In the first decade of the 1800's, men successfully embraced fashions that were appropriate for formal, work and casual occasions. The 1800's were all about polish and sophistication (especially the first decade), which is evident in the clothing that was worn -- especially by men.
What Men Wore in the 1800's
At the beginning of the century, the standard for men's wear still adhered to the styles of the 18th century, with knee-length breeches worn over stockings, tail coats cut high over the top of the breeches, collars turned up and ruffled cravats worn at the neck. The hat of choice was usually a top hat and most men carried walking sticks. Cloaks were still worn during this period; but by 1820 this gave way to the more practical and manageable overcoat.
Take a look at some of the most coveted and showcased fashions from the 1800's:
- Breeches - A type of pant men wore often, either stopping at or below the knee and in some cases to the ankle. They typically fastened around the leg with a drawstring, buckles or straps. When wearing breeches at the knees, men's socks were pulled up and fully exposed.
- Pantaloons - An early form of the relaxed trouser. This style of pants was worn by men as street wear because breeches were considered too formal.
- Coats with Tails - During this era, men's coats had long tails in back with a short front. The designs during this time also featured standing collars and M-shaped lapels.
- Shirts - Men's shirts prominently featured pleated cuffs, high collars and sometimes ruffles down the front.
- Waistcoats - This coat style contained a squared-off bottom and a high waist. They were also double-breasted wide noticeably wide lapels.
- Greatcoats - A dressier style of coat worn by men that often featured fur or velvet. To give it a truly grand look, several short caplets were attached to the collar.
- Hessian Boots - A style of boot that had tassels and a heart-shaped design on top.
- Wellington Boots - Named after the Duke of Wellington, these boots were very low-cut in the back, while the front was cut knee-high.
- Cravat - A neckband or neckcloth men wore in the 1800's which was a precursor to the modern day necktie or bow tie.
- Top Hat - The most popular style was cone-shaped and tall in height.
- Wigs - Powdered wigs were a way to assert your power and let the world know your profession. Highly respected professions such as doctors, lawyers and members of the military wore powered wigs regularly.
Popular Clothing Fabrics
The fabrics used for 1800's men's clothing was quite important because it played a large part in the fashions having a refined, polished look. Some were used more than others, but they were all quite luxurious.
- Fur - Used for coats and jackets.
- Velvet - A popular fabric used to make coats, jackets and some hats.
- Linen - This was the most used fabric for men's shirts, however certain pants styles took advantage of linen as well.
- Leather - All men's shoes were made from leather. Also, accessories like gloves were also leather.
- Lace - A trim on many shirt styles and some jackets.
- Silk - Some of the most intricate and expensive jackets and coats were made from silk.
A Refined Decade
When looking back at the first decade of the 1800's fashion styles, it's not surprising that some of what they wore then still resonates in the fashion world today. The biggest difference is that fashion now is much more casual than in the past. The refined and polished look apparent in the early 1800's gradually gave way to less formal styles.
With the rise of the Napoleonic Empire, trousers became long for the first time in history and were to remain so. Slimmer, shorter coats for business wear became more popular; cravats gradually became less fussy, giving way to ascots, bow ties and eventually four-in-hand neckties. By the end of the century, despite the overall rigidity and formality in gentlemen's dress, the stage was set for modern wear.