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Why do we still wear suits?

From Charles VIII to James Bond, Debonair looks at the evolution of men’s formal attire. By Mayur and Jayant Sajnani

As we approached the Edwardian era in the early 1900s, men’s fashion evolved drastically.

Menswear in general is steeped in history and tradition, and formal wear even more so. Everyone involved in the industry, from designers, manufacturers and stylists to editors and consumers, has taken inspiration from the past. 

For four hundred years, suits of a matching coat, trousers and a waistcoat, mostly made from the same fabric, has been in and out of fashion at various intervals. The modern suit, such as the tuxedo or business suit, is derived from the sartorial standard of dress established by King Charles II in the 17th century. 

Menswear in general is steeped in history and tradition, and formal wear even more so. Everyone involved in the industry, from designers, manufacturers and stylists to editors and consumers, has taken inspiration from the past.

As we approached the Edwardian era in the early 1900s, men’s fashion evolved drastically.

For four hundred years, suits of a matching coat, trousers and a waistcoat, mostly made from the same fabric, has been in and out of fashion at various intervals. The modern suit, such as the tuxedo or business suit, is derived from the sartorial standard of dress established by King Charles II in the 17th century. 

In the English Court, men would wear a long coat, trousers, waistcoat (previously called a petticoat), a cravat (a precursor to the necktie), and topped it off with a wig and a hat. This style became history after the French Revolution.

In the early 19th century, iconic British figure Beau Brummell, in Regency England, redefined and adapted this style and popularised it, leading European men to tailored clothes. The simplicity of the new clothes was in strong contrast with the extravagant styles worn previously. 

Products

Code of London

Berkeley navy single breasted blue blazer
AED 1,900.00

Code of London

St James blue and red check 'self fabric' waistcoat
AED 875.00

Code of London

Berkeley stone coloured single breasted blazer
AED 1,900.00

Code of London

St James brown and blue check single breasted jacket
AED 1,800.00

In the Victorian period, frock coats quickly became a hit, followed in the mid-19th century by the morning coat. A less formal garment, these coats were worn with trousers that didn’t match the colour of the jacket — blazers in modern parlance. The suits we wear today were seen towards the end of the 19th century, but considered informal and meant to be worn during sporting events.

As we approached the Edwardian era in the early 1900s, men’s fashion evolved drastically. Frock coats were out and the suit was slowly being accepted as appropriate in formal settings. The First World War brought a preference for shorter jackets, and long coats quickly went out of fashion.

Some of the modern styles come directly from this era, including the double-breasted suit, tuxedo and tapered trousers. Throughout the ’40s and ’50s, the trend was simplified and the suit modernised, as evident in the size of the lapels that had shrunk significantly and the noticeably more straight cut of the coats, giving birth to the “slim
fit” trend.

Over time, casual dressing has led to more daring trends, and looks incorporating a lot of colours, textures and styles. The modern man is more experimental but also more sartorially aware. 

Fabrics have also evolved, leaning to lighter materials in a city like Dubai. Although wool is a very common feature, we suggest a mix of wool and cashmere, which helps keep cool during the hot summers as well. Linen remains popular, also because no other fabric breathes better while being fresh and fashionable. 

In a world dominated by jeans and T-shirts, there are fewer occasions for formal dressing. It’s hard to believe that not even a hundred years ago, BBC radio announcers were required to wear black tie while presenting, as the stiff formality of the shirt, bow tie and tailored jacket was meant to add to the gravitas of the voice. These days, even Wall Street is relaxed enough to make suits only mandatory for client meetings, in an attempt to lure talent from the jeans-and-sneaker tech world. 

The “bespoke experience” not only opens doors to a choice of handcrafted fabrics and designs, it also entails the use of state-of-the-art equipment to enable the perfect fit for each individual’s body type.

The “civilian uniform” of the suit used to be obligatory at weddings, funerals and other social situations requiring a certain ambience — from balls and tea dances to memorials and visits to the opera — and this endures in spirit. But luckily we’ve left dressing in formal wear for dinner, even at home with family, in the past. 

Nevertheless, the suit is here to stay. A bespoke suit is a work of art, displaying true craftsmanship. The suit endures as there’s no better feeling than wearing a garment made for you from scratch. It is here to stay because each suit is unique, giving the individual the opportunity to express themselves through everything from the buttons, linings and thread colour to personal engravings.

A suit makes a dapper statement. There’s a reason we hear “The name’s Bond, James Bond” more times in a suit than not. 

The writers are the founders of Stallion Bespoke.

stallionbespoke.com

Products

Duke + Dexter

Camo Collection - Urban Camo
AED 900.00

Duke + Dexter

Camo Collection - Storm Trooper Camo
AED 900.00

Duke + Dexter

Camo Collection - Stealth Camo
AED 900.00

Duke + Dexter

Camo Collection - Classic Camo
AED 900.00

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