits made from the finest cloth became the requisite of determining your position in society, and your delegation to the ranks of the upper classes. Tales of the infamous dandy, Beau Brummel, abound: a man who befriended the Prince of Wales in the early nineteenth century and set the benchmark for cleanliness and restraint in male attire, with understated but beautifully fitted and tailored clothing. He is credited with introducing and establishing the start of modern men’s clothing suits.
English men’s fashion clothing, underlined by the British landed gentry, established the European stylistic trends of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It was during this time that the tailors of London’s Saville Row became famous for exquisitely cut and tailored garments for men.
Saville Row was built between 1731 and 1735, originally as part of the Burlington Estate. Beau Brummel helped to establish its reputation as he patronized the tailors congregated on the Burlington Estate, who then started to occupy premises on Saville Row. Even contemporary designers, responsible for men’s designer clothes of the day, including John Galliano and Alexander McQueen, chose to serve an apprenticeship in Saville Row, and no matter how outlandish their fashion garments appear, they retain respect and admiration for their industry through their masterful tailoring expertise.
In 1818, Harry Sands Brooks established Brooks Brothers, one of America’s oldest retailers, known for its classic and conservative styling. It was the first company to offer ready-made men’s clothing suits to individuals like sailors, who were only on shore leave for a short time, and gold miners before they headed west.
For over 100 years, they also supplied uniforms to the US military. The innovations of Brooks Brothers include the first summer seersucker suit (1830), mens clothing suits and beachwear made from madras plaid (1890), the button-down collar shirt worn during polo matches (1896), Shetland wool sweaters (1904) and the first wash-and-wear Dacron and polyester shirts (1953).
Always synonymous with fashionable, well-constructed garments, they attracted the business of celebrities such as the Rolling Stones and other pop stars of the 60s.The British company Marks and Spencer bought Brooks Brothers in 1988.
After the Second World War, the influence of American ready-to-wear clothing had a worldwide impact on the direction of business suits and men’s casual clothing. Designers like as Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein offered the ultimate in men’s casual lifestyle dressing.
Influenced by Italian designer, Giorgio Armani, and his informal, easy-fitting clothing, a new era in menswear was born. This loose-fitting styling was reinforced by menswear designed by the Japanese designers, Yohji Yamamoto and Rei and was adopted by new age, avant-garde males.