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A brief history of the men’s wedding suit

The men’s wedding suit has a rich history dating all the way back to the medieval times. Jacob Lane takes us on a trip back through sartorial time

Prince Albert and Queen Victoria in the Victoria TV series

When it comes to weddings, the first image conjured up for most will be the blushing bride wearing a stunning wedding dress, walking up the aisle while the guests look on in admiration.

In other words, it's about what the bride is wearing rather than the groom.

But while wedding dresses, veils, and wedding jewellery may be the main forms of dress wear you associate with wedding ceremonies, the men’s wedding suit has a rich history as well, dating all the way back to the medieval times.

So, with this in mind, we thought we’d give you a history lesson, going back in time to take a chronological look at how men’s wedding fashion has evolved over the years.

With many of this year's weddings being deferred until 2021, hopefully there’s still time to take some inspiration before your big day.

The 1700s: The Jazzy Georgians

George IV

Let’s start by casting our minds back to the mid 1700s – the wedding fashion of the time was for the men to be as extravagantly dressed as their partners – if not more.

Throughout the entirety of the Georgian period, you would often find the groom wearing a combination of luxurious furs, embroidered silks, exorbitant cufflinks and plush velvets embroidered with all manner of precious gems, in a similar vein to some of today’s modern rappers.

This fancy attire was designed to symbolise wealth and austerity, offering those who could afford it the opportunity to effectively show off their importance and how rich they were. Lucky things.

It was for this reason why many of the more well-known wedding ceremonies of the time tended to be royal-related, often favouring brighter colours over the more traditional white or black.

But what about the average joes of the Georgian era? Well, without much money to their name, many of the lower and middle-class people would get married simply wearing their ordinary clothes. Talk about an anti-climax.

1840: The Prince Albert Effect

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in ITV series Victoria

The era of jazzy wedding fashion remained all the way up until 1840 when Queen Victoria’s marriage to Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg arguably changed the game forever.

Marking a pivotal moment for both bride and groom-based fashion, you’ll be happy to hear there wasn’t a fancy jewel in sight during the royal ceremony, with Victoria opting to wear a white gown and Albert choosing to adorn his Field Marshall’s uniform – a move which unintentionally kickstarted a royal tradition that remains to this day.

But it wasn’t just royal wedding fashion that this ceremony changed forever.

The cut and style of Albert’s suit were also seen to be a crucial point in the evolution of the wedding suit on the whole, going on to popularise what later became known as the morning suit – a single-breasted morning coat with one button and peaked lapels, striped trousers, a waistcoat and a tie, often completed with a top hat and a pair of gloves.

From then on, the world of men’s wedding fashion started to gradually move away from flashy, ostentatious wear and instead adopted the clean lines and precision that Prince Albert first showcased during his wedding day.

1840 – Early 1900s: A Good Morning Suit

A classic morning suit from Oliver Brown.

From the 19th century onwards, there was a significant movement towards men wearing morning suits, so-called because weddings would traditionally take place during the morning. Pretty obvious, really.

However, the men who were seen wearing morning suits at the ceremony was something which gradually changed over time, as it wasn’t always the groom who would adorn them; originally, only members of the upper classes would have worn morning suits for weddings, with the groom instead having to wear their best made-to-measure formal suit.

That all changed during the Edwardian times though, when it gradually became more and more common for both the groom and his groomsmen to hire morning suits to wear on the big day.

Talking of which, and as a little side fact, the thinking behind the groom and groomsmen wearing the same attire is something which actually dates all the way back to the medieval times.

At this time, many people believed that dressing identically would confuse any evil spirits that were present at the ceremony, helping bring good luck to the two newlyweds. The tradition has then stuck ever since – funny, hey?

1940 – 1980: The Era Of Fast Fashion

Moving on into the 20th century, the morning suit continued to reign supreme until shortly after the beginning of the second world war.

At this time, and during the years between 1940 and 1960 in particular, a number of different shapes and cuts were seen to both come in and out of fashion – from wide-peaked lapels to bell-bottomed trousers to even wider lapels to padded shoulders and braces.

At the same time, the turn of the war saw the arrival of another wedding tradition: the male wedding ring, first worn as a way to remember loved ones while on the army barracks.

Then, fast-forwarding to the 1980s, the double-breasted power suit came into fashion, where it has largely remained ever since – albeit no longer as a wedding suit.

Symbolic of films like Wall Street, this suit typically conjures up images of wide, built-up shoulder pads, providing the wearer with more of a boxy, confident look.

It’s for this reason, therefore, why many people still use power suits for formal occasions like job interviews, presentations or meetings – basically, any event where somebody needs to look like they know what they’re talking about.

1980 – Present: A Time Of Endless Choice

BOSS suit

In today's day and age of sleek yet vintage fashion, the wedding style options available for men is nearly endless.

Whether you'd rather have the extravagance of the 1970s, the black-tie look of the 1920s or the jazzy jewel-filled elegance of the 1600s, the choice of wedding attire now really comes down to the overall theme you and your partner decide to set for your wedding.

If, for example, you decide to get married in the countryside, a tweed blazer layered over grey trousers could be a great look. Alternatively, if you’re looking to go down the more traditional route, opting to wear a morning suit is something that will never go out of fashion – just make sure you don’t forget the top hat.