The Great Masculine Renunciation

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At the end of the 18th century there was one of the most significant events in the history of dress. Men gave up their right to all the bright, more elaborate, and more varied forms of clothing. They left all that to the women. Men abandoned their claim to be considered beautiful. They, instead, aimed at being useful in society.

Those who have studied the situation all agree that the causes for these changes were primarily of political and social nature. The also believed that in their origin the causes were associated with the great social upheaval of the French Revolution. One of the purposes of decorative dress was to emphasize distinctions of rank and wealth. These distinctions, however, were among the chief of those that the French Revolution, with its slogan of "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity," aimed at abolishing.

There were, particularly, two ways in which these new ideals tended to produce a simplification in the dress of the male sex. First, the idea of the brotherhood of man was obviously not going to work with clothing, which by their very nature, emphasized the differences in wealth and station between one man and another. The tendency to greater simplification was powerfully reinforced by a second aspect of the general change that the Revolution implied. Work had now become more respectable.

A major example of such changes was the change in men's pants. Previously men's pants were lighter colors, and the pant legs were up to the knees. The men wore stockings and buckled shoes to go with such clothing, and generally was worn by the upper class. The change came when the pants were changed to go all the way down to the ankles. The pants were also a darker color, did not require fancy shoes, because the shoes were not as noticeable with the longer pant legs.

Formerly, all work connected with economic activities of any kind (the production and distribution of goods or services) was considered degrading to the dignity of those who generally set the...
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