BLOG, WHAT TO WEAR
Guide to Men’s Fashion Through The Decades, 100 Years and Beyond
It’s fascinating to go back in time and see what was in style then and just how far we’ve come. Itching for a bit of time travel , Teeanime decided to do some digging. From tailcoats to zoot suits to bell bottom pants and everything in between, here’s a quick look at men’s fashion throughout the previous century and a half.
Many men began wearing the “middle-class men’s suit” that developed in England around the turn of the century, as opposed to the more decadent knee-length frock coats and extravagant suits of the 1800s.
In the early 1900s, most suits were made up of three pieces: the jacket, the trousers, and the vest (known as a waistcoat at the time).
During the day, men wore morning coats, which are simply jackets with a curving assymmetrical tailcoat from front to back.
These coats were frequently combined with coordinating or slightly striped trousers. Men also wore evening outfits in darker colors and richer fabrics.
Affluent men of this era, like women, would change their attire numerous times a day as propriety dictated.
Lighter fabrics and simpler outfits became popular in the 1910s.
By the second part of the 1910s, a man’s daytime suit was a simple single-breasted jacket with small lapels and high buttons. This was worn with straight pants.
Button-down shirts were usually pastel and striped, with a club (round-edge) collar and a tie. Collars were detachable, it should be mentioned.
This was due to the fact that collars required more regular cleaning than shirts and could be replaced more quickly if ruined.
Men’s outfits were completed with boater or gambler hats and two-tone boots.
The gist was that men’s fashion was governed by decency and formality.
Detachable collars are my favorite fashion trend.
The Jazz Age demanded a new perspective on life, with postwar optimism represented in everything from clothes to music. Suits were simpler, leaner, and more colorful.
Lighter colors replaced the previous decade’s black, charcoal, and navy.
Shoulder pads were phased out, and men began wearing jackets with slanted shoulders.
As silks were replaced with a variety of knits, ties became more casual.
Bow ties have also become popular.
Button-down shirts with detachable collars and softer fabrics became the norm by the mid-’20s.
The previous decade’s white striped shirts were replaced with an explosion of color.
To accommodate the look, men began tying Windsor knots with their ties, which meant that club collars were replaced with pointed spread collars.
It was an exciting moment, with economic boom and the creation of Hollywood. Each dude was dressed to the nines.
Trousers began to have front creases and cuffs, which added bulk and formed a strong, stern image.
Men began wearing belts instead of suspenders because of new, lower-sitting, baggy trousers.
These unique “Oxford Bags” trousers originated at Oxford University.
Collegiate sportswear was popular, and pants were fairly wide in comparison to the era’s tightly-fitted jackets.
Hats, Hats, Hats, Baby
Finally, no one in the roaring twenties would be caught dead leaving the house without a proper hat.
Summer hats included Panama straw and boater hats, while winter hats included felt fedoras.
Cars were an important aspect of 1920s society as they got more accessible.
As a result, driving-specific apparel such as flat driving caps made of tweed or wool, leather coats, and white silk scarves became popular.
The short version is that postwar optimism, jazz music, and the emergence of Hollywood pushed men to dress to the nines.
Favorite fashion trend: bow ties and fedoras
The economic world came crashing down on October 24, 1929, bringing the fashion industry (and most industries) with it.
Clothing manufacturing cuts and fabric scarcity led to the rearrangement of men’s suits in an attempt to maintain style while saving costs.
Men’s outfits were designed to highlight exceptionally broad shoulders (with shoulder pads), small waists, and tapered legs, creating the “Superman” appearance.
Suit jacket lapels were particularly wide, pointed, and elongated to accentuate a man’s broad figure.
Men’s clothes had small waists to save fabric, and designs of the time were largely filled with dark and neutral colors, as bright colors were considered as undesirable due to everyone’s hard times. Wool, flannel, tweed, and linen were the dominant fabrics of the day.
Men’s pants were extremely high-cut, roughly 3 inches above the naval, and hung in long, straight columns.
They were embellished with firm, pressed pleats that ran down the center.
Collegiate Youth Style
Polo shirts and bush shirts (short-sleeved shirts with four front pockets) were popular alternatives to the traditional button-down.
Younger generations began reinventing sweaters from the lower classes as elegant fashion pieces.
In terms of accessories, newsboy hats and Ivy caps were popular in the 1930s. Oxfords (both solid and two-tone) and wingtips were still popular shoe styles (for more information, see our Ultimate Men’s Dress Shoe Guide).
However, in the 1930s, men began to wear more casual shoe styles such as moccasins, loafers, and rubber-soled Keds solely at home or at athletic events.
Bright checkered and striped socks have developed as a fashionable addition to one’s professional suit.
The “Swing” era began around the end of the 1930s. Swing music, the jitterbug, and swing dancing sprang onto the scene, giving birth to the zoot suit.
Zoot suits were distinguished by excess fabric and sleeves, as well as pants that were worn tight at the waist.
Jackets were long, and the suit came with a keychain attachment that reached the knees, as well as a feather-adorned helmet.
Zoot suits were supposed to be both sharp and rebellious because they were popular with gangsters and younger people at the time.
The premise is that the Great Depression led to fabric rationing and reductions in apparel manufacture. As a result, men longed to preserve their flair while conserving resources and cutting costs.
Ivy hats and zoot suits are my favorite trends.
Many consider the 1940s to be the last decade of truly gentlemanly grace and elegance (whoever said that hasn’t met The GentleManual’s guys).
With the severity of the war looming over society, tight fabric rationing and a predominance of necessity over style began to have an impact on the fashion industry.
Any previous flashiness and extravagance in men’s fashion has all but vanished-
It was regarded an affront to patriotism if you were seen wearing something ostentatious or expensive (as all money and fabric needed to be reserved to help those in uniform).
As a result, suits lacked vests, pocket flaps, and trouser cuffs.
Men who stayed at home, away from battlegrounds, strove to seem as austere as possible, and adopted a style of simplicity with little (if any) elaboration as a result.
Although the zoot suit was ridiculed for its excessive use of fabric, it was nonetheless worn to some extent.
Men’s fashion enjoyed a small rebirth after the war, but it would never match the extravagance of the past.
Double-breasted jackets and larger trousers made a comeback. Colors were back, and hand-painted silk ties were in style.
Ties for Self-Expression
After so many years of not being able to display one’s individuality, every male in the 1940s wore a tie.
Wider, shorter ties with vivid designs were popular, and men paired them with ornamental tie pins to show off their taste.
After years of holding its breath, it is plausible to suppose that the era following the war was like a giant exhale for society—people could relax again, enjoyment was not only allowed but encouraged, and everyone embraced a more relaxed pace.
Because to Elvis Presley, casual Hawaiian shirts were a significant menswear fashion near the end of the 1940s.
The gist: Wartime economy and fabric restrictions established a precedent in men’s fashion for functionality over flashiness. Men, on the other hand, began to express themselves through details, such as colors, prints, and accessories.
Colorful ties are my favorite trend.
Men’s clothing was extremely plain at the start of the decade. Most businesspeople wore black flannel suits, and homogeneity once again became ideal.
Since everyone had returned from the war, a new term—”head of the household”—became synonymous with “husband.” The Cold War hovered over everyone’s heads, and men sought to appear as good Americans as possible.
As a result, everyone looked the same. Suits no longer had shoulder pads (or if they did, they were little), ties were leaner, shirt collars were less prominent, and hat brims were much narrower. Trousers, on the other hand, stayed largely unchanged.
The 1950s gradually became more relaxed. Travel, as well as interest in sports, began to increase.
Fashion evolved to reflect these interests, and informal, athletic apparel (such as the polo shirt) gained appeal.
Short shorts in pastel colors dominated men’s casual attire. Sports blazers fashioned in more comfortable designs and made of lighter materials become a wardrobe essential.
Sunglasses, which were formerly regarded a luxury item, became more accessible and so gained popularity.
Throughout the decade, everyone wore Wayfarer and Clubmaster glasses (which are still trendy today!).
Many believe the 1960s to be a watershed moment in men’s fashion. Formality was replaced with slender and flared pants, flower shirts, wide lapels, and other daring men’s fashion trends.
While women’s clothes became increasingly boxy and masculine, some argue that men’s design became more feminine in the 1960s, with longer hair, bright colors, thin silk scarves, paisley prints, velvet slacks, puffy sleeves, and men’s jewelry all making an appearance.
Suits got more form-fitting, pants became narrower, and vests became almost obsolete.
Suits were frequently abandoned (if one’s profession permitted) in favor of army coats and denim jackets.
Following in the footsteps of the previous decade, the youth continued to expand out and take the lead in terms of fashion.
The 1960s were deemed “youth-driven,” with trends created by subcultures such as mod, rocker, hippie, and so on, and fashion was as daring as it was playful as a result.
The British music scene rose in popularity during this period.
Any style that appeared to have originated on the streets of London became attractive (remember the Beatles’ pea coats and round sunglasses?).
Indeed, some argue that the Beatles were responsible for making neat, straight-cut business suits a fashionable wardrobe staple.
From suits and slim ties to skin-tight turtlenecks and their trademark haircuts, everything the Beatles wore became a ’60s staple.
The gist is that youth-driven subcultures ruled 1960s fashion. The Beatles had a big influence on fashion, and men’s dress became more mod and feminine throughout the decade.
Slim-fitting suits and slender ties are a favorite style.
Some think 1970s fashion came from another planet, and we’d be hard pushed not to believe them.
The 1970s were a chaotic era. Styles that would have been mocked at just ten years ago become popular.
Fast fashion grew popular when synthetic fabrics became available, materials got more affordable, and travel and shipping became more convenient.
Casual menswear and the growth of “wash and wear” men’s apparel became widespread and readily available at exceptionally low prices.
This was a clear reflection of the era’s attitude of excess and spontaneity.
Platform shoes and bell bottom trousers were menswear mainstays by 1972. Tracksuits and leisure suits were also popular.
Bell bottoms had a high waist, a tight fit through the thighs, and a flare that started at the knees and extended outward.
Bell bottoms were worn with suits and wide collar shirts in a variety of designs ranging from bright florals to polka dots to checkered to plaid and everything in between.
Chunky cable knit turtleneck sweaters (typically accompanied by matching belts or hats) were also popular.
Three-piece disco suits from the famous 1977 film Saturday Night Fever were every man’s dream outfit. It was unquestionably a great time to be alive.
The gist: As travel and shipping became more convenient, as did the cost of synthetic materials, the “wash and wear” evolution of men’s fashion began.
In the 1970s, platform shoes, bell bottoms, leisure suits, and chunky sweaters took center stage.
Bold colors and patterns are my favorite trends.
The ’80s clothes for men were another eccentric decade in fashion, continuing the trend of snug-fit, informal attire.
Clothing, on the other hand, was already becoming more muted and less extravagant.
Activewear, such as matching sweatshirts and sweatpants, NFL-branded clothing, and athletic shoes such as Nike Air Jordans, was “in.”
If a man wasn’t dressed in sportswear, he was wearing a denim jacket, a velour shirt, and a pair of Levi’s.
The 1980s were a tremendously self-conscious and gluttonous (at least in terms of materialism and excess) decade, thanks to the economic growth and a nouveau attitude toward success and power dressing.
Brands were important, and “Yuppies” (Young Working Professionals) popularized casual clothes, collegiate attire, and “prep” in the 1980s.
Suits for men were unexpectedly conservative. Suits in neutral hues were worn with slender ties, and knit square-bottomed ties were the “it” accessory.
When guys weren’t working, they’d wear graphic-print button-downs with trousers for a versatile look that could be worn practically everywhere.
Slouchy, pleated pants, bomber jackets, preppy plaids, polo shirts, and turtlenecks were other trendy menswear accessories.
Men’s trousers and blazers began to appear on store shelves tapered in the manner in which they are now often worn.
Hip-hop inspired streetwear and sportswear became popular among young people, influenced by artists such as The Beastie Boys and Tupac Shakur.
The gist: Because the economy was doing well, men’s clothes became more extravagant. Brand names and slouchier fits were popular. Preppy-casual became a big ’80s style thanks to Young Working Professionals.
Favorite trend: Bomber jackets
The 1990s saw another massive fashion upheaval, with men essentially rejecting all 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s trends in an attempt to reinvent themselves.
“Casual” was unmistakably on the rise, and simplicity was the new “in” thing.
Three prominent adolescent subcultures of the decade affected mainstream fashion: rave, hip-hop, and grunge (a direct diss to the excess and flashiness of the past two decades).
The majority of any man’s closet consisted of T-shirts, shorts, pants, trainers, sweatshirts, hoodies, tattoos, piercings, and conspicuously displayed brands.
In truth, the shift toward a more casual work uniform began with the rejection of stuffiness and formality in the 1990s.
The 1970s and 1980s were all about luxury and glitz. However, by the 1990s, a new period of informal, relaxed clothing in simpler colors and cuts had replaced that influence.
Leather jackets, knit sweaters, flannel button-downs, bowling-inspired button-downs, baggy denim jeans, overalls (particularly with one strap down—thanks, Will Smith), baseball caps, jorts (jean shorts), manpris (man + capris… not quite shorts, not quite trousers).
Yeah, that happened), parachute pants, sporty sneakers, and graphic t-shirts were popular in the 1990s. Oh, and droopy boxer-baring pants were popular in the 1990s, and they should remain so.
The gist: Because the ’90s were about rejecting previous decades’ patterns, the decade favored casual clothing influenced by grunge, hip-hop, and rave subcultures.
Favorite trend: Knit sweaters and graphic tees
Fast fashion rose to prominence in the early 2000s. Brands like H&M and Forever 21 were able to emulate runway aesthetics at a fraction of the cost because to globalization and the ability to decrease expenses through outsourcing.
As a result, class structures determined by fashion collapsed. High and low fashion were blended, and as clothing grew more affordable, everyone could save up for designer accessories.
Men’s fashion underwent a brief “futuristic” vogue at the turn of the millennium. Black, silver, and metallic were popular colors. Men dressed in leather ensembles, puffy coats, tracksuits, and Rockport boots.
As the United States entered the conflict in the mid-2000s, fashion became more serious. Distressed denim and military attire became trendy as everyday outfits.
Men wore low-rise jeans, light-colored polos, cargo pants, khakis, and short-sleeved button-downs in popular colors such as beige, rust, and forest green.
White belts, aviators, trucker hats, flip-flops, Argyle print, and oxford shoes were also popular.
Suits got thinner, with fashionable colors and patterns including black, navy, charcoal, and pinstripes. Inspired by James Bond and the Matrix, Nehru suits with Mandarin collars began to proliferate.
The smart casual look was popular among men, who wore flat front chinos, beige cardigans, Argyll pullovers, and houndstooth sports coats.
Hip-hop and skater culture influenced youth fashion, which combined sportswear and high fashion. Sneakers, ranging from Chuck Taylors to Nike Air Jordans, became popular.
Subcultures such as goth and indie pop emerged at the same time. People got interested in thrift store shopping and a darker, rocker aesthetic—a variation on British mod.
People welcomed casual fast fashion clothing trends, and they spent and concentrated more on accessories such as footwear and sunglasses.
Favorite trend: Converse sneakers
2010 – 2015
The early 2010s saw a comeback of ’20s prep style, as well as an increase in fast fashion and globalization.
On vogue were smart casual looks, athleisure, and hipster clothes. Does anyone remember the current trend of fedoras, non-prescription glasses, and rave bracelets?
These things appeared to represent our collective enlightenment as a species. You all have my undivided attention.
We’ve come a long way from dressing for propriety to dressing to express oneself (even if that meant pulling on a pair of jorts).
We have modified the game of Men’s Fashion numerous times in the last 100 years.
Since before you were born, menswear has been affected by music, war, the economy, women’s fashion, vehicles, gangs, celebrities, sports, and so much more.
Consider it the next time you don a fedora or a tie!