The Tailcoat

Few other articles of clothing say “dapper” like a sleek, black tailcoat! Whether it’s worn for a wedding, evening dinner, prom or a dance performance, the tailcoat is always elegant and brings to mind the dressier days of bygone years. Let’s take a look at what tailcoats are, where they originated and how they made their mark in the fashion world.

What is a Tailcoat?

The history of this unique jacket goes all the way back to the early 1800s, where it was worn as a horse-riding outfit. The knee-length, double-breasted sports coat was the norm, of course, until someone introduced the brilliant idea of a tailcoat. This was a coat with the front cut away at the waist for the sake of easier maneuvering in the saddle.

The back remained knee-length, with a split down the center, so that the “tails” could fall comfortably over the back of the saddle and horse.

While most modern tailcoats are black, they were worn in many colors in the 19th century. Today, you’ll see men sporting them at formal gatherings, professional settings, equestrian competitions and military events.

Who Designed the Tailcoat?

The gentleman commonly attributed to the tailcoat’s design was a man named Beau Brummell (1778-1840), an Englishman who was intimate friends with the British aristocracy and who also became a recognized leader in the fashion of his day. Unfortunately, however, Brummell engaged in his high-society lifestyle without prudence and racked up unmanageable debts. He died an impoverished and abandoned man. However, his legacy of fashion continues to this day.

The Modern Tailcoat

Today’s tailcoats are no longer double-breasted and aren’t generally worn with a high, lacy collar as it was in the Regency Era. The color is usually restricted to black, paired with a bow tie and reserved for very formal settings such as weddings, orchestral concerts and proms.