About 1760 most men begin wearing breeches, a tight garment worn from the waist to the knee with stockings covering the rest of the leg, “Britches” was an informal word for breeches.
Trousers were worn by some men. Trousers were looser than the tight pantaloon worn by the fashionable Hessians who came to England and America at this time. Trousers were favored for daytime wear while pantaloons were more evening attire.
Sailors had been wearing the looser fit work trousers since the 1580s since they were practical for barefoot ship work. These pant-like garments were strictly for the lower class males however.
The French revolution of 1789 was also a revolt against breeches as being too upper class. The country peasant trouser look was in. Breeches became formal wear.
Likewise, by about 1800 the three cornered cocked hat became formal court wear, while top hats or other round hats came into fashion for men.
Gentlemen’s shirts from 1650 through 1850 were generally always white and with a lace or other fancy cravat in the front.
A coat was the uppermost layer of the 18th century man’s suit, worn over waistcoat and breeches. In the late 17th and early 18th centuries a coat was what we would recognize as today as being called a “frock coat”, a relatively straight loose garment, with a defined color, and with the slight fullness in the knee-length skirts falling into folds over the backside of the hips.
The frock coat evolved form the earlier gentlemen’s coat, large and weighty, set into regular pleats.This new fashioned coat, with narrow skirts set in pleats and including a collar, was termed a Frock. By 1750, both the coat and the frock were worn, coats being for fashionable full dress, frocks for fashionable undress. By 1770 the frock had entered into fashionable full dress, and was by many simply referred to as a “coat” and the distinctions in purpose were lost. None but the most conservative older man would be seen in a full-skirted coat. In 1790 the “frock coat” dominated fashionable dress.
Men’s waistcoats and coats were brightly colored until about after the Revolutionary War. Benjamin Franklin wore dark colors, grey, black, and brown, to show his industry and frugality, and that look spread as industrial production produced the gentleman of an age of industry.
The 18th century man was almost never seen without his waistcoat. Not to have it on was considered “undressed.” The waistcoat, or vest, of the 1770s was fashionably worn to the upper part of the thigh, opening in a “V” beneath the stomach. Waistcoats were made in all qualities of silk, cotton, wool, and linens. It could be plain or it could be printed, brocaded, quilted, silver or gold laced, and was generally the most elaborate article of men’s dress. When worn for utilitarian purposes it could have sleeves, be called a jacket, and worn outermost instead of a longer skirted fashionable coat.
In the 18th century there were many sorts of folded or cocked hats – cocked on one, two, or three sides. It was the hat with three sides cocked that dominated fashion and was seen in innumerable variations of adornment and proportion. While beaver felt was the preferred material others, including wool and camel’s down, were available.
See www.history.org/history/clothing/men/mglossary.cfm for a best short description of a colonial man’s clothing.