Men’s fashion in Western Europe in 1700–1750

Fashion in the period 1700–1750 in European and European-influenced countries is characterized by a widening silhouette for both men and women following the tall, narrow look of the 1680s and 90s. Wigs remained essential for men of substance, and were often white; natural hair was powdered to achieve the fashionable look.

The new modes of the beginning of the century are received with great success. This shows a society on the sidelines of Versailles, made up of younger individuals from the new financial and commercial sectors. These young men are freed from the fashions of Versailles and the obligations of the court. They prefer to seek their welfare but to obey the authority of the ruler.

At the beginning of the xviii th century, art, and by extension the suit seeks to describe aspects of life and the individual with light and color. The costume will transcribe the new sensibility of the time and the emergence of new needs: more lightness and more fantasy.

“It’s a general change of minds and tastes to look for the origin of the formal evolution of the costume to the xviii th century. ” (Page 225 F. Boucher. 1996).

Everywhere at that time, clothing styles became less loaded as fabrics became more valuable. The silhouettes became more natural and less voluminous, and the colors began to lighten towards the Rococo style. Styles for both sexes have found simple compliance.

The essential item for men was the costume. Each man had a leotard, short breeches, a long jacket, and sometimes a white crop.

The jackets, usually brocade, were very fitted at the top, and at the bottom, they flared out of the body, leaving a place for the sword to descend to the knee. The sleeves are adjusted and decorated with stripes.

The shirt is worn with a vest as long as the jacket buttoned tight, with low pockets. The shirt is sometimes worn with a cropWhite. These men put under the tight pants just above the knees, bottom of silk (color for richer). The flat and black shoes with a buckle finished the outfit. All social classes put on these costumes during the entire century without much change.

The hairstyle consists of rolls of hair covering the ears also called pigeon wings ; this elaborate hairstyle often leads to the wearing of wigs imitating them.

Between the economic and social classes, the style of clothing did not really differ; but it was by the tissues that they were easily distinguished.
The upper classes used silks, brocades and velvet for costumes and dresses, while the lower classes and peasants used wool and cotton, which were cheaper. The jackets of the nobility had the embellishments, embroidery and dozens of buttons that were considered jewels. The men of the upper classes also were putting hairpieces powdered white with loops hair close to the face and a tail. The working class wore very unadorned jackets and long hair in a ponytail tied around the back of the neck.

Men’s fashion
Under Louis XIV, the powerful French court of Versailles determines fashion: it is stately, stately, expensive and substantial. Nevertheless, citizens copy the latest fashion on a sober scale. Louis’ wife and his mistresses determine fashion at the court with its strict etiquette. Paris is the capital of haute couture: fashion dolls are sent all over Europe. When the king grows old and becomes religious, fashion becomes more and more relaxed.

The three-piece men’s suit (jacket or skirt, trousers, vest) penetrates from England in France. The undergarments are a shirt with lace on the sleeves. The long jacket, the juste-au-corps, reaches to the knees, has large pockets, tight sleeves with very wide covers, buttonholes, and a back split. The jacket is worn open. The vests are richly embroidered with flowers or trimmed with galons and is as long as the jacket. The close-fitting shorts are usually invisible and turn into stockings that are embroidered at the ankles. Around the neck a cravate (lace bands) is worn with a big bow. To look bigger, men are going to wear shoes with (red) heels. The balding king buys a large allonge wig (in the own hair color) with long luxuriant curls and combed up high. The wig is made of animal hair, and extremely heavy, awkward and expensive. The hat is folded on two sides and carried with the tip forward; this creates the three-part (tricorne).

In 1715 Louis XIV died; he is succeeded by his five-year-great grandson Louis XV. The Duke of Orleans is regent and this period is called régence. In 1730, the late baroque or rococo, with its distinctive sweetness and elegance, arises in architecture and visual art. The clothing has light pastel shades, and ruffles and accessories come back. Louis is not interested in state affairs or the poor people. His mistress, Madame de Pompadour, influences fashion: it is feminine, playful and airy. Around 1740, the Age of Enlightenment began, characterized by an informal clothing style with accessories and motifs from nature. There is civilized conversations and people read a lot.

Distinction was made in this period between full dress worn at court and for formal occasions, and undress or everyday, daytime clothes. As the decades progressed, fewer and fewer occasions called for full dress, which had all but disappeared by the end of the century.

In the 18th century fashion had a strong influence on the French. In the 18th century, the fashion in France reflected the social and political attitudes, the arts, and of course, wealth and social class of people. The xviii th century brought a new king and a new hope for France: Louis XV and gaiety period succeeded to the rigid end, solemn mourning the reign of Louis XIV. At the advent of the king, the heaviness and the black colors of the previous period disappeared and were replaced by pastels, light, and a certain freedom of spirit.

The arts, the theater, the architecture and fashionfelt it. With the libertine of the regent and the youth of the king also came a sense of freedom and a joy of life that reflected well in the fashion of the time. At court, a certain frivolity was developing. The politics and administration of the country were forgotten by the nobility and the king. The affairs of the country were left to the middle class, while the nobles and royalty pursued the entertainment and the pleasure. The remoteness of the government, combined with a new skepticism, has spread the styles of traditional male fashion; in the transition from Baroque to Rococo, this change brought the elegant, sweet, and feminine styles. the tissue sweet and floral patterns have gained popularity.

The male suit, also known as the habit, made of three parts: the justaucorps, a jacket, and breeches. In the early 18th century the jacket continued to have a full skirt. Fabrics for men were primarily silks, velvets, and brocades, with woolens used for the middle class and for sporting costumes.

In the early 18th century, men’s shoes continued to have a squared toe, but the heels were not as high. From 1720-1730, the heels became even smaller, and the shoes became more comfortable, no longer containing a block toe. The shoes from the first half of the century often contained an oblong buckle usually embedded with stones.

Upper class men often wore a cane as part of their outfits, suspending it by a loop from one of their waistcoat buttons to allow their hands to properly hold snuff-boxes or handkerchiefs. The cane was thus less functional and rather for the sake of fashion.

Hairstyles and headgear
Wigs in a variety of styles were worn for different occasions and by different age groups.

The large high parted wig of the 1690s remained popular from 1700 until around 1720. During this time various colors were worn, but white was becoming more popular and the curls were getting tighter. Later, wigs or the natural hair were worn long, brushed back from the forehead and clubbed or tied back at the nape of the neck with a black ribbon. From about 1720, a bag wig gathered the back hair in a black silk bag. Black ribbons attached to the bag were brought to the front and tied in a bow in a style called a “solitaire”.

Wide-brimmed hats with brims turned up on three sides into tricornes were worn throughout the era. They were an essential element to the “domino”, a stylish costume for masquerade balls, which became an increasingly popular mode of entertainment. The “domino” style consisted of a mask, a long cape, and a tricorne hat, all usually constructed of dark colors.

Style gallery 1700s–1720s

1 – c. 1710

2 – 1711

3 – 1716

4 – 1721

1.Sir Isaac Newton in old age, 1709–12. He wears a banyan with a patterned lining. Note the T-shaped cut, without a shoulder seam.
2.Louis XIV wears a large periwig, justacorps, and stockings over his breeches.
3.A German prince shows his stiff turned-back cuffs, embroidered in gold, as is the centre of his coat, stockings over his breeches.
4.Back view of a coat of 1721 shows the center back vent and the pleated gores set into the side seams. The gentleman wears square-toed shoes and carries a tricorne tucked under his arm.

Style gallery 1730s–1740s

1 – 1730s

2 – 1736

3 – 1736

4 – 1738

5 – 1747

6 – 1748

7 – 1749



10 – 1745–50

1.Joseph Leeson of Ireland, later 1st Earl of Milltown, wears a narrow-sleeved blue coat lined in red with a red waistcoat and breeches. He wears a tricorne and tall black riding boots, 1730s.
2.Man playing cards wears a tricorne. His long brown wig (or possibly hair) is tied back with a black ribbon. His plain coat has deep cuffs.
3.Dutch gentleman of 1736 wears a collarless grey coat with deep cuffs and a long waistcoat, both lined in sky blue, with matching breeches. His black shoes have square buckles.
4.English gentleman of 1738 wears a wide-hipped formal coat with applied lace over a plainer contrasting hip-length waistcoat and red breeches. His coat is lined in red. Shoes with elaborate buckles and white stockings complete the ensemble.
5.Waistcoat (Garthwaite/Lekeux) (1747) of silk brocade woven to shape, design by Anna Maria Garthwaite, collection of the Costume Institute, Metropolitan Museum of Art.
6.American William Bowdoin, 1748, wears a gold-embroidered waistcoat under a dark coat lined in white.
7.Portrait of Georg Friedrich Händel wearing a mulberry-colored coat trimmed with bands of embroidery and fastened with buttons and loops over a patterned waistcoat (barely visible under the coat) and a white shirt with ruffles, 1749.
8.Jeronimus Tonneman and his son wear collarless coats with deep cuffs and matching waistcoats, worn with breeches, ruffled shirts, silk stockings, and buckled shoes. The young man wears a bag wig and solitaire, 1736.
9.Philippe Coypel wears a red waistcoat trimmed with gold lace under a plain brown coat. His shirt has lace ruffles. He wears a bag wig with solitaire, 1732.
10.Man’s silk coat with wide cuffs, 1745–50, in a lace-like floral pattern of white on brown, France. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, M.2007.211.795.

Source from Wikipedia