Historians charting the social and political chanfes that have shaped Britian could do well to study the evolution of the suit. Cut generously during prosperity or nipped in during wartime, suits have acted as a barometer for society, expanding and contracting in proportion to the fortunes and lifestyle of each era. The modern suit is the product of centuries of modification, a process that continues today as celebrities such as David Gandy continue to reinvent the outfit for the modern gentleman.
Enriched with years of tradition, the suit still carries a sense of occasion matched by no other dress code. The roots of this lie in the birth of the suit; credited to King Charles II and his 1666 declaration that courtiers dress in a uniform of long coat, waistcoat and breeches to impress a sense of their authority upon the public. Charles’s request that buttons were sewn on the right-hand side of the jacket so men could draw their swords on the left still endures to this day. However, it wasn’t until the 1860’s, when the Prince of Wales commissioned a relaxed alternative to the Victorian frock coat from Savile Row tailors Henry Poole & Co, that the modern suit and its ‘dinner jacket’ was born.