Today, October 15, marks the birth of the waistcoat
Weddings have all sorts of fun little traditions that have been around for hundreds of years – from the origins of the groomsmen and bridesmaids; it’s all steeped in history. Today, the 15th of October we delve into some of the history of groom attire – the birth of the waistcoat! A necessity in modern three piece wedding attire, the waistcoat is something men don’t often have to wear these days, but look absolutely smashing when they do!
Happy 353rd birthday!
Ever since October 15, 1666, the court of King Charles II announced by royal decree “The King hath yesterday in council declared his resolution of setting a fashion for clothes which he will never alter. It will be a vest…” the birth of the waistcoast came to be. The waistcoast has since has been the center piece to men’s formal fashion and a trademark of victorian values alongside the bowler hat. Images of handsome men throughout the ages have more often than not featured a waistcoat and the tradition still stands when it comes to a groom’s formal attire on his wedding day.
Being a ture English invention, throughout the 1800s the waistcoat was adopted by noble ‘dandymen’ who wore often very flamboyantly styled waistcoasts to showcase their status in society, by the 19th century however fashion had changed for the waistcoat to represent more of an everyday workerman and was seen as almost a necessity for working attire around the world. Fashion changed so that the waistcoat colours would usually match the rest of the outfit and by the 18th century men were rarely seen without a waistcoat being part of their daily attire.
It’s rather interesting to note that the usual act of not doing up the bottom button of a modern suit jacket stems from the older tradition of not doing up the bottom button of one’s waistcoat. Today, it’s not uncommon to button up all buttons on the waistcoat, but not the suit jacket. The origin of this act is said to be in homage to the fact that King Edward VII was apparently a portly man, and could not button up his waistcoat even if he wanted to. Much like the reason why modern wedding gowns are white, (rather than the original traditon of blue), royal fashion hundreds of years ago is still influencing how we dress today. Have you ever wondered why the media spends so much time discussing who and what modern celebrities are wearing, this is why! Also just think about what effect modern roayls have on today’s fashion, and even Disney princesses when related to wedding dress design!
Another theory as to why this is how you’re supposed to wear your suit jacket unbottoned goes back to the time when a working man was typically expected to wear a three piece suit to work, even when conducting manual labour. Unbuttoning the bottom button allowed for greater movement, and hence would be better suited for manual labour.
By the middle of the 20th century, wearing a waistcoast was not a usual thing to do other than in very formal situations, like at a wedding. That said however the waistcoat is very much coming back in fashion in some circles, like in some hipster subcultures or pop stars. It’s something people wear in modern times to positively stand out amongst the crowd of otherwise ‘lesser dressed’ masses, which was precisely what it was intended for in the first place! History certainly is very cyclical sometimes – like a second birth of the waistcoat! I’m very much looking forward to the revival of popped collars and bowler hats!