The Edwardian era was the era that brought a revolution in the fashion of the Western world. Starting from comfort and style, people were very much bothered about their attire that represented their class as well. The high-class people were the models for society especially in the field of fashion.
There were dresses for every occasion back then. And the idea of wearing a particular attire while driving, fixing, or chauffeuring a car was a new one coming into the age. The people coming from the wealthy community used to buy a car for transportation and leisure as well. They were either passionate about learning to drive or hired chauffeurs for the same purpose and roam around the city in their luxurious motor cars.
From drivers to mechanics to sellers, each one needed a different set of clothes to feel comfortable while doing their job. And the elite people wanted their attire to be classy as well. The Edwardian motoring clothes were hence, made keeping in mind both class and comfort.
Chauffeurs were the personal drivers hired by the wealthy section of the society and the uniform for the chauffeurs were greatly inspired by the military uniforms that consisted of a single or a double-breasted coat of hip length with a pair of breeches mainly consisting of knicker pants, knee pants, and jodhpurs. These are further paired with tall boots or leather gaiters with a conventional driver’s cap.
The chauffeur coats that were made in America consisted of navy blue or black wool with matching or contrasting handcuffs looking very identical to a pea coat. Whereas in Europe or the country, colours in addition to blue and black such as tweed, dark green, and brown were also worn.
Another fabric that was used in the manufacturing of the country chauffeur’s uniform was Corduroy, especially with the Norfolk coat. The bottoms worn were long pants or breeches ballooned out over the hip area and laced over the calf. These black pants could either match or contrast with the topcoat.
The uniform was often sold with a matching four pocket vest that had no lapels. A striped coloured dress shirt with white cuffs and collars along with a necktie was worn under that. The chauffeurs had to wear a uniform cap or a flat cap along with their chauffeur uniform mandatorily.
Gauntlet gloves were the additional accessories that were worn while driving and goggles were also worn to protect the eyes during driving open-air cars. Tall boots or ankle boots were worn along with gaiters although men who wore long pants wore only ankle boots. Whether it be mechanics or drivers or car sellers, they needed to wear a badge, practically a driver’s license, that implied that they had appropriate training to regulate the car.
Hired Cars and Taxi Drivers
The busy cities had hired cars and taxi drivers who had the option of wearing the chauffeur uniform but instead they chose to wear the finest suit they could afford. These men belonged to the low to the middle class who were paid decently for their services. The independent drivers were free to choose their look for the driving job whereas the taxi stands might have had specific uniforms that the drivers had to wear.
These Edwardian men’s suits were usually of the darker shades such as black, blue, brown, and grey along with a matching coat, vest, and long pants. The summer days called for a semi-casual look that was done by removing coats and rolling up the sleeves. The dress shirts were worn underneath with white cuffs and collar, along with either a necktie or a bow tie.
Newsboy caps or flat caps were an alternative for the chauffeur uniform caps. People at times also wore a long woollen overcoat or a light duster coat over the suit. The motoring suits had a speciality in them and that is they had more pockets than a standard business suit and had belted backs.
There were special motoring vests as well made from leather which came with or without sleeves and a knitted back. These were quite popular back in the days and protected the drivers against winds in the open-air cars. The taxi drivers, at times, wore these instead of a coat. As the suits consisted of long pants, the shoes were mainly ankle-length boots with laces.
With the coming of the motor cars, there came a need for the mechanics as well who could repair the glitches that happen from time to time. The working poor and semi-skilled tradesmen among the rest were the majority who took a job as auto-manufacturers, auto repairs, delivery drivers, and salesmen and they had particular clothes for their jobs that were mainly comfortable and protected them from spoiling their regular clothes.
To perform regular maintenance and emergency repair works on the road, the chauffeurs and the hired drivers also wore such clothes. The working class outfits had very few options to choose from counting on affordability and occupation. The salesmen used to wear a suit with an optional coat, flat cap, and an apron made from cloth or leather while selling tires and auto parts. This apron protected him from the dirty environment.
Gasoline/petrol and ammonia were used to remove the grease stains. The mechanics used to wear a coverall over their regular clothes to protect themselves from any kind of stain from grease and dirt. The car drivers quite often kept a coverall in their cars for emergency purposes.
The coveralls used to have very loose and ill-fitting. The boxy coveralls were made from indigo blue heavy denim or olive drab khaki cotton. They used to button up the front portion with a faux belt worn at the waist. It also featured a high buttoning rounded collar and one or two pockets at the chest.
The railroad men and engineers wore overalls in colours such as black, brown, grey, and blue hickory stripe denim and these were adopted by the auto mechanics. The fitting of such overalls used to be wide and they came with buckle straps with X or Y back. The work shirts of blue, brown, or olive colours were worn underneath.
To add another layer of protection, a matching work jacket with additional pockets were worn. This helped keep tools and protect the mechanics from cold weather and air. The stitching on these coveralls used to be in white. The working men who used to work in manufacturing and were small garage mechanics wore jackets and pants underneath the coveralls.
The pants used to be of covert cotton, corduroy, denim or wool and were of colours such as olive green, dark blue, brown, grey and striped colours. The fabrics used to manufacture the work shirts were heavy cotton, wool flannel and moleskin cloth. The working men’s outfit was more fun to wear than the wealthy class attire as they were designed to have stripes, polka dots, small checks, stars and plaid in both lighter and darker colours.
The pattern shirts had the advantage of hiding the dirt better rather than the solid colours such as brown, green, khaki, navy blue and grey that was ultimately added to the mix. Newsboy style caps, railroad men’s cap, cadet caps and fur caps in winters were worn along with the worker’s outfit. The work boots came with laces and used to have thicker soles and heavier leather than the usual dress boots.
Owners and Drivers
The wealthy people of the society were the majority who used to own cars and most of them bought motor cars for leisure and preferred to ride them during fine weather. A classy look for such people while driving during the summers were inspired by the sportswear. And the sportswear of the Edwardian era for wealthy and classy men consisted of a summer weighted suit, dress shirt, tie, cap, and infamous oxford shoes.
Suit coats were often discarded although carried with and vests were optional. Trousers worn used to be of high waist and had wide or classic width which was never skinny. The colours worn during the summer were light grey to medium brown along with a pinstripe effect. Cuffs were more common in Europe and elsewhere, it was optional. Belts, in the place of suspenders, were worn with trousers.
The sport shirts were designed similar to the dress shirts only. Vertical stripes were common during the summers that were designed in friendly colours or on a white background. The rounded club or the granddad collars were more valid. Both the collars and cuffs were preferred in white colour. The early stages of the Edwardian era had stiff starched collars but towards the end, the soft collars became popular.
The sleeves could be rolled up for a casual look. Both the neckties and bow ties were worn during summers. The neckties used to hang short on the torso and the trousers were of high waist style. The 8-panel newsboy hat in bold plaid, check patterns and solid colours were along with. A few men wore straw or boater hats as well but these were not comfortable while driving.
Oxford shoes instead of heavy boots were preferred. Simple tan brown or black and white oxford shoes can be paired with any coloured outfit. The accessories consisted of hats, gloves and goggles made from leather trim that protected the men from dirt and air.
The motorist had an identifiable piece of clothing and that was the duster coat. It used to be of very lightweight fabric mainly cotton, linen, or pongee silk. It featured full length and a high buttoned neck. These also featured a single or double-breasted front portion with big side pockets.
During the summers, these duster coats protected men from dust while driving. The colours that these duster coats were made during the Edwardian era were tan, khaki, grey, and natural linen, all of them the colours of dust and hence, used to hide the dust better.
For the rainy season, fabrics such as oilskin cloth and Indian rubber lined in a woollen flannel cloth cut was cut with a wide skirt covering the legs completely while sitting. A matching rubber hat with a downward brim was also worn with it to protect from rain.
During the winters, most of the men used to wear a double-breasted woollen coat. Some of them had a belt at the back that allowed for a slim walking experience and when removed, opened up to become a full skirt.
During the early years of the Edwardian era, a complete leather coat was popular but it was not reasonable to wear it during rain. And during extremely cold weather, the men driving preferred a heavy ulster coat made from raccoon fur although it was immobile.
The vintage workwear outfits are making their way back into modern-day fashion. Although, it will take some time for the wide-leg pants to replace the skinny fit pants. The entire look from the Edwardian motoring fashion might be difficult to get today but the alternatives with a touch from the vintage era are available on various platforms for you to get from.
The modern coveralls, promoting comfort, usually have an elastic waist along with zippers and notch collars that do not imitate the Edwardian style at all. Whereas, the overalls have changed little over time.
The two-pocket shirts are easily available everywhere. The floppy and wide 8-panel caps can be accessed easily as well and enhances the look. Dark blue denim and solid colours are always better than the lighter ones. Ankle and calf-length lace-up boots can be bought from anywhere.