Until the 17th century, bullfighting was a privilege of nobility and the events were held during royal weddings and celebrations of the upper class. Then, lower classes started taking opportunities of bullfighting to earn an upper social status and a higher position through becoming national bullfighting heroes. Although the bullfighting tradition as a nobility spectacle is the past already, it is still reflected in the way the show is organized and the costumes that bullfighters wear to emphasize their social position. The designs of typical bullfighting costumes are still based on elegant silhouettes, taken from the 16th -18th century's bullfighting fashion.
What concerns color schemes of typical bullfighting costumes, they often combine red and gold shades, respectively associated with the blood and sand (which is a special yellow sand); hence, bullfighting costumes conform not only to the past noble traditions, but also to the entire atmosphere of colors and shades on the bullring, producing an enormous aesthetic effect on the spectator. Brightness of color scheme enhances the effect of grandness and visual impressiveness of the performance. Generally, each detail on the bullring exists in accordance and harmony with the others.
Spanish typical bullfighting costumes consist of a silk jacket, heavily embroidered in gold, skintight pants and montera (a bicome hat). The picadors wear flat-brimmed, beige felt hats, called castorenos, silver-embroidered jackets, chamois trousers and a steel leg armor. The banderilleros wear costumes similar to the matador?s, except the jacket and pants that are embroidered in silver instead of gold. However, more conservative styles of Spanish typical bullfighting costumes can be found today, which consist of a dark waistcoat (usually brown or gray), brown leather chaps and a broad, straight-brimmed hat.
Bullfighting is also a popular Portuguese tradition, not only held in special bullrings in larger towns, but also in market squares in smaller villages. Portuguese typical bullfighting costumes are the traditional 18th century costumes, consisting of a gold-embroidered coat of silk or velvet. Although Portuguese typical bullfighting costumes seem rather modest in comparison with Spanish, Portuguese bullfighters (cavaleiros) ride elaborately adorned horses. More elaborated and adorned styles of costumes can be also seen during the Portuguese bullfights.
In Mexico, el rejoneo or a fight on horsebacks is enriched by the use of two styles of costumes ?usanza espanola and usanza portuguesa?, the Spanish and Portuguese style suits. Matadors take minimal and conservative designs of Spanish typical bullfighting costumes and more flamboyant of Portuguese ones, comprising a brightly colored overcoat, white pants, patent leather boots and a three-cornered hat. Generally, rejoneadores tend to wear whichever of two traditions strikes their fancy on a particular day, but some show trademark preferences.
Many museums in Spain, Mexico and Portugal preserve and display ancient local bullfighter costumes as artifacts of ancient bullfighting traditions.