Flashback Friday to 1920s Men’s Fashion

Kathlyn Angeles —  October 26, 2017

1920s was the life of glam and luxury. The fashion of the era reflected the people’s liberated minds and luxurious lifestyles. 1920s men’s fashion can be summed up as men wearing dark suits or tuxedos with silver cigarette cases, walking sticks, and black or white fedora hats.

Although many decades have passed, almost everyone still recognizes the style. In fact, it has influenced present day fashion more than any other era. Up until today, men wear suits in the corporate setting as well as in formal events. The dark suits worn during the era don’t look too different form the modern suits.

If you want an excellent reference to 1920s men’s fashion, you should watch Boardwalk Empire. The historical accuracy brings the show back to life. The wardrobe designer produced several pieces of suits using fabrics recreated from the 1920s garments and even used patterns from the era.

Let’s take a closer look at 1920s men’s fashion.

Men’s shirts

Image Source: www.vintagedancer.com

White dress shirts were the norm during early 1920s. They wear them with suits and ties. To make their look more classy and formal, dress shirts and collars were starched stiff. Young men, college students, and the working class, on the other hand, wore casual, long-sleeved shirts.

During the World War I, men were issued soft shirts with detachable collars. Eventually, they became used to the ease and comfort of the soft shirts and decided that they wanted to do away with the plain and rigid outfits. They abandoned the highly formal attire and began wearing more comfortable clothes instead. The conservative men wanted to keep the stiff collar in 1920s men’s fashion. The formal look remained until the end of the decade, but their clothing became more relaxed than before.

The 1920s is the era when men’s dress shirts saw an explosion of color. Solid colored dress shirts became acceptable. White collar workers, however, preferred lighter colors such as whites and nudes for formal suits. This was regarded as a sign of financial status. Blue collar workers, on the other hand, opted for darker colors so the shirts won’t easily get stained or dirty. Later on, the striped shirts were introduced. The trend continued towards the late 20s. Although more casual styles began appearing, formality still ruled in 1920s men’s fashion.

Suits and Sportcoats

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The suit plays an essential role in 1920s men’s fashion. Black or midnight blue suits were the preferred dress for almost every occasion. It is the one item of clothing men wore on almost a daily basis. They wore 3-piece suits in parties, dinners, business calls and in the office.

Since they wear them on a daily basis, the upperclassmen own a closet full of suits. They wore the best suit they can afford. Many of them were tailored and handcrafted to the owner. Others even order suits by the dozens. They have suits of every color, style, and material. The only ones who don’t wear a suit were college men, teenagers, athletes, and blue collar workers. Manual labor was very hard, so it wouldn’t be practical for them to wear suits. They wear sturdy denims and canvas overalls at work. Although they dress more casually, each of them own a suit. They wear them to church on Sundays, and do so with pride.

Since wool and dark-colored suits are too hot to wear in summer, men turned to linen suits or light flannel seersucker during the warmer weather. They also started wearing loose, patterned coats by the mid-20s.

Pants

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1920s men’s fashion was a whirlwind of fashion trends. It marks the decade of crazy pants. At the beginning of the decade, suit pants were plain-colored and slim. They were fit high on the waist, and the waist bands were held up with button suspenders.  By the mid-20s, men opted for looser, more relaxed clothing. Wide leg pants have been a fashion staple.

Knickerbockers are another type of pants that became popular during this decade. They are baggy trousers that fit low on the waist and whose legs are gathered just below the knee. The ends are constrained, giving it a ballooned appearance. It was the popular sportswear for wealthy gentlemen. However, the trend was replaced as quickly as it came in. Knickers gave way to the wide-legged oxford bags.

Oxford bags are loosely fitted pants. They feature extremely wide legs that measure between 22 to 40 inches wide. The style supposedly originated when the knickers where banned from the classrooms in Ivy League schools. The oxford bags stuck around for the rest of the 20s.

Over the span of just 10 years, men’s pants grew from skinny jazz trousers to wide-leg to oversized Oxford bags.

Hats

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The top hat was first worn by the haberdasher John Hetherington in 1797, but it was only during the 1850s when the top hat really took off. It became the fashion rage when Prince Albert wore it in public. After this, it became an everyday hat. Men started wearing it regularly.

During the late 20s, casual hats rose into popularity. Panamas, straw boater hat, and the 8 panel newsboy cap became popular with men. Every occasion called for a hat to match their outfit.  They even wear different hats for different seasons. Longhorns, panamas, straw boaters, and linen flat caps are the best choices for warm summers. Men wore conservative clothing in the winter, and completed their looks with fedoras, derbies, and bowlers.

Since then, they only wore the top hat in formal occasions like dances, weddings, political gatherings, and when doing business. It became the hat for formal wear for another 50 years.

Other accessories

Image Source: www.dallasvintageshop.com

Men didn’t wear jewelries in the Roaring 20s, but they tried to incorporate some accessories to add dimension to their look. Suspenders, knit ties, as well as walking sticks earned popularity. The twenties men also donned bow ties and were paired with pocket squares. Colorful ties with wide stripes and small patterns were also common in the 1920s. The pocket square doesn’t always have to match the necktie or bow tie, but make sure that it coordinates with at least one color in it.

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Kathlyn Angeles

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