Men’s Fashion

Men’s clothing was just as diverse in the 1880s as it is today.  Photographs are an excellent but limited source of information, simply because whether or not a person was ever photographed had to do with economic, ethnic, and regional characteristics.

Skilled Labor

Butcher. Fulton Market 1880.
Butcher. Fulton Market 1880.


Lumbermen, ca 1900
Lumbermen, ca 1900


Middle Class

Men's Fashion, ca 1880
From The Gentleman’s Emporium (click on the image to read more about men’s fashion in the 1880s on that website): The gentleman in the front center displays the most popular style of closely tailored sack suit with a wingtip collar and four in hand tie.While the other suits are in a variety of colors and fabrics, they all show evidence of the narrow lapel, and tightly fitted clothing. Ties were still available in the bow tie style and, as seen on the gentleman with the fishing pole, tied with a small ribbon. All manner of hats are on display in this picture and highlight the variety available during this decade. This rather candid photo of men was taken in Wyoming in about 1880. These are not fashionable or well-to-do men, but by modern standards they still seem to be fairly formally dressed. They may be clerks or shopkeepers or teachers.


grocery store clerks 1880
Grocery store clerks, New York city 1880


The Well-Off

young aa male ca 1890
Portraits of African Americans from the Alvan S. Harper Collection (1884-1910)  Source: State Library and Archives of Florida Photographic Collection. Photo ca 1890.


Unnamed man ca 1880
1880. Unidentified young man, clearly well off and carefully dressed. Note the collar, tie, the width of his lapels, the length of the jacket and the vest that peeks out.Note also the lack of beard or mustache, unusual for the time period.


Middle class couple
Middle class couple


The Wealthy

John D. Rockefeller 1880
John D. Rockefeller 1880
The height of fashion for men: Charles Guillaume Frédéric Boson de Talleyrand-Périgord (1832-1910),Prince de Sagan – by Nadar 1883

From Wikipedia:

Charles Guillaume Frédéric Boson de Talleyrand-Périgord (1832-1910) was a famous French dandy, and the grandson of Dorothea von Biron. A cavalry officer, he was one of the major figures in French high society in the second half of the 19th century. Boni de Castellane wrote of him:“ A cabotin, brave, amiable, high but without airs-and-graces, he had a supreme elegance, with the air of a grand seigneur, but with a certain something of the actor Gil-Pérès. Quite diplomatic, very ignorant, without taste for things of value, he was full of a “chic” which showed itself in all his sounds, gestures, poses and even the black band of his spectacles. He excelled in the art of paying homage to women who showed themselves attentive to him, like a cat, without good-faith or law. He reigned in Paris over a crowd of personalities from the “grand monde”, just as over more dubious people. A prince as well as a prince of fashion, he held the titles of peer of France and compère of the revue.”
See Ask Andy on the history of checked trousers.