Knee breeches, or knee-length leg coverings, were worn by men and boys alike throughout the eighteenth century. Knee breeches were worn pulled up over the hips and buttoned in the front without need for a belt or other brace at the waist. Later the center button was replaced with a front panel that buttoned up either side. Braces, or suspenders, were also added at the end of the century; buttoned to the inside of the waistband, braces secured the knee breeches with straps over the shoulders.
At the beginning of the century, knee breeches were fastened just below the knee with ribbons and buttons, and the stockings were pulled up over them. After 1735 knee breeches featured ornamental buckles and buttons at the knee and from that time on were worn on top of the stockings to display these buckles or decorative buttons. As the century continued, knee breeches changed from rather ill-fitting baggy breeches to formfitting garments. The most expensive breeches were made of satin, while those made for common people were of thick cotton or wool cloth. Breeches at the beginning and middle of the century were made of richly patterned fabric and had decorative embroidery. By the end of the century, knee breeches became much less adorned, but the quality of the fit and fabric remained very high. Although pantaloons, or ankle-length pants, began to be worn by some, knee breeches remained the most commonly worn pant for men during the eighteenth century.
Bigelow, Marybelle S. Fashion in History: Apparel in the Western World. Minneapolis, MN: Burgess Publishing, 1970.
Laver, James. Costume and Fashion: A Concise History. 4th ed. London, England: Thames and Hudson, 2002.