Suits have been around for decades. No, actually for centuries in fact. What was once a fashion trend, quickly became a wonderful hype that is here to stay and now is the undiscputed number one (and only) way of following dress code for formal events and practically all other occasions.
There are plenty of interesting details that have played part in creating the modern day suit we know, and love wearing in our everyday lifes today.
This article looks at a number of fact, suit facts, which touch on several aspects of the suit, including the origins of certain accessories, such as ties and pocket squares, along with other particular elements, that has led to the existing of the modern suit.
Origins of the suit
The first form of the modern suit we know and got to love today is to be credited to a gentleman with the name of George Bryan “Beau” Brummell. Back in the 1700’s this man was known for his fashion, which stemmed from an amalgamation of formal military dress and English country gentleman attire, and was centred around tailored pieces which fitted the body perfectly. There’s that.
Having friends in high places (being a close companion of the Prince of Wales) did serve him well, and made him a popular figure amongst aristocratic circles – in part due to his sharp wit, but also the “less is more” approach he brought to his fashion trend.
George believed that the average man in the street turned to look at you when you either weren’t dressed well enough, or if you were dressed too fashionable. His idea of fashion sat in between this – simple, sharp dress which oozed class – the creation of the suit was born.
Why suit jackets got vents
Seeing suit vents on a suit doesn’t turn heads today. We’ve been very accustomed to them. Whether they’re on the side or or the back, the open slit has simply become an accepted element on many suit jackets worn today. But have you ever questioned their purpose?
The centre vent dates back several hundred years when gentleman found themselves struggling to comfortably sit on their horses. It simply created a displeasing look. The introduction of the vents however allowed the jacket to flow on the horse’s body with greater ease and more comfort. It has since remained an integral part of the suit jacket, and the introduction of double vents (side vents) still play their part in helping the jacket sit straight when you sit yourself down wearing one.
The origin of the term bespoke (be spoken for)
The term bespoke is a relatively recent one that got added to the dictionary of suiting, with its origins going back to the tailors on Savile Row in London, who initially coined up the phrase. The term derives from when tailors started creating custom-tailored suits for which the cloths were said to “be spoken for” a particular gentleman.
While the term may have evolved a little over time, the meaning behind it has remained the same. A bespoke suit is one which continues to hold its place as the absolute epitome of fine clothing, with the garments being crafted to perfectly fit the body of an individual and only that particular one.
Purpose of leaving the cuff showing
The general understanding remains that your jacket sleeve should allow for around an inch of your shirt cuff to show from underneath it. But how did such a tradition of style come about? Where was it started? Well, it was actually born out reasons which were centered around practicality over style.
The shirt cuff was initially left on show to prevent the occurring of fraying to the jacket sleeve. Since shirts were cheaper and easier to replace, it only made sense to protect the jacket sleeve as much as possible by ensuring that the shirt came out further. It then became a look which was widely accepted over time and today is seen as the fashionable (and “correct”) way of wearing a suit to go with it, also allowing for accessories such as your cuff-links to remain on show.
The purpose of the lapel hole
The lapel hole, or what you might now more knowingly recognize as the boutonniere hole, actually served more of a purpose than for occasionally holding a boutonniere. It initially had an adjoining button on the other side, which could be used to help keeping the wind and cold out.
However, since the overcoat has now become a popular choice of clothing, which is seen more regularly in the wardrobes of gentleman worldwide, to wear during the colder months, suit jackets are no longer worn in such a way. You’ll in fact often notice that some overcoats still have a functional lapel hole and button added to them.
Origins of the working cuffs
Have you ever wondered why your suit jacket has buttons on the cuff? We did. They’re seemingly never really used so why bother to have them there? Well it’s quite simple. Wearing suits were perceived in a completely different light during the mid-20th century than it is now. A man who removed his suit jacket would be frowned upon back in the days, making it a must for any respectable gentleman to keep their jacket on at all times.
Those working in manual labour jobs, and even surgeons during the war, had to work with their jackets on as a consequence of that. To avoid them getting in the way, the buttons on the sleeve allowed them to roll their sleeves up. However, as time progressed, it has become more accepted to remove your jacket, and so the buttons on the cuff eventually lost their functional purpose. They have however since remained ever-present on modern day suits.
What you’ll often find these days is that many tailors take shortcuts on the cuffs to reduce costs. Many buttons are simply stitched on or some give the appearance of button holes and buttons, but they however aren’t actual working cuffs. Most high-end suits on the other hand maintain working cuffs which distinguish as being of superior quality.
The history of suits stems far back and the manner in which they have evolved has left us with the fine pieces which are evident on streets around the world today. George Brummell set out with a vision of creating suits which were minimal in style, yet perfectly formed for the body, and while these days we are more open to creating bolder looks, the premise of the fit being perfect remains the focal point of every tailor who cares for his craft.
When donning your suit next time, give George a thought. He is considered as the father of suits after all.