Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Style Guide - The 1920's

Douglas Fairbanks
Now, there is an oft-spoke misconception that Men's fashion has hardly changed in the past 100 years, especially compared to Women's fashion, and this is mostly down to the subtleties involved.
I mean when you boil clothing down into it's component parts: for Men you have shirts, trousers, jumpers, jackets, coats, hats and shoes, for Women; blouses, trousers, skirts, dresses, jumpers, jackets, coats, hats and shoes.... not much difference really is there? But whilst the style, cut and patterns of these items of clothing has change much more obviously for Women over the last century in Men's wardrobes it's been all about the smaller changes. Style evolution on a more subtle and microscopic level if you will.

The 1920s:

Prior to the First World War Men's clothing had taken a much more slow and far more practical evolution. But all that was to change in the 1920s with the introduction of new styles of clothing and principles of dress that are still a part of men's wardrobes to this day.


20s Suits
Now the lingering image of the twenties man is of the suit. But what we now think of as the suit was a very different character back then, in fact prior to the start of the century it didn't actually exist.

It was during the Edwardian period that the 'lounge suit' as it was then called was offered as an alternative to the formal frock coated morning dress however it wasn't until the twenties that this particular style of suit could be seen outside of a strictly informal occasion (with no Ladies present).

The lounge suit, unlike it's more formal cousin, featured a shorter length Jacket made from the same cloth as both the Trousers and the now traditional Waistcoat, a item that had been part of a man's attire from it's introduction by Charles II in 1660.


Suit jackets came in both single and double-breasted, the single-breasted favoured by the younger man, with either Peaked or Notched lapel (again the peaked was seen as the more fashionable). The width of the lapel should be roughly half the width between the opening and the shoulder (on the top notch), and the aperture created by the lapel was much shorter than today's suit jackets, the apex of the opening meeting the centre of the chest roughly equidistant to the under-arm of the jacket. Jackets were also wide in the shoulder, tapering down towards the waist to create a slimmer silhouette. Other optical tricks used during this time were slanted pockets to draw the eye towards the middle of the body.
On the subject of pockets; the number of pockets was definitely seen as a status symbol the more pockets the more expensively tailored the suit!

Trousers were straight legged and became increasingly wider as the decade progressed. During this time the single pleat came into style as well as cuffs at the bottom of the leg. Usually trousers were held up with Button Suspenders as although the Belt was introduced during this time it was rarely seen outside of the military and was more of a decorative piece.

Waistcoats came in both collared and collarless styles and could be single or double-breasted. A particularly fashionable Man might wear a doubled-breasted waistcoat under a single-breasted jacket.

Loose 'wing' collar
Shirts still followed the tradition of having loose detachable collar and cuffs. The collarless shirt itself (sometimes known as a 'granddad' shirt) came in a variety of colours and most often stripped pattern. The collars for these shirts could either be 'fold' collars with either a pointed or rounded end or the classic 'wing' collar and the cuffs in either a one or two button arrangement.

As the decade progressed the 'soft' fixed collared shirts many men had worn as uniform during the First World War became the fashion but a lot of men continued with the traditional version well into the 40s.

Ties were worn short (as they fitted under a waistcoat) and with a small knot often held in place with a tie pin through the collar.

WWI Trench Watch
Most important of all was the Pocket Watch still worn by most men although some favoured the new 'Trench watches' that were used during the War.


Colours
These tended to be dark colours; browns, greys, blacks, dark greens and even maroons and purples for the more daring with lighter colours for hotter climates such as cream, khaki or white.

Material
Wool, Linen or Cotton were the main materials used. For the woollens these tended to be split into Gabardine, Serge or Tweed. Linen and Cotton suits were more popular for overseas climes as the fabric was lighter and more breathable than Wool.

Pattern
The Twenties saw a upsurge of patterns including check, pin or chalk-stripe and plaid as well as the aforementioned tweed.

It should be pointed out that the 1920s also saw the growth of sports wear and clothing for leisure activities. Clearly sports wear should only be worn for sporting activities and therefore has no more than a passing relevance here so I'll quickly skip onto leisure wear.

Boaters
Much of the clothing we still associate with the upper-classes came to popularity in the twenties, with the Blazer, Sports coat and Boater becoming favoured leisure wear in the summer months (mostly for the more affluent and youthful male) and the day Cravat replacing the tie.

Speaking of the Boater one can't talk about twenties style without mentioning Hats.
Nearly everyone wore a hat of some kind and these hats tended to be synonymous with one's social class. The upper classes still wore Top Hat's for formal occasions but added the Homburg for less formal settings. The upper-middle and middle classes settled for the Trilby or Fedora and a Boater or Panama hat during the summer months or when overseas.
Some of the lower classes could still be seen sporting the Victorian Bowler hat, but most had switched to either a Flat cap, Newsboy cap or in fact nothing at all.

Next up: The 1930s...

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