Family Stories

A Study of Men’s Neckwear – 1860’s to 1870’s


To begin a journey through the styles of the men’s neckwear in the 1860’s and 1870’s, I think it important to look at the decade before.  This is John Linton Edwards, my third great grand uncle, photo taken about 1856.  This was the decade of the over-sized suit, wide lapels, high collars and a cravat tied tightly around the neck.  In all the photos I have during this time period, the men are all dressed similarly.


This photo still shows the wide lapels that continued into the 1860’s, but the coats were cut shorter and fit more closely.  Of course, during to the Civil War, many fashions were held over due to the inability to afford – or procure – new material and clothing.  Notice the shirt collar – it now folds down.  The cravat is similar, but not as large, and hidden beneath the collar.


In this photo, taken in Canada, it is easier to see the wide lapels – and the cravat is better seen.  Notice the handle-bar mustache!


This gentleman is J. H. Baker, about 21 years old.  He gives us a wonderful example of a colorful silk cravat.  He also wears a silk scarf around his neck, visible between his coat and vest.


This gentleman is sporting the high collar of the 1850’s with a wide, silk necktie, tied in a loose knot, low at the throat, with the square ends overlapping.  Generally these neckties were striped, as per the photo.


This gentleman is dressed much the same as the previous, except he doesn’t seem as fastidious at tying his necktie!  He does wear the watch chain that most men did at that time.


I love this photo – the suit is in a more interesting material – and the collar is of a different material.  Don’t you love the beard?  He wears a slim, black tie with his folded down collar.


This man’s collar is hard to see – but it is a stand-up version.  His tie is thin and in a light design.


These last two gentlemen’s coats are different – this particular one buttoned close to the neck – with just enough room for his short, stand-up collar and checked tie to be seen.  During the 1870’s shirts were made without collars or cuffs.  Generally a wardrobe of six collars and six pairs of cuffs would last a gentleman for about one year.  The collars and cuffs would be washed individually, thus making the shirts last longer.


A double-breasted coat is shown in this photo.  And the tie appears to be held with a pin.

Just as fashions come and go – and sometimes reappear – today, so it was in years ago!  To help date your old photographs, Dressed for the Photographer by Joan Severa is an excellent book, giving a decade by decade synopsis of the fashions of the day, and many photos to aid in dating a photograph.

9 replies »

  1. Forgive my giggle. I have a son in law that wears his beard like the gentleman in the tweed like suit that you love. When he is bbq’ing, I go into the house because I am afraid he is going to catch that thing on fire. Looks about as wirey as this gentleman’s beard.
    I so enjoy your photos, As well, your posts here and on facebook. Thank you Phyllis for all you do.

    • Patty, I got a hearty chuckle out of that one! My son used to have a beard so long and full he looked like one of the Grateful Dead! Fortunately that stage is over and his is trimmed and looks quite nice! I can understand your concern around the barbecue! You are very welcome! I enjoy posting the old photos and getting comments like yours! Thank you!

  2. This is a fantastic article. I am going to go through some of my old family photographs and see if I can better identify the era. I have one photo of a gentleman that was given to my late grandmother many years ago by a cousin. His name was Luke Moreland (or Mareland). I cannot find any reference to him as a friend, neighbor or relative. Thanks to this article, his his high collar (not turned down), a wide nicely tied tie, wider lapels, I think the photo is from the 1850s. Thank you, too for the recommendation on the by Joan Severa.

  3. Thank you for the pictures. I was able to identify the time period of an old picture I have based on the tie : )

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