Gentleman’s Riding Costume, July 1801

Journal des Dames et des Modes, Paris, July 19, 1801.

“Costume d’un Jeune Homme”

This young man looks like he might have been one of the Incroyables, the punks of their day, known for eccentricity in fashion. They emerged after the Reign of Terror in France. They wore weird haircuts, spoke with funny voices (dropping the letter “r”), and roamed the streets getting into trouble. They walked as if they were hunchbacked, and wore fashion that distended, padded and pulled the body out of proportion. They wrapped their cravats up high, swaddling their throats in goiters of cloth. The collar generally ended around the ears, entirely hiding the chin and jaw. They looked incredible. Or as the French christened them, Incroyable.

Everything about this young man’s costume is a bit exaggerated, in the Incroyable style. The jacket has an unusually high collar, reaching the middle of the back of his head, and the shoulders seem too rounded, forcing him into a slouch. The shirt collar is fashionably high, and his neckcloth swathes his neck and throat, covering his chin.

The low-crowned hat with the turned down brim is also unusual, and looks like something a young Incroyable would sport. But what really marks this young man as a member of the Incroyable set is his hair, worn in a style called “dog ears,” where the hair falls long over the ears, made popular by these fashionable French punks.

The rest of his costume is fairly ordinary: yellow breeches or pantaloons, and black Hessian boots.

The print is not signed. But one of the frequent artists used in these early years of this magazine was Carle Vernet. He also happened to be the artist who had, only a few years earlier, produced a famous set of caricatures of the wardrobes of the Incroyables and the Merveilleuses (their female counterparts). Perhaps this print was his creation as well, though the fashion here is restrained, much less outlandish than his caricatures.


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