Throughout history, the clothing styles have changed drastically, especially for men. It seems fashion for men is dictated by keeping style as close to its original state as possible, but bring in a new modern day twist. There isn’t a designer in the industry who hasn’t looked back through menswear history to find some creative direction.
Let’s take a step back in time, and glance at the last 100 years of the menswear industry. You will see the inspiration first hand that modern day designers have grasped, and also see the dramatic twist and turns men’s fashion has taken.
Ending of the 1800s – Victorian Age
The turn of the century was approaching, and menswear began to change. The Victorian look finally started to dissipate. Men gave up top hats, frock coats, and pocket watches to come into an era that would have them less decorated. Although, this seems like a lot of fancy gear to keep up with, it was a progressive moment towards a fashion forward trend that would inspire designers for decades to come.
Slimming Look – 1900s
Practicality came into play during the 1900s, as menswear became uncreative. The style was plain, with stiff collars. Very mainstream, and some may say simplistic in nature. Perhaps, a twist that modern day gained its inspiration from. The introduction of the three piece suit came about, which included a sack coat, waistcoat and trousers. Trousers were worn shorter than other eras, and they often included a cuff. The invention of the trouser press provided a crease in both the front and back.
The Classic Twist Began – 1920s
The war was over, and the economy saw a rapid increase. Individuals began travelling again for pleasure, not just business. This opened the world of fashion, as new cultures were embraced. Travelers were returning with the latest fashions offered in France or England, which brought inspiration for change.
England held a huge impact on menswear in America. Those attending universities started embracing their own fashions, which included button-down shirts, jackets without padding, regimental ties, and argyle socks. At that time, the Prince of Wales, whom then became the Duke of Windsor, played a major role in the menswear industry.
He became a fashion icon, as his pictures appeared in newspapers and magazines all over the world. He had a pristine taste in clothing, and the world was embracing it. He was a huge trend setter in the menswear industry. He was even the first celebrity to be used to advertise clothing.
Elegance Reborned – 1930s
The great depression began, but men still enjoyed looking at fashion from afar. Men on the Hollywood scene became icons for the working class, as they were admired for their smart fashion. Even though men could not afford to take on this look, elegance was embraced and sought after. It was a glimpse of hope during these hard times. Stars such as Fred Astaire, Clark Gabel, Cary Grant, and Gary Cooper all became individuals that men aspired to look like.
Style in the 1930s was inspired by European countries. This was the era when men embraced a style to resemble what they wanted to be. Codes of conduct were born, and etiquette was followed. The “laws” of menswear were designed in this era. It became known that clothing was made to enhance a man’s figure, rather than to be hidden beneath. Clothing just became part of the man.
New Style Era – 1940s
This is the era where the advertising industry played their hand. The thought up to this point was to buy a few classic pieces that could be utilized for years. Now the industry was promoting, “Buy the latest styles.” With this, the demand of clothing being tailored dropped, but the price to buy custom wear increased. The birth of mass production was introduced, and basic clothing for the working man was invented.
Clothing basics became cheaper to buy, and easier to access. This is when the fashion industry took off in different directions, because it was now possible to offer a variety of styles. With that, styles were typically started changing every year. And so, trend setting began.
Tradition – 1950s
Men wanted to take on a style that made them, “look the part”. The Ivy League style of boxy sack suit, Oxford shirt, rep tie, and loafers was born. The fashion industry embraced the fact that they could make this style, and sell it to men who were wanting to “look the part.” The fabrics rayon and nylon weer also introduced. This allowed the industry to make clothing cheaper, but it was soon found out that these were not good fabrics for making suits.
Rebels – 1960s
Individuality became a sought after fashion in the 1960s. Embraced more by the youth in this era, who were executing the art of self-expression. The “laws” for menswear were being put to the test, and thrown out the window. The fashion industry caught on, and anything was acceptable. More varieties in fashion were offered than ever before because of this. It was a carefree look, that caught on like wildfire.
Disco – 1970s
A hippie fashion was introduced in the latter part of the 1960s, and this carried over to the 1970s. This included bell bottom jeans, tie dye shirts, and military surplus clothing. Also popular during this time were homemade items such as necklaces, headbands, and bracelets. These were made from natural materials including wood, hemp, and leather.
The three piece suit took a twist, and men embraced a variety of colors. Suits with wide lapels, bell bottom pants and high waist were all popular in this era.
The Art of Power in Clothing – 1980s
Clothing with broad shoulders, suspenders, bold colors and graphic patterns were all embraced in the 80s. Gaudy accessories were highly loved, and expensive clothing was sought after.
Comfy Casual – 1990s
We became lazy in the 1990s, and it’s known as the worst-dress era in history. Tattoos and body piercing became highly popular during this time. Comfy clothing became the style, such as T-shirts, distressed jeans, oversized hoodies, and trainers. In the corporate world, business casual was introduced. This was a less formal look, such as pull over shirts and khakis.
The young generation of this era embraced the hip-hop culture, while the older generation took on the historical slim tailored look found in Europe. The suits became slimmer fitting, and the internet allowed men to embrace international styles. Menswear blogs were born, and expert advice was being utilized.
Online – 2010s
Blogging has taken over the newspaper and magazine industry. There are numerous styles, reviews and opinions available for men to decide on their own what is trendy and what is not. This is the time when individuality has become highly acceptable and fashionable. Online shopping makes it easy to access any brands your heart desires, opening a whole new world. Middlemen are becoming a thing of the past with the use of social media.
Men’s fashion comes down to this: The best fashion is one that fits your body, personality and lifestyle. There are tons of trends out there you can tap into, or simply use them to create your own individual style. Anything is acceptable in this day and age.