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The King’s Rules for Dressing Well

If you’re a professional in today’s post-modern, culturally diverse, hyper-capitalistic society, the suit still matters to your image and your success.

You’d think that the suit would have gone by the wayside by now.  The relentless fashion cycle makes the suit a constant target of change.

But yet the suit remains the standard for men’s professional dress.

We have King Charles II of England to thank for that.

In fact, the men’s suit, particularly the 3-piece suit, has been the standard for nearly 400 years.  It originated with King Charles II in the late 1600’s as a way to continue to distinguish the nobility while also responding to the increasing criticism of court opulence and “insidious French influences.”

Up until the mid-1600’s, men’s dress was extravagant (in emulation of the French court) and martial in character reflecting the status of the ruling class.  The basic model for aristocratic dress was the suit of armor supplemented by ample use of luxurious fabrics and bejeweled ornamentation, and as can been seen in the photos below of Charles II’s father Charles I and a distant relative Philip I of Spain.

King Charles I of EnglandTailored and Styled Blog 3 Mar 13--Phiip I of Spain






With the rise of religious and sectarian strife in England, and in an effort to combat all forms of French influence—including fashion—King Charles II decreed a dramatic shift in men’s dress with the official adoption of the vest a part of court costume.

“It will be a vest, I know not how; but it is to teach the nobility thrift, and will do good.”

King Charles II with Vest

King Charles II with Vest

To be sure the King’s decree was a political act, but what is absolutely key for us is that the vest not only changed outside appearances, but also targeted the inner attitudes of the nobility.  This linkage between outside appearance and inner values is fundamental to our approach to style.

The ultimate goal is to connect the two so that who you are on the inside and how you present to the world on the outside are congruent in terms of your self-concept and your most important social and professional interactions.

The time after Charles II’s decree has since become known as the “Great Renunciation” as men ever since have rejected extreme displays of ornamentation and finery.  This mantle was handed over to women exclusively, and so it has remained for the past four centuries.

In retrospect, this shift reset the entire approach to men’s style and the underlying values associated with dressing.  These values included the aforementioned thrift as well as modesty and uniformity.

Henceforth, the evolution of the suit steadily progressed to the point where today it has become a highly refined and nuanced clothing staple.

Can you see the continuity?

Tailored and Styled Blog 3 Mar 13--18th Century Grey 3 Piece Suit

Tailored and Styled Blog 3 Mar 13--Modern Grey 3 Piece Suit

We’ll explore this evolution of dress and values further in upcoming posts.  As we’ll see, British royalty will continue to influence and shape the rules for dressing well.

In the meantime, I want you to ask yourself the all important questions of “why” you dress the way you do and “what” you are trying to achieve.

By Joe Scherrer | Tailored and Styled Writer

Article publié pour la première fois le 04/03/2013


  1. awsom work thant you for sharing

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