Tuesday, March 27, 2012

More Fashions for the Gentleman: 1700 vs. 1800

Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Susan reporting:

Loretta's post yesterday about poufy pants set me to thinking of other masculine fashion foolishness. Modern men are often let off the hook regarding fashions, as if they're somehow above that particular frivolity - or, others would argue, far beneath it. But in the past men had no qualms about playing the peacock and following fashion, even to its most extreme.

This print, left, is one of my favorites. (Click on the image to enlarge.) A century separates these two stylish English gentleman, a hundred years of evolving styles. Yet unlike most caricatures of male fashion (like our old friends Son Tom and the Young Macaroni), the attire of these two gentlemen isn't really exaggerated for their times. Judging by portraits of their respective contemporaries, both of these men could have walked down a London street without anyone turning to gawk – except perhaps at their handsomeness.

In addition to their clothes, I also like the men's different affectations. The difference between clothes and fashion often lies in the accessories, and what the wearer chooses to reveal of himself along with his taste. The earlier gentleman displays his studied nonchalance by tucking one hand in his open waistcoat and the other in his pocket. His wig is a virile mane, his stockings are purposefully slouchy, and he wears his sword – always ready to defend his honor  – hung impractically low (reminding me of how low certain rock stars will likewise sling their guitars.)

The later gentleman has traded a sword for a romantically rustic walking stick. Instead of the earlier nonchalance, this fellow is scrupulously tailored, his stockings and breeches snug-fitting and his neck cloth tied just so. At his waist are dangling seals with antique cameos, demonstrating his (possible) knowledge of antiquity. He wears his own hair instead of a wig, though the over sized cocked hat cancels that out. With his quizzing glass at the ready, he's prepared to examine the world instead of challenging it with a sword.

One more thing to note: in light of last week's post about wearing the proper socks, both gentlemen are wearing stockings with clocks – the decorative designs running vertically over their ankles.

Left: A man of fashion in 1700: A fashionable man in 1800, drawn, etched & published by Dighton, Charg. Cross, London, 1800. Copyright Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.


Sarah said...

The reason for wearing clocks on the socks was of course to cover the seam of the triangular bit let in that made them fit properly.

Am I alone, by the way, in thinking that the high starched collars and supposedly intricately tied neckcloths actually look really messy and rather like a baby's nappy after being subject to violent wriggling?

Isobel Carr said...

I love "Too Much/Not Enough" contrasting the underwear of the 18thC womand and the early 19thC woman.

textilehistorIE said...

<3 the comparison between swords and guitars!

Can't remember if I mentioned this to you already (last night?) but I was rooting around Walpole cartoons and found one which talked about the clock tax, and showed a gentleman showing his socks to the bailiff, inquiring whether these too were subject to toll.

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

Sarah, I completely agree about those carefully crafted neckclothes crossing the line to rumpled messes in no time at all. I also imagine they were terrible crumb-catchers, too, not to mention all the other stray food and drink that splattered on them. No, thank you!

As for clocks in stockings - the designs were an outgrowth of the sewn gussets in frame-made stockings. The clocks seemed to highlight the gussets, making a positive from a necessity. These two-tone stockings from 1750 really show the clocks/gusset.


Isobel, thanks for reminding me of that one. Hmm...that may pop up here before too long. :)

Textilehistorie, do you have a link to the Walpole cartoon? No to become tooo obsessed with stockings, LOL!

textilehistorIE said...

Yes it was in this blogpost actually! http://americanduchess.blogspot.com/2012/02/v33-only-death-and-taxes-in-18th.html

RemakeStyle said...

Man for fashion. I love the idea.

I don't know why but I love how these men dressed. I even love the way they dress in the late centuries.

Vamsi K H Illindala said...

This is interesting! I was in England recently on a vacation, and a tour guide on a coach tour that I took mentioned that men in the 17th and 18th centuries paid particular attention to their calf muscles because women found them sexy. Men would wear tight stockings under their knees to flaunt their calves. She said that it is interesting how the idea of sexiness changes over time.

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