16th Century Fashion

 King Henry VIII

For men, 16th century fashion was often elaborate and quite ornate. Looking at this historical clothing on a fashion timeline, men were often dressed in styles that would be considered feminine today.

16th Century Fashion for Men

Clothing for men changed drastically during the 16th century. With rivalry between England's Henry VIII and France's Francis I, a competition ensued as to who would have the best dressed court. Men dressed in multi-layered outfits with ornate trims and luxurious materials. Shoulders were wide and sleeves were puffy, cuffed and made from contrasting bands of material. The sleeves became the focus of many ensembles for men. Ruffles were seen on shirts as well as embroidery and patterns. The rich wore elaborate attire showing off what they could afford while peasants dressed plainly and could be identified by their attire.

Fabrics and Trims

Materials used in 16th century fashion (very similar to materials in Renaissance men's clothing) included:

  • Linen
  • Silk
  • Velvet
  • Leather
  • Lace
  • Embroidery made from gold and silver
  • Buttons, worn by the rich, were made from silver and gold and often had a setting of gemstones

Fur was considered very fashionable and the most coveted of the time was the silver fur of the lynx and the dark brown fur of the sable.

Almost every aspect of a man's attire was richly decorated. Hats had feathers and shoes often had cut-out decorations on them. Nothing was plain except maybe the hosiery that they wore, and even that was often elaborate in style.

Multi-Layer Fashions

For men, 16th century fashion consisted of many layers. On top, they wore shirts made from linen with a ruff. Over that they wore a doublet that had sleeves that were separate and tied to the shoulder. Another layer over that was a leather jerkin that was sleeveless and resembled a vest.

Shoes and Hose

Shoes for men were similar in style to those worn by women. Shoes were flat and had a rounded toe and a one-piece sole. For riding, men wore leather boots.

Hose for men were made from two parts. The upper part was the breeches and reached the knee and the bottom looked like stockings or tights. Knee breeches were either very full or very tight. The garters that held them up were often ornate as well. Another sort of hose worn by men was puffy shorts that came to mid-thigh and resembled a bell. The bottom of these hose looked like stockings.

Outerwear for Men

Men wore short cloaks or capes over their clothing. Their outerwear was commonly hip-length unless the weather was harsh; they then wore long cloaks to protect their clothing. Military jackets were also worn to look fashionable.


There were several hat styles worn in the 16th century:

  • Capotain - Tall felt hat decorated with jewels or feathers and worn both indoors and out
  • Coifs or Biggins - Close fitting, usually black, hats that covered the ears and tied under the chin
  • Nightcap - Linen cap with a turned up brim that was exclusively worn indoors

Clothing for the Working Class

Clothing for the working class differed from that worn by the rich. Peasants wore straight or loose fitting trousers that reached mid-calf. A mid-thigh length, loosely fitting coat was worn over a shirt that was belted with a cord. This look was a far cry from the elaborate fashions seen on the affluent.

Finishing Touches

Men kept their hair short and off their foreheads. Groomed beards were also popular. Some younger men wore one section of hair long over one shoulder and called this piece a lovelock.

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16th Century Fashion