A Brief History of the Modern Day Suit
In 1892, a man named Keir Hardie showed up to his first day of British Parliament wearing a tweed, working-man’s three piece suit known as a lounge suit.
Above: Keir Hardie
While this event may seem quite innocuous, at the time, it represented a big change in fashion and class. Before Hardie’s suit, lounge suits were exclusively worn by the working class, as this was the only affordable menswear out there.
The upper classes and members of Parliament wore frock coats, which were coat-skirt hybrids that paid homage to petticoat breeches, the large coats/dresses you would see men wear in Victorian times.
Above: Frock Coat
Below: Petticoat Breeches
When Hardie entered Parliament in 1892 wearing the uniform of the working man, it changed the dynamics of style and politics. The lounge suit instantly identified Hardie as a member of the working class, and as someone that would fight for working class ideals. Hardie was really the first politician to begin the tradition of using clothes to appeal to voters.
Hardie went on to found the Labour Party of Britain and Hardie’s contribution to the world of fashion is little known, as this contribution was overshadowed later on in the beginning of the 20th Century by the Duke of Windsor.
The Duke of Windsor was one of the first to pick up on this trend of looking like the common-people and certainly popularized it. At one point, the Duke was the most photographed man in the world and this popularity allowed him to set the benchmarks for fashion.
The most popular contribution of the Duke’s was his use of the Windsor knot. The knot was supposedly invented by his father, King George V. But the Duke also popularized four-button double-breasted jackets, the modern day tuxedo, as well as the usage of midnight blue in tuxedos and other stylistic choices such as pocket flaps.
Since the Duke’s popularity in the 1920s and 30s, the modern day lounge suit has become the standard of menswear, and has virtually remained unchanged.