For centuries, tailcoats were considered the quintessential style for both formal and day-to-day attire.
Tailcoats, also referred to simply as tails, originated in the 18th Century to make horseback ridding more practical. Designed so the front of the jacket is waist length, while the back has two long tails reaching to the knees, tails can either be single or double-breasted, and worn either open or closed. Often made of wool or linen, tails were cut so that even when closed, a strip of the waistcoat could be seen beneath the jacket.
With the origin of the tuxedo came the death of the traditional tailcoat. The invention of the tuxedo is credited to a man named Pierre Lorillard, a wealthy tobacco magnate of the 19th century. Lorillard a member of high-society lived outside of New York City in a residential colony called Tuxedo Park.
While in England, Lorillard met with Savile Row tailor Henry Poole & Co., tailor to England’s Prince of Wales. Inspired by the Prince’s distinctive sense of style, Lorillard enlisted a local tailor to make him a tailless jacket for the Tuxedo Club’s annual Autumn Ball. Traditionally a white tie event, men were expected to dress in tails.
Despite his original intent, Lorillard wavered and decided against wearing the daring jacket to the ball. Ultimately Lorillard’ son, Griswold Lorillard, known for being more rebellious, decided to wear the short jacket to the ball. Griswold’s jacket was instantly admired as a fashion statement and grew enormous popularity among the guests.
In honor of his town, Griswold named the innovative jacket style, the Tuxedo. Since its debut in 1886, the tuxedo has become the standard in men’s formal attire, leaving tails by the wayside.