Standards of "hotness" and fashion change over time for both men and women. In the Regency era (the time period for my upcoming release, STROKE OF GENIUS) men's fashions had calmed considerably since the Georgian period when all the London popinjays sported horsehair wigs, lace cuffs and knee britches. It wasn't unusual for men to wear high heels, cosmetics and beauty spots just like the women prior to @ 1790.
Then George Bryan "Beau" Brummell (the son of a tailor who rose to become the Prince of Wales' intimate friend) revolutionized the way men dressed. Male fashion became understated. Knee britches were abandoned in favor of full-length trousers in masculine shades. The silhouette was long and lean, the cravats crisp and ingeniously tied. (Note how well the costumer and Colin Firth borrowed from this engraving of Brummell for Mr. Darcy! With their dark curls and soulful expressions, they could be brothers.) If men weren't fortunate to possess the coveted head of Byronic curls, they cropped their hair short, Caesar-style. With wigs falling out of fashion, both sexes washed their hair more often. (Always a fashion plus, IMO!)
But there was one place during the Regency where a man had to abandon his trousers and revert to the knee britches and tight stockings of the previous century--Almack's Assembly Room. This requirement might have been an impediment to gentlemen who were "spindle-shanked", but if their legs were not up to snuff, the clever Regency gent wasn't above padding his stockings with wooden falsies to give the appearance of "a beautiful leg." The dress code was strenuously inforced and the patronesses who ruled Almack's with absolute power even turned away the Duke of Wellington once for being seven minutes late . . . and for wearing trousers.
And who's to say the she-dragons guarding the gate weren't right? After all, when a man wears tight knee-britches, a woman can always make a good guess at what he's thinking!
If you have any questions or comments on Regency fashions, I have pretty good chance at being able to find the answer for you, even if I don't know it off the top of my head. I just joined the online Beaumonde RWA chapter. These gals know their history! The chapter loop is a treasure trove.
If you could dress your hero in the fashion of any era, what would it be and why?
Oh, and be sure to come back tomorrow for a trip inside Almack's!