Although fashion is moving more and more towards the casual, the costume continues to exercise a real fascination with men (and now women). As soon as you have to be on your 31, the costume becomes essential. What are the origins of the costume, its history and the reasons for its longevity? This is what we invite you to discover in this article dedicated to this timeless piece of the male wardrobe.
The origins of the costume
Depending on the sources, the origins of the costume are sometimes in France, sometimes in England. What is certain is that it was formalized within the European royal courts during the 17th century. For example, in 1666 King Charles II promulgated a law stipulating that courtiers must wear a long jacket (redingote), waistcoat and high shoes in order to convey a sense of authority to the populace.
Do you know why the suit jacket's buttons are sewn on its right lapel? This was a requirement of Charles II: such an arrangement of buttons should allow these gentlemen to draw their swords easily! This is still the case today, even if those who walk around today with a blade in their belt are not the type to wear a suit.
If the British like to attribute to their monarch the formalization of the costume, he had only imitated what was done at Versailles. Indeed, Louis XIV had already imposed on the men who frequented his palace to wear a frock coat, breeches, trousers going up to the knees, a tie (even if the version of the era was very different from today, we were closer to the big bow tie), a wig and a hat.
History of the costume
While costume fell into the background in France following the French Revolution, it gained popularity across the Channel at the start of the 19th century. We owe this impetus to the British dandy Beau Brummel, who reinvented the costume of courtiers by making it more sober. The size is more discreet, the colors too. We are far from the opulent costume of courtiers.
Little by little, the costume is no longer confined to the royal court. It is worn by bourgeois, dignitaries, and middle-class entrepreneurs. It becomes a symbol of conformity, the uniform of the established order. The costume is like a call to be taken seriously, a sign that you are someone of some importance. It becomes essential for occasions such as a wedding, a ceremony, a gala dinner.
“Dressing formally makes us feel powerful. It changed the way we perceive the world, " said psychologist Abraham Rutchik, author of the 2015 study "The Cognitive Consequences of Formal Dress." But beyond the personal factor, the costume also becomes a mark of respect towards others, towards its guests.
It was during the emergence of the modern suit that the tie also became very popular. Brummell, in addition to laying the foundations of formal menswear, also introduced new standards of male hygiene, including daily bathing. Incidentally, Brummel is credited with inventing the bow tie.
During the following decades, the costume slowly but surely evolved into its contemporary form. Namely a jacket that loses length, the vest that becomes optional, etc.
Eras influence the evolution of the costume
If the costume has evolved over the decades, it was for reasons of taste, but also practical. For example, suits from the 1950s are once again becoming baggier in order to accommodate the swing age, which demanded more mobility from these gentlemen. In the 60s, the Beatles completely changed the codes, while in the 70s disco marked the return of baggy pants. In the very prosperous 80s, the costume gave off a feeling of power with its oversized shoulder pads.