A banyan was considered “undress” wear, meaning it was worn for informal occasions. It was paired with a cap or turban-type head covering instead of a wig. (If you wore wigs a lot, you tended to keep your head shaved. It just made things easier.) Very generally speaking, banyans ranged from loose, flowing, T-shaped robes early in the century to more fitted, Asian-inspired garments later.
Benjamin Rush observed that:
Loose dresses contribute to the easy and vigorous exercise of the faculties of the mind. This remark is so obvious, and so generally known, that we find studious men are always painted in gowns, when they are seated in their libraries.
So, without further ado, I present to you the Gentlemen of the Detached Hospital, a.k.a. the Z.Z. Top of Colonial Williamsburg.
Presenting the ZZ Top of the Reenacting World
Everybody's crazy 'bout a sharp dressed man.
Michael W. eschews the negligee cap for something cooler with more protection from the sun. That silk brocade is heavy, and hot.
Mike's lovely wife made this banyan for him.
Shorter Half vamps for the camera. This is a hand-block printed cotton from India, and is patterned on a banyan in the Sharon Ann Burnston book, "Fitting and Proper". More on the construction of this later.
Chris looks refined and relaxed while he coordinates beautifully with the crepe myrtle in bloom behind him. This is also a hand-block printed cotton from India, and uses a French pattern. The cap uses a pattern from Linda Baumgarten's "Costume Close Up". More on this later, as well.