Men's fashion trends from the past 100 years
While men’s fashion often resides in womenswear’s shadow in terms of exposure and versatility, menswear has a robust and dynamic history. Menswear trends through the years have served as time capsules that can hold the key sentiments of an era. The fabric of a jacket can hold clues to the political climate and a collar shape can signal the wearer’s occupation, while a wide-cut pant leg can signal a moment of social rebellion. From austere suits of the Depression-era 1930s and laid-back leather jackets of 1950s greasers to the shiny opulence of the 1980s, menswear trends have always been able to capture the spirit of the time.
Some menswear trends fade just as fast as they come about, while many have stood the test of time and remain fashion staples today. Some trends are born out of necessity, like detachable collars in the 1920s, and some from an era’s popular TV show, bringing back nostalgic trends from the 1960s ad-age. The cyclical nature of the fashion industry causes early trends to re-emerge in later years with minor tweaks or updates. The 1920s’ wide-brimmed fedora re-emerges with a narrower brim in the 2000s and the 1950s skinny tie brings a touch of nostalgia to suits in the 2010s. With a new decade underway, we may see a new resurgence of past trends (flip-flops, anyone?) intermixed with new, innovative looks.
Stacker compiled a list of 30 menswear fashion trends to pay tribute to the menswear trends that came before. The list contains trends that occurred during the last 100 years (from 1920 to 2019) using a variety of fashion analysis sources and news articles. Click through the slideshow to take a trip back in time through menswear fashion trends from the past century.
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1920s: Detachable collars
In the early 1900s, it was customary for men’s shirt collars to be sold separately from the shirts themselves. The detachable collar allowed conservative businessmen to easy launder their collar and, if need be, replace them. They also offered the ability to change up the collar styling of a shirt. These collars were always white and stiffly shaped into a tall fold that could rise up to three inches tall. These detachable collars gave way to the term “white-collar,” which is still used today to characterize office workers.
1920s: Wide-brimmed fedoras
The 1920s was a big era for hats, and by far, the most iconic style of the decade was the wide-brimmed fedora. The fedora was the preferred hat style of young men because it didn’t have to be matched exactly to a suit’s material. Men were able to mix and match their suits to their hats, allowing them to add some of their own personality to their ensemble. This trend would re-emerge with a more narrow brim in the 2000s.
1920s: Two-toned Oxfords
Unlike the basic design of oxford shoes in the 1910s, the two-toned oxfords of the 1920s added sporty flair to men’s footwear. With contrasting leather detail placed at the toe-cap, heel, and around the laces, this style was a departure from the somewhat conservative, utilitarian version before it. Versions of this trend are still worn today by both men and women.
1930s: Double-breasted suits
By the 1930s, boxy silhouettes emerged and double-breasted suits and tuxedos became the fashion of the decade. Suits of this era were cut with slimmer waists and tapered pant legs to conserve fabric during the Great Depression. Darker colors became fashionable, representing the sullen attitude of the era.
1930s: High-waisted trousers
Accompanying the era’s double-breasted jacket were high-fitting trousers. The higher waistline created a lengthening effect that balanced out the bulk of the pleated fronts. It was the extra-wide waistband that remained unique to the 1930s and is sometimes referred to as a Hollywood trouser. These trousers were meant to be worn with a vest or sweater.
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1940s: Zoot suits
The 1940s brought World War II, and with it, a government restriction on wool. Because of this, most menswear was made to conserve fabric. This policy manifested itself in single-breasted suits and trousers without pleats or cuffs. As an act of rebellion, young people and people of color adopted the overly baggy, excessively long, exaggerated zoot suit style, rejecting the conservative nature of the time. Because they were technically illegal to make due to the excessive use of fabric, zoot suits were often purchases on the black market and became the uniform of the anti-establishment “swing kids” that hung out at jazz clubs.
1950s: Polo shirts
The end of wartime brought with it a more relaxed menswear style often referred to as sportswear or leisurewear. The 1950s introduced laid-back styles including the polo shirt, which was seen as a more youthful, casual alternative to the formal button-down style, while still maintaining a conservative, golf-style look. Polo shirts are still a solid fixture in a business-casual wardrobe today.
1950s: Motorcycle leather jackets
Just as the zoot suit was a rebellion against the thrift and conservation of wartime in the 1940s, the “greaser” style served as a rebellion against the social conservatism of the 1950s. A style mostly embraced by the youth of this era, greasers sported T-shirts, denim, and leather jackets. The greaser style was further popularized by James Dean in the iconic film “Rebel Without a Cause.” This style would re-emerge in the 1990s.
1950s: Wayfarer glasses
Ray-Ban premiered the Wayfarer style in 1956, and it has since become one of the most popular sunglasses styles of all time. The trapezoidal shape of the plastic frames is flattering on a variety of face shapes and gained favor among celebrities like President John F. Kennedy, Bob Dylan, and Andy Warhol. To this day, Wayfarers are beloved by celebrities and non-celebrities alike.
1960s: Floral prints
The social tumult of the 1960s gave way to various subcultures that were dealing with wartime injustices in their own unique ways—including expressing themselves through fashion. One thing was certain, convention was no longer the norm as the menswear industry began to embrace funkier prints and patterns, including florals. The age of Flower Power brought colorful floral shirts, ties, and even trousers into the realms of both formal and casual attire.
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