|By the 1860s clothing for men was
available to all in the form of
inexpensive, ready to wear garments that were presentable and
fashionable. The difference between custom tailored clothing of fine
materials, and ordinary clothing, thus became more subtle. This means
one's wardrobe is not so easy to use as a class distinction anymore.
The middle class therefore, always eager to seperate themselves out
as better than the lower class, must rely on showing their refined
tastes through dress selection. By now the Victorian Gentleman has
become an ideal and a recognizeable figure all across Europe, and it is
not the color of his coat you will know him by, but how he carries
himself in it. Discretion and orderliness, that characterize his
behaviour, make their way into his clothes in the sleekness of the
lines and attention to detail. The right knot in his cravat, the right
length of walking stick, the right gloves... by the 1860s grey gloves
had replaced yellow as the correct color for daywear.
What if you are an upper class gentleman, and see no need for all
that bourgeois moralist rubbish? Well no matter, since you have a
personal valet to help you dress for day, afternoon, and dinner. It was
popular to have a British valet, even for some Europeans, to dress one
in a way that would give the proper impression for the occasion.
The 1860s saw the beginning of suits being cut all of the same
fabric; eventually this would be called a "leisure suit." The dress
coat (cut-in tail coat) is no longer worn during the daytime; it is
saved for evening, and replaced with the frock coat, which now has a
slightly roomier, straigher line than the 1840s-50s. The latest trend
is for the sack coat, made popular by the Prince of Wales. It is
shorter and straighter than a frock coat, with a kind of boxy look. For
a while it was worn with only the top button shut; this was called
"English" or "Richmond" buttoning. Some waistcoats were made with a
very high neckline, to match this Richmond buttoning. Trousers are
looser than previous decades, and now have a single fly front opening.
What if you are a lower class working man, who doesn't have time or
money to tie just the right knot and carry the right length of cane?
Those who can't afford a proper walking stick carry an umbrella,
tightly rolled up. Cravats, formerly a piece of material one had to
iron, fold, and carefully tie each day, now comes as a pre-sewn tube,
or even pre-tied. And if you can't afford them new, there are always
used clothes markets, where the cast offs from higher classes are
recycled into your wardrobe. Anything that can't be reused goes to the
rag man, who recycles the fiber into linsey-wolsey cloth, that you will
wrap yourself with as a shawl or muffler scarf.