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Why Do Men Wear Suits? A Turbo Ride Through Time (1450 – 1900)

Several artists throughout history have attempted to capture the essence of a gentleman through oils and photography. Today we pause for a moment to take a look at a few valiant works that portray gentlemen of the times, art ranging from 1450 – 1900. All of the oil artists have aptly entitled each of the paintings below  “Portrait of a Gentleman”.

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1450 – Portrait of a Gentleman by Andrea del Castagno, a landmark Italian portraiture, with the gentleman’s right hand clutching the long end of a hood worn over the shoulder. Source: Wiki Paintings

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1512 – Portrait of a Gentleman by Bartolomeo Venet0 (1502 – 1546), Italy. Veneto is said to inspired by DeVinci


1555 – Portrait of a Young Gentleman by Tintoretto, whose real name was Jacopo Comin (1518 – 1594). For his notable energy, he was also known as II Furioso, Source: 1st Art Gallery and Wikipedia


1629 –  Portrait of a Gentleman by Nicolaes Pickenoy (1558-1656), a Dutch Painter of Flemish origin.

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1730 – Portrait of a Gentleman by Vittore Ghislandi (1655 – 1743), who trained in Milan during the post-medieval Baroque period. Source: see below


1742 – Another Portrait of a Gentleman, by Vittore Ghislandi (1655 – 1743) Source: Web Gallery of Art


1809 – Portrait of a Gentleman by an unknown artist Source: Lemon Tea and Earwig Biscuits

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1842 – Portrait of a Gentleman by John Ponsford (1790 – 1870)

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1850 (estimated) – Portrait of a Gentleman by William John Wilgus (1819 – 1853), also known for his works of Ichabod Crane and The Headless Horseman Source: Oxford Gallery

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1888 (estimated) – “The Czarevitch”. Nicholas Romanov of Russia (1868-1918), a few years before he ascended the throne in 1894 as Nicholas II, the last Tsar of Russia Source: J Cosmas Vintage Photography

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1890s – Carte De Viste, Two Gentleman of Stavanger Source:

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The Year 1900 – Gentleman Wearing a Top Hat, by Max Platz, Chicago Source:

10 thoughts on “Why Do Men Wear Suits? A Turbo Ride Through Time (1450 – 1900) Leave a comment

  1. Reblogged this on The ObamaCrat.Com™ and commented:
    Suit wearing seems to be a lost art form, except for me…I love suits and own over 300 of them. Style never goes out. Thank you Iconicallyrare…..lovely visual post.

  2. These men give new meaning to the idea of dapper!!! I started to read the story of Beau Brummell which is an eye opener. I wonder if we are going through a transition. Everything seems to be casual dress and there are less and less places to “dress up.” I remember when my mother would never else the house without a hat and gloves. I still love wearing hats!! Another excellent post!

  3. Thank you, Clanmother! It is always a pleasure to see that you’ve commented, as your perspective is so sharp. Have you noticed that although the trend of the 35 plusers may be to dress-down, the younger men in their 20s and early 30s are coming back to a place of seeking style-done-right with a vengeance. It is a wild but welcome phenomenon! ~Sonya

  4. Men wear suits for many reasons. They like looking good for starters. In business a well dressed individual commands respect from all those around around him. That said there is an art to properly wearing a suit, a full suit, jacket pants, and vests all have function and value to the suit wearer. The first and most notable is that they allow the man to quickly adjust to environmental conditions, the type of environment they’re in all the while still looking good (If they do it right!) For example, if I’m wearing a 3 piece suit and visiting customers and quick re-adjustment before entering a company that I know the offices are hot I can leave the vest in the car and stay cooler while inside, or if they company is heavy into casual dress it might be appropriate to leave jacket in the car giving a more casual but still maintaining a professional appearance, add rolling up the sleeves and you appear “Ready to do business” with some clients. but even beyond that, the various pockets allow men to carry a myriad of accessories both business equipment and personal grooming tucked neatly away to be produced as required, once again showing that your ready and prepared to conduct business. The above can be adapted for social engagements. I seem to going against the grain though if 35 plusers are dressing down more, I’ve gotten more in suits as I’ve gotten older…

  5. There is on the one hand, the exuberance of dressing up and the pleasure of personal expression through clothing. I totally get that, and I applaud those who dress up the world and themselves for the sheer joy of it.

    There is, on the other hand, the perception that sometimes a suit dresses up an emptiness inside. People of my ilk often use the term “suit” pejoratively to refer to those who are little more than just a suit. I have long made the claim that three groups of people you can count on looking spiffy are: shyster lawyers, crooked politicians and car salesmen. Liars all, and the suit is part of their lies.

    I think personal expression is a wonderful thing. But wearing a lie really bothers me.

  6. There are many reasons as to why men wear suits. As far as I know, aside from being fashionable from way back 1450 up to present, it reflects a mans’ manliness and state in society. Another, in the business world, men wearing suits shows professionalism and character.

  7. What a great article, I would like to add one iconic sartorially well footed gentleman ”B’eau Brummel” if I may Sir, A self proclaimed Dandy who patronised Savile Row hundreds of years ago which is now often referred to as the spiritual home of bespoke Tailoring.

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