If you’d been born in 1901…
Chances are you would’ve worn dresses?
You and other boys…aged 6 and below…wearing white dresses.
Well, it’s a fact…and proven facts don’t change no matter how we react to them.
That’s one of many interesting, mind-boggling facts about style & fashion throughout history.
Note: I’m not pushing an agenda for grown men wearing dresses…or makeup…or tons of jewelry.
All these style facts below are just FYI – for entertainment purposes.
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Style Fact #1 – Men Were The Primary Users Of Makeup
That’s right. Makeup – the stuff that most guys outside of show business would be mocked for using – was a big part of men’s lifestyles in ancient cultures.
It all dates back to 10,000 years ago. Tribal men would wear paint either for camouflage (to catch animals while hunting) or for battle (to instill fear in their enemies). There was no aspect of “beautifying” oneself. It was purely functional.
Later in 4000 BC, the Egyptian kings and pharaohs wore heavy eye makeup. King Tutankhamen and the men during his reign used a green shade…since they believed green to evoke the God of Sky and Sun.
The Japanese and Chinese men in 3000 BC wore nail polish to signify their higher social status. The ingredients they used included eggs, gelatin, and gum arabic. You could say they were quite ingenious. Even more extreme? The Romans painted the top of their heads (not just their faces) to conceal premature baldness. They’d also powder up their faces so as to lighten their complexion. It made sense because those men needed to make sure they looked one step above the average person. Their image was everything.
Style Fact #2 – Men Were Dying To Look Good (Literally)
We have it so easy now compared to the men 100-200 years ago. They put their lives on the line…even if they simply wanted to shave or wear a neat collar.
Why? People didn’t know yet how to deal with shaving cuts. Infections eventually led to deaths. That was the case of Henry David’s brother John Thoreau, who died from lockjaw after cutting himself in 1841.
It was the same fate for Lord Carnarvon (who was famous for stepping into King Tut’s burial chamber) in 1923. Can you imagine? Their lives ended abruptly thanks to a practice that men can do safely nowadays.
Then there was the stiff, detachable collar with 2-3 buttons. It became a massive trend when it was invented in the 19th-century. Men had it on as a fashion accessory for gentleman’s clubs. It was cost-efficient since they wouldn’t need to change shirts every day.
The big problem? This collar was starched to a stiffness that affected one’s circulation. It was worn so tightly around the neck…literally choking those men to death. That’s why it was nicknamed the “father killer.”
If you went to the park and saw a rose sticking out of a bush…would you touch and admire it? No? What if you knew that Alexander the Great or Julius Ceasar would’ve done that today?
Yes. Those men were real fans of flowers. Alexander the Great would grow his own roses and have them introduced to the countries he conquered. Who knows how often he got his fingers pricked after touching a brand new rose from his gardens?
Those were the times when flowers were symbols of beauty or “life and its fragility.” The Romans used them (particularly roses) for religious ceremonies. And people generally thought that smelling flowers would help you become closer to the gods.
Flowers are definitely manly as history shows. So don’t be afraid to incorporate floral patterns in your shirt, tie or pocket square. Don’t look down at the idea of wearing boutonnieres. That’s kind of like insulting the great rulers who ever existed on our planet.
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Style Fact #4 – Pink Was Originally A Man’s Color
History doesn’t lie. It wasn’t too long ago when pink was a masculine color. It was seen as a “diminutive” of red which already had a strong warlike symbolism.
Men back in the 18th century not only wore pink…but dressed in pink silk suits which were embroidered with flowers. Those men were very powerful and highly respected.
In the early 1900s, young guys would confidently sport pink dress shirts (the first of which was made by Brooks Brothers) as part of their Ivy League wardrobe. So what caused a dramatic shift in perception?
Blame it on companies in the 1960s that introduced gender-specific baby clothes…assigning blue for males and pink for females. That forced parents to buy new clothes for their second child who’s a boy if their first child was a girl. Then the pink-is-for-girls trend would start prevailing.
Style Fact #5 – Men Were The Primary Wearers Of Jewelry
Before watches or bling-bling…men basically put on the exact same items that women still wear until now. It was most common during the Renaissance era (when it was important to show off your wealth and power).
Men included not just gold – but gems, rubies, pearls, and others – in their outfit. Kings would have pearls draped around the neck. They dressed in purple since that color was labor-intensive and symbolized royalty. Earrings were also quite fashionable.
Henry VIII was one notable jewel-wearer. He was depicted in a portrait of Hans Holbein wearing a sparkling, jewel-filled necklace. There were rubies lined up at the front of his robe and several rings on his hands. It’s too bad guys like Prince William wouldn’t get away with that style now.
Style Fact #6 – All Men Used To Wear Dresses 100 Years Ago
Here’s a thought. Wouldn’t dresses be easier than trousers if you always had to pee? If you couldn’t always time your pee breaks like back when you were little?
That’s the reason why a century ago, boys were made to wear dresses just like girls until about 6-7 years old. That was also the age when they got their first haircut.
The dresses were white (since white cotton could be bleached) and came together with diapers for children when they were still small. They were totally gender-neutral. So that made going to the bathroom much easier for kids and their parents.
Style Fact #7 – High Heels Started With Men
Did you know that ancient Egyptian murals portrayed nobles and men of authority wearing heeled shoes? The reason was similar to wearing jewelry: to set themselves apart from the lower class who walked barefoot.
Heels were also worn during ceremonial occasions. But they were most practical for Egyptian butchers as they needed to walk over bloody carcasses on a regular basis.
When you look at modern-day heels, you don’t realize they were originally made so that men could easily place their feet on a stirrup while riding horses. Yes – and they looked quite different too. Those heels led to higher heels which men used to look taller…and then those incredibly high platform shoes which became a trend for a good while. It’s amazing how times have changed.
Style Fact #8 – Men Check Themselves In The Mirror More Than Women
Avaj (a lifestyle e-tailer in the UK) did a survey of 1,000 people who were asked about their mirror-looking habits. What were the results? Men look at their reflection 23 times a day on average whereas women do it only 16 times daily!
But here’s the key difference. Women mostly do it to check if anything’s out of place (e.g. no stray hairs or smudges of makeup). Men also check themselves but spend more time admiring their body. The survey reveals men admit to looking at their arms (76%), legs (54%), eyes (43%), and hair (38%). The average spends 10 minutes a day for that…which is nearly 6.5 days per year!
Style Fact #9 – More Clothing Makes You Look More Intelligent
This comes from a study performed by psychologists at Yale and Northeastern University. Clothing affects perceptions of intelligence. By covering up (showing less of your neck and chest, avoiding shorts or sleeveless shirts, etc.) people can focus on your words and thoughts instead of seeing you as an “object.”
That may sound shallow…but that’s reality. Put yourself in this situation: you’re riding a bus to visit a friend but not sure where your stop is. Your seatmate (wearing shorts and a plain white t-shirt) tells you to exit in two stops. Then another man standing in the aisle (well-dressed in office attire) says you should get off at the next stop.
Naturally, you’ll follow the second guy’s advice because he’s sharply dressed. You’ll trust him more even though both men are strangers. That reflects the preconceived notions and stereotypes built into our assumptions of others. We can’t help it. Society has made us that way.
Style Fact #10 – Yankee Doodle Is A Song About Fashion
You might’ve known the lyrics since you were a child. But it’s time to stop being naive. Yankee Doodle doesn’t just describe some innocent man riding a pony into town with a feather in his hat. That man represents Americans during the Seven Years’ War and the American Revolution.
The “macaroni” lyric isn’t actually literal. It refers to a British dandy who would travel throughout continental Europe imitating the continental fashions. So the British first composed this song to mock Americans who thought they could be noblemen by just putting a feather in their hat. Ironically, the Yanks loved it. They won the war and kept the song alive since then.
In case you’re curious on how to dress like a macaroni – you’ll need a huge wig with a tiny hat (or feather) on top plus a flashy waistcoat, fancy buckled shoes, and bright-colored stockings.
Some odd and fascinating facts, aren’t they? That’s how much style has changed throughout history…and it’ll continue to do so. I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. There’s a lot of knowledge in this world that’s interesting, entertaining, and gives you a better idea of how life was before cars and the Internet.