1930s Mens Fashion: Post Depression

Style mirrors the world we live in, and 1930s mens fashion was no exception. On Black Tuesday, in October 1929, the US stock market crashed. The ensuing economic chaos known as the Great Depression changed the whole world, including what people wore.

Shifting Styles

A new casualness and youthfulness had blossomed in the twenties after the First World War. The golden days of the roaring twenties, and a post war economic boom, now fell away. With millions unemployed, frivolity was out.

One of the most obvious reflections of hard times in fashion and style was a return to more muted colors. For many, style was now a real luxury and tailoring and dress codes mirrored economic realities.

Different outfits for morning, afternoon and evening now looked like an oddity from a bygone age. Tailors, with fewer customers with money to spend on stylish outfits, focused on more reasonably priced cuts of suit.

Sources of Inspiration

Just because spending power is down doesn't mean interest in fashion is too. In tough times, escape to the movies is a common response.

The style sense of public figures like movie stars, as well as royalty and other notables of the day strongly influenced 1930s men's fashion.

Characteristics of 1930s Mens Fashion

New suit styles are the hallmark of fashion shifts in menswear of the 1930s. Formal wear was influenced by the colonial enterprise. Summery white-jacketed evening suits, with a cummerbund, replacing the waistcoat gained popularity.

By the mid 1930s the economy was showing signs of recovery. This directed attention especially to the business suit. The sensation of the day was the 'London drape' or 'drape cut' suit. Its designer, Frederick Scholte, was the tailor to the Prince of Wales.

The London drape suit was more loosely cut, especially around the armhole and shoulder, with subtle padding. The style was tailored at the waist, and cut to flatter the male form.

Trousers had become wider in the twenties. Now they became rather more tapering toward the ankle once again, but the cut remained generous.

Double-breasted suits, the jackets with broad lapels and no vents, also proved very popular in the thirties. Variants, that also took their cues from London tailoring and aristocratic wear, included the Windsor double-breasted and Kent double-breasted.

Stripes were also very much in vogue, and the well-dressed gentleman would almost certainly have had a striped suit in his wardrobe, as well as a fedora hat. For summer, the lightweight Palm Beach suit caught consumer imagination.

Key Influences & Role Models

Some of the features of the drape cut suit were also the hallmark of the gangster look, which glorified the great mobsters of the times, such as Al Capone.

The gangster-style suit was an exaggerated version of the drape cut suit, with padding on the chest and big shoulders suggesting bulk and toughness.

Notable style developments were not confined to business suits, but were also seen in more casual men's fashion of the nineteen-thirties.

The casual blazer, worn with casual trousers and an open-necked shirt, took forward the trend for sportswear that had emerged in the twenties.

As well as British aristocrats and gangsters, movie stars popularised 1930s mens fashion. Fred Astaire, Cary Grant, Gary Cooper are some of the style icons of the era, serving as role models for the fashion-conscious young men of the nineteen-thirties.

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