It’s not often one can date a new style so precisely, but the three-piece suit was introduced on October 7, 1666 by Royal decree. The foppish French fashions of King Charles II’s court were unpopular with the masses,
particularly after the Great Fire of London, so he insisted his courtiers adopt a Persian-style waistcoat, and switch from French silk to English wool. Bespoke suits are still made in ultra-traditional style on Savile Row,
though many people now prefer the ‘classic with a twist’ style pioneered by Paul Smith. His Byard suit in teal wool and mohair-blend cloth (pictured, £990) is a stylish choice.
The bowler hat was designed in 1849 as hard-wearing headgear for gamekeepers, and soon became a working-class staple: think of Charlie Chaplin’s tramp. It was only in the 1950s and 1960s that it became an Establishment symbol of commuter-belt conformity. Recently crowning the fashionable heads of supermodels, as well as actor Matt Smith (Doctor Who) and Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, the bowler is back: Christys’ of London, hat-maker since 1773, tells us sales have increased by 30 per cent in the past two years, and its brightly coloured ‘Fashion’ line (pictured, £45) has been particularly popular.
What would be more British than a garment named after the earl who led the Charge of the Light Brigade? The cardigan, originally modelled on a military wool waistcoat, soon became a woolly jumper with buttons. In the second half of the century, it was shunned by youths and seen only on their grandparents, until Kurt Cobain made it the uniform of Grunge. It has recently had yet another new lease of fashionable life, on both Hoxton beardies and catwalk cuties. Alexander McQueen does an achingly trendy version in asymmetric wool and silk with skull-print interior (pictured, £595).