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The rise and rise of the British Suit

Posted by Michael Gallego on

Today’s guest blog is brought to you by Peter White []. Peter writes at, high quality family Bespoke Tailors based in York, [] where he writes great articles on improving your style.

Gone are the days of Empire. With them, to an extent, went Britain’s nascent but self-assured Victorian cultural identity, replaced by a more diverse, youthful and individualist cultural mood. Britons might be surprised to learn, though, that as well as speaking the language of the British Empire, the world’s business and political elites still dress in what was first known as ‘Regency Dress’, today referred to as the modern suit.

Men’s fashion today has no greater international expression than the two-piece suit, a style which was first formalised by King Charles II. In the wake of the English Civil War (and the execution of his father), the restored King was tasked with pulling a divided nation back together. In the year of the Great Fire of London, 1666, he looked to France, where matching trousers and coats were in fashion in the court of Louis XIV, and issued a decree that the English Court would adopt a similar attire.

It was not until a century later, though, that George “Beau” Brummell established what is today recognised as formal or office suit wear. An icon of men’s fashion, Brummell both designed and popularised the classic suit as a paragon of premium men’s fashion.

The fashion quickly became popular in Regency Britain, spreading quickly throughout Europe and becoming the attire of choice for gentlemen throughout Europe. Men’s fashion had been changed forever by Brummell, a statue of whom stands in commemoration in London’s famous Jeremy Street.

In the Victorian period that followed, the suit changed by degrees. Tailoring premium men’s fashion to the purpose of horse-riding, both a necessity in the pre-automobile era and a popular pastime, the morning coat was born. This piece of often made to measure tailoring has become a formalised element of the modern man’s suit.

The final touches to the modern suit were being added by the end of the Edwardian era and the approach of the wars and post-imperial Europe. The black two-piece by now reigned supreme, known as either ‘lounge dress’ or ‘black tie’. As postwar Europe explored men’s fashion in a new light, small refinements have been added and formalised, but the suits we wear today are still very much, and probably always will be, truly in the style of London’s greatest icon of men’s fashion, George “Beau” Brummell.

The modern two piece suit, that was popularized by the British!

The modern two piece suit, that was popularized by the British!

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