We all know that fashion can change rapidly through the course of a few years. For example, we’ve seen a change from the baggy clothing of the early 2000s to more bespoke clothing, tailored to our liking. But what was different about 1920s male fashion?
How did men dress during the Roaring Twenties, when America was booming and they were just coming out of the first World War? You’ll be surprised to see that some things changed quite a bit while other things seem to still be the same.
Overall, 1920s male fashion was a pivotal moment in both America and around the world. I’ll be covering how people dressed in America. You ready? Great! Let’s get started.
What Popularized 1920s Male Fashion?
There seems to be an uncanny popularity behind the way 1920s men dressed. 1920s male fashion exploded thanks to the book, The Great Gatsby.
The book outlined everything great about the Roaring Twenties–but it also outlined some of the bad. However, when it came to fashion, The Great Gatsby brought new trends to the modern era, trends that you ought to know about.
The 1920s was a time of great prosperity for the United States. New types of clothing were coming out for formal wear, leisurewear, sportswear, and so on while mass advertising encouraged middle and upper-class families to partake in the heavy consumerism that was taking over the country.
Some of the trends have stuck with us while others will stay in the 1920s. s
Suits Were a Big Deal
Suits were a big deal during the 1920s. Today, you can wear a t-shirt and jeans to work, but back then, wearing a suit was the norm for your workplace. Also, there was more to a suit than its workplace.
A suit represented your social status. During this time, the lighter your suit was, the more money you had. This is a trend you rarely see today since most suits opt for darker colors, especially in the workplace.
People would always wear their suit with a vest. Wearing a suit without the vest was a very rare thing to see. In the TV show, Boardwalk Empire, if you pay attention to Al Capone or any of the other characters around him, you’ll notice that make sure to add this trait to all the suits they wear.
During this time, men also liked shorter jackets compared to tailcoats. This was a trend that showed men favored more informal options compared to the usual precedent.
The hats worn in the 1920s and the hats worn today are mostly different, but that’s not to say you can’t style a hat with a modern outfit. For example, straw hats are still alive today and people wear them with different types of outfits.
Like suits, hats also resembled social status to an extent. Upper-class individuals would wear top hats or homburg hats. Middle-class individuals could opt for a fedora, bowler hat, or a trilby hat, and working-class men had to choose between a newsboy cap or a flat cap.
An easy way to remember the hat social status correlation is that the wealthier you wore, the taller your cap.
Pomade was king in the 1920s. It’s what people used to achieve that slick-backed shiny look that people adored during that era of fashion. Nowadays, pomade is still a great product option for people who want to style their hair, but it’s usually best for people with dry hair.
Plus, not everyone today likes that greasy slick-back look. Options like wax, gel, clay, and paste do the job and are more popular options.
During this time period, people also parted their hair either down the middle or parted on the side. Also at this time, the military influenced the hairstyles that men were taking on so cuts were neat, short, and sharp.
Compared to today, you’ll see a variety of options. Some like to go for long locks while others like to stick with the shorter cuts that you might see in the 1920s, only without the glossy pomade look.
Before the Roaring Twenties, casual clothing was almost nonexistent. However, thanks to tennis and golf, men began wearing the same athletic clothing their respective sportsmen were known to wear on the court and field.
Go-to casual pieces in the 1920s were the knickerbockers, sweaters, plus-fours, polo shirts, and dress shirts. Today, you won’t see very many knickerbockers or plus-fours since these pieces are very hard to wear.
In my opinion, its a piece that suits the 1920s well but not the modern age. The sweaters people wore during this time were usually lighter colors such as creme and white.
In the latter half of the 1920s, polo shirts started to become more popular, especially thanks to Jean René Lacoste and his win over Bill Tilden at the Davis Cup.
You probably know the name Lacoste today thanks to the clothing brand and their polos. This is thanks to Jean René Lacoste. Knicknamed the “Crocodile” because of his never-give-up attitude, the French tennis player began to stick a crocodile logo on the left side of his chest.
Soon after, polos began to become a norm. People wore them for almost every occasion outside of work. People wore them on the tennis court, in the house, and at the clubs if they could afford it.
To incorporate this leisurely style into your wardrobe, use lighter colors for your polos and sweaters. Knickerbockers are completely out of style and so are plus-fours, so don’t buy them. As for dress shirts, they’re still a great look but they lean more on the business casual side.
There was a great variety of pant styles during the 1920s. Narrow pants and wide pants were both common around this time period. During the early 1920s, narrow pants were more common with cuffed bottom hems to accommodate for the long lengths. These cuffed bottom hems were called “turn-ups.”
For the latter half of the 1920s, wider pants became more popular. Pieces like the Oxford bags and the Knickerbockers were in style, going up to 16 inches in length. Most Americans preferred to wear baggy trousers with their suits, but many institutions started banning these pant types in an effort to promote casual style.
1920s pants embraced bold colors and bold styles. Before this time period, pant colors were neutral and they had very little contrast to their design. Once the Roaring Twenties hit, the design and the colors became a big deal.
If you want to wear pants that were part of the 1920s, I recommend that you don’t wear the Knickerbockers or the Oxford bags. Today’s style is all about tailored, well-fitting pieces and 1920s trousers are the complete opposite of that.
However, you can incorporate their style into your wardrobe by wearing pants that have striped designs or by wearing lighter-colored pants. People at the time also wore pants that had more neutral tones, but these were for work.
Shoes experienced a big change during the Roaring Twenties. Colors began to be implemented more as they went from single color shoes to two-tone shoes. This meant that shoes could consist of two colors.
Some color combinations that were popular in two-tone shoes were black and white, brown and white, and black and brown. The color distribution would tend to have one color surround the vamp of the shoe while the other color took over the toe box, quarter, and heel counter.
Americans liked to wear patent leather wingtips at this time, popularized thanks to the Jazz Age. Another variation of these, the Oxfords, were laced-up versions of the wingtip shoes and they were used mostly for formal events.
The most casual shoe one could get during the 1920s was the canvas high top sneaker, otherwise known as Converse. Basketball players mainly wore Converse. However, people also used them off the court as leisurely wear.
A lot of the shoes used in the Roaring Twenties are still alive today. People love to wear Oxfords with a suit and Converse continues to be a popular option for shoppers looking for a new pair of sneakers.
One style that has sort of faded from the spotlight is two-tone shoes. Since light-colored suits are no longer the norm, two-tone shoes can look awkward with a neutral suit, making single color shoes popular again.
However, you can still wear two-tone shoes. The color of your outfit should be bright and eccentric. That way, the two-tone shoes will complement the clothing.
1920s male fashion wouldn’t be complete without accessories. People used them to build up an outfit and add depth to a character. Some of the most popular options were pocket squares, bow ties, gloves, and suspenders.
Pocket squares and bow ties went hand-in-hand as decorations to a suit. Buttoned gloves made of leather were also extremely popular, whether they were used for driving or for wearing. And suspenders were almost always paired with pants to help keep them up
Another accessory that was very popular at this time was sunglasses. People who wore sunglasses during this time wore sunglasses with round frames and tortoiseshell colors. People also liked to wear jewelry if they could afford it.
Simple pieces included pocket watches, regular watches, and chains. Jewelry is still a big accessory in the 21st Century. Check out my guide if you want to learn how to properly wear jewelry.
All in all, accessories were a very important part of every man’s outfit during the 1920s. Whether they were wearing casual pieces or a suit for the workplace, men during this time always made sure to add something extra–such as a pocket square or some suspenders–in order to keep their looks fresh and stylish.
As a fashion enthusiast, I love to examine the different fashion trends that have occurred throughout the years. Male fashion in the 1920s was especially monumental because it helped shape both casual and formal wear and introduced several key pieces that we still use today.
1920s male fashion was all about the transition from keeping it formal to keeping it casual. We saw the introduction of new trends such as light-colored suits and sweaters, tennis polos, and two-tone wingtip shoes.
Next time you decide to put on a vest with your suit or fix your hair with a swab of pomade, you can thank the 1920s. Without this pivotal decade in men’s fashion, we wouldn’t have some of the luxuries we have today.