Whoo! Not knowing much fashion terminology AND not bein’ a guy caused this assignment to kick me in the be-hind! But I learned a lot. So here goes…
The beginning of this decade saw many men returning from the world war to closets full of clothes from the teens. So the sacqe suit remained in popularity. It’s a three-piece suit normally seen with a bowler hat. Detachable cuffs and collars were still common for easy cleaning. Eventually though, youth broke away from the dress of their elders, first choosing lighter colors for their suits, then creating the following styles:
For the casual male, knickers and a sweater and/or a Norfolk coat with boots or oxfords or brogues.
Knickers weren’t allowed at Oxford or other schools, so young men wore their knickers anyway, but covered ‘em up with baggy pants. These baggy pants were termed “Oxford bags” and were quite the thing.
In addition to oxford suits coming into vogue in the 1920′s, the jazz suit made its appearance. Note the narrower cut on the jazz suits. Cuffed pants were popular no matter which you preferred. The jazz suit with it’s higher waist and tight cuffed legs was the forerunner to the zoot suit. This pic doesn’t do the jazz suit justice–as typically the jackets had shoulder pads and were a teensy bit longer.
Please note all the hats! Men didn’t romp about without their hats–whether they wore fedoras, panamas, boaters, or sports, they had their heads covered!
Of course after the stock market crash late in the year of ’29, the beginning of this decade found itself in the Great Depression. Folks don’t have money to spend on new clothes and “out of business” sales in the garment industry are prevalent. Of course, the gangsters aren’t hit too hard by the depression and although criminals, are setting the style with their classy, business-like (albeit a bit flashy) attire.
With the gangster suits, you’ll notice pinstripes, some flashy color on shirts and or ties/handkerchiefs, pronounced shoulders, narrower waits, and wider trouser bottoms.
In 1935, Roosevelt instituted “The New Deal” and people had the resources to buy clothes again! The double breasted suit came into fashion for the first time (and has remained fairly popular into present day)! Perhaps influenced somewhat by the gangters, suits of the 30′s bore patterns, broad shoulders, and wide legs.
Stars of the day helped make the double-breasted suits quite popular.
In the night clubs of Harlem, the zoot suit was just starting to show up. But I’ll cover those suits in the forties.
In March of ’42, rationing was put in place in the U.S., which meant fabrics like cotton and wool just weren’t as available. But there was an “apparel consultant” to the War Production Board (believe it or not) and he declared that it was every designers’ patriotic responsibility to design fine clothes that could be worn in multiple seasons with a minimum use of fabrics. Rayon entered common use. Please note that cuffed pants, pocket flaps, and other extra material (for bagginess, etc…) is absent in the suits of the early 40′s.
Meanwhile, despite rationing (and perhaps as a rebellion against it), zoot suits come into vogue. Zoot suits had super baggy pants, incredibly long jackets, and large hats.
Some Americans saw the wearing of a zoot suit as an affront to the war effort and even the country. But it was also an easy way to target some of the immigrant populations (African, Mexican, Puerto Rican) for whom this style was popular.
In fact many Latino youth were attacked by European-American sailors and marines in Los Angeles in 1943. These were called the Zoot Suit Riots and similar incidents showed up in other cities–including Chicago.
After the war and rationing, men’s suits favored full cut, long clothing in many colors.
The end of the forties saw Hawaiian shirts first being worn in places like Florida and California. But men were becoming more casual in other parts too. In New York City at that time it was becoming a wee more common to see a man walking down the street with (gasp!) no jacket and shirttails flapping!
Conformity is the name of the game for business suits in the fifties. Dark blue, black, and charcoal were pretty much it. Nothing flashy here. Perhaps we can blame it on McCarthy for causing everyone to blend in and look like a good American. But whatever it was, the majority of the population dressed pretty conservatively and pretty much the same.
As for the younger man, the image of the blue jean and t-shirt wearin’ teen is actually a little misleading for this decade. Blue jeans were still only worn for outdoorsy sports and even teens in the 50′s were dressed pretty conservatively. Slacks, a button up shirt, and a sweater or sweater vest were standard. If you saw a guy in jeans and a t-shirt–beware! He’s a major rebel!
The economy was booming and the typical hard workin’ businessman had more leisure time. Loafers and Hawaiian shirts increased in popularity and thanks to popular western tv shows, so did western wear.
Meanwhile, the beatniks were inspired to dress like French artists of the day. Mostly all black, man. and a beret won’t hurt. Dig?
I’ll update the rest of this post later, taking us to the sixties and beyond!