1920s Mens Fashion: A New Era

1920s mens fashion broke with the traditions of generations. The First World War changed the way we live in many ways, including how both men and women dressed.

Shifting Styles

Victorian and Edwardian menswear was sober and formal. Strict conventions dictated what kind of clothing was worn for any particular occasion, and decreed what was suitable for the time of day. After the sufferings of the 1914-18 war, attitudes and fashions changed dramatically.

At first, the shift in men's fashion consisted of a relaxation of the strict dress codes of preceding eras. Some suit styles took their cue from military uniforms, with tight buttoning, high-waisted, short jackets with narrow lapels. The cut was clean, the silhouette slender.

The long tails of the Victorian and Edwardian morning suit fell out of fashion as daywear, and came to be regarded as more formal dress, suitable for evening wear. Tuxedos, with shorter tails, gained ground in the style stakes, although the older top hat and tails still held its ground for some time. Black patent leather shoes complemented evening wear.

The new, more casual look was especially apparent in the growing popularity of sporting wear. The country house party look - belted Norfolk jackets, knickerbockers (or 'knickers) and plus-fours in tweed fabrics, worn with gentlemen's boots - became popular.

Sources of Inspiration

Fashions were inspired by what golfers, tennis players, rowers and other sportsmen were wearing. Most fashion historians characterise the look as brighter and more youthful, as survivors of the war started to celebrate peace time and economic recovery.

Fashion Evolution Continues

As the twenties progressed, menswear continued to evolve. This was the era of the flapper and the Bright Young Things. It was the jazz age, with art deco styles dominating design in decor and consumer goods. On university campuses, new fashions emerged for men. In particular, this was the era of the new loose fitting trousers known as 'Oxford Bags'. The story goes that these baggy trousers were worn over knickers after Oxford University banned undergraduates from wearing these items of too-casual clothing. In the United States, boom times saw many more young men attending university and pioneering new styles and dress codes.

Key Influences & Role Models

The influence of jazz music was also felt in men's fashion in the twenties. Tightly buttoned suits with long jackets and narrow-legged trousers signalled a passion for this new musical sensation. Two-tone shoes that provided a trendy finishing touch also became fashionable in this era. Especially in the later years of the decade, the film star style of actors like Douglas Fairbanks and Rudolf Valentino took hold in the public imagination.

Hints of 1920s Mens Fashion Today

The classic suit of today has some roots in the less formal men's fashion of the nineteen-twenties. There have of course been changes. For business people, the slim, simple 'conservative suit' of the early nineteen-twenties has given way to more emphasis on power-dressing. The clothes we wear today, and how we wear them, owe a great deal to 1920s mens fashion and a final break with the stuffiness and convention that prevailed before the Great War.

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