As early as 50,000 years ago, our ancestral Homo sapiens used whatever was in their surroundings to shield themselves from the harsh climate. Anthropologists have unearthed human fossils from the Arctic Circle and saw evidence of men’s clothing made of fur and animal skin. In retrospect, in regions where the temperature was much warmer, evidences of men’s clothes made primarily, of leaves and grass were discovered.
These were used to cover primitive man from the dust and heat. At that time, men’s clothing was nothing more that an ingenious invention borne from necessity. As centuries passed though, men’s clothing assumed a new significance— it became a signature for social status. Emperors and Kings wore ornaments made of gold and rare jewels; nobles wore hats, while peasants adorned themselves with shells and plain-colored garments. Many decades later man found the means to bridge his geographical gap with his neighbors. As a consequence, men’s clothing became as diverse as the cultures of this world. Chinese men wore court dresses; the Scottish wore tartans and kilts, Filipinos were seen in their barongs that were woven from pineapple fiber. Because of this diversity, trends emerged and fashion as an institution was born.
Designers and fashion magazines all fanned the flames of what was essential and what was frowned at in men’s clothing. Men were sized up by how his pants were creased, the length of his tie, if his belt matched his loafers. Fundamental rules and classifications surfaced and they became codes that the modern man lived by. For instance, brown belts should never go with black shoes. This applied across all cultures that required shoes and belts on formal functions. Amidst this celebration of diversity, the concept of haute couture emerged. Remarkably, this gave men’s fashion the tool for individual distinction. A separation from the rest not dictated by social status, rather, by preferences. Indeed, by having clothes designed and made especially for oneself emphasized one’s uniqueness. Men’s clothing became a form of expression.
How a man saw himself was ultimately reflected by how he dressed. Everyday was one big costume party that showcased men’s clothing and its 50,000 years of history, give and take. As life became more and more fast-paced, a new element was soon incorporated into men’s clothing-– comfort. Looking good became as important as feeling good. Modern lifestyles required clothes that did not require special cleaning and tedious caring. In response to this need and as a consequence of capitalism and trade, technology nurtured the discoveries and inventions of fabrics and methods of clothes making. Nylon, Polyester and Lycra are but a few synthetics that replaced natural fibers.
Mainstream men’s clothing was mirrored by sports wear that breathed like skin, smart office wear that repelled water, and shoes that complimented a foot’s contour instead of the other way around. Men’s clothing in retail boomed. In the transition between haute couture and retail, constants were defined. Today, these staple articles are as essential as to men’s clothing as they were when they were first created. The suit In business and formal functions, the suit has claimed stake as the most appropriate ensemble in the pool of men’s clothing. A man can never go wrong by showing up in a suit. The blue jeans Levi’s, Mossimo, and Lee are just some of the labels that have paved the way for what jeans are all about now and how they should be worn– deconstructed, faded, or acid-washed.
From a workman’s essential to a casual staple, jeans have secured its place as an icon of men’s clothing. The Cross Trainer Nike and Adidas have cornered the market by ever-revolutionizing shoes that conquer even the testiest terrain and the most rigorous of training programs. These shoes are not an after-thought in men’s clothing, rather, the first that is thought of and for which, all other fitness apparel follows. The T-Shirt T-shirts were originally undergarments worn by laborers. A classic example of metamorphosing use of garments, by the end of World War I, it became a permanent trend for casual wear. For the years to come, fashion will continue to evolve and will continue to be influenced by emerging technologies, trends and necessity, but utility and design will always be key elements in men’s clothing. The marriage of form and function in men’s clothing will never be divorced.
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