London, The Birthplace Of Menswear
London, The Birthplace Of Menswear?
Menswear has evolved quite a bit over the world’s history. However, things like tailored suits and trench coats have always been a classic style. Today we will discuss menswear in the fashion industry and specifically hone in on London and how men’s fashion has evolved over the centuries in this fashion capital city.
Hub of Luxury material trading: London
Since the 16th century, the city of London has been a central hub of luxury material trading. From fine silks and velvet fabrics came the most exquisite gowns and dress shirts. The classic three piece tailored suit style can be traced back to the year 1790. Samuel Pepy who was the son of a tailor wrote in his journal about Charles II’s “new fashion” that included a combination of tunic, breeches, and a vest. By the 1660s, silk became a very expensive textile to import, so Charles II chose wool for his new vest which showed a lot of restraint on his part. He chose to wear a cheaper fabric but this also served as an endorsement to the wool textile industry of the time.
Classic styling similar to Cross Sword
By the 18th century, the tight-fitting tailored fashion became a bit more relaxed. The woven silk industry made its way to England making this textile much more affordable than before. Knee-length waistcoats were often a fashionable thing for wealthy gentlemen to wear by the mid 18th century. By this time, London’s shopping districts were starting to be established and styles originating from the military and equestrians were influencing male attire. By the 1780s, formal wear was worn everywhere in London, even for the simplest outings like a stroll in the park. The famous tailcoat born out of the functionality found in equestrian riding coats. It became a cross between informal and formal wear and was worn by wealthy men who sought to take advantage of London’s parks and shopping opportunities. London was becoming a huge city, in fact it was the largest city in Western Europe by the end of the century.
Fun with fashion
With the use of many woolen fabrics in British menswear in the 1800s, tailors were really developing their skills and becoming experts in their trade. Wool is an unforgiving fabric, so if you wanted a good fit it had to be made with precision and demanded the utmost perfection. Because of this, London’s tailors really solidified their international reputation as the best tailors in the world. During the reign of Queen Victoria, Great Britain was the wealthiest country in the world. Much of London’s society was growing and saw the formation of different classes of people. Royal commissions and military uniforms were now being made by reputable tailors on Savile Row.
Along with sophisticated waistcoats such as the double breasted frock coat, London’s men were seeking a kind of fashion that allowed for more experimentation and self-expression. Around the 1860s the Norfolk jacket was created. This style was inspired by military clothing and was very suitable for leisure activities like bicycling and fishing. Soon, an even more relaxed form of clothing was emerging during the post WWI time period. Savile Row was still tailoring for the elite class, including Winston Churchill. A new invention made by Thomas Burberry created competition, and his company was commissioned to design officer uniforms for their military in 1901. This is where we get the iconic Burberry trench coat. This style is very representative of the modern sensibility of Great Britain. This trench coat was most notably worn by Humphrey Bogart in the classic film Casablanca in 1942, which added to the appeal of this style.
Stand out from the crowd
By the second half of the 20th century, London was truly known as a fashion city. The rules of menswear changed yet again in the 1960s. London’s Carnaby street was where fashion designer John Stephen opened shop and sold very colourful suits to gentlemen. This is where street style fashion really took off. The collarless jacket, slim-fitting trousers, and brightly colored printed shirts became a common sight in London.
Dressed to kill
Today, London’s fashion schools continue to bring us inspiring fashion designers that continue to push the limits of menswear. This one of the contributing factors as to why London is such a fashion city. London is a melting pot of so many cultures and is thriving in the fashion industry. London fashion week is always a big event so we’ll surely continue to see new designs in menswear that may end up serving as classic styles that will stick around for years to come. At Cross Sword we hope that fashion will continue to migrate towards a more genderless style but still manage to maintain its classic features.
The future of fashion