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How Menswear Has Evolved Over The Years

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We’ve heard repeatedly Menswear is ruled by tradition and history. Every man (designer or stylist, editor and so on) has gotten an influence from past fashions at one point or some other time. Every one has ever been forgotten.

As we continue to look at the underlying principles of individual style I’m thinking we should have a look at the past hundred years of men’s fashion. Maybe this will give us some insight or context regarding how menswear evolves and, more importantly, how to make educated choices in purchasing clothes and developing our your own personal fashion.


In the 19th century, as it came to an end, men began to shake off the Victorian influence, which included top hats, frock coats and pocket watches, while also using walking sticks. This might seem like an extravagant and restricting way to dress however it was huge move towards the right direction, considering how the Georgian period that followed it included men sporting feathers, pantyhose and high-heeled shoes. It was a thought that you were an “dandy”.


As we entered the 1900s, clothing for men was largely practical and insignificant. The lean, long and athletic style of the late 1890s was still in fashion and the tall stiff collars were typical of the era. Three-piece suits comprising an apron coat and matching waistcoat and trousers were popular with a matching coat and waistcoat paired with pants, or a matching pants and coat with a waistcoat that was different. Sounds familiar, right? Trousers were longer than they were previously, had “turn-ups” as well as “cuffs” and were folded front and back using the new trouser press.

In the aftermath of the Second World War (which included a number of male-specific designs that remain in use today, including cargos and trench coats) businesses began to expand and Americans were able to spend more. This allowed the Americans to travel more extensively and expand their horizons both culturally and visually. A lot of them crossed across the Atlantic across the Atlantic to England as well as France. Naturally, they returned with bags full of the latest fashions that were being used in the world.

Of all countries, England had the most influence on American males’ clothing. In the 1920s, American college students began to put an individual spin to the pieces that were worn at the renowned Oxford University, including button-down tops, natural-shouldered jackets regimental ties, and vibrant socks in argyle. Additionally it was said that the Prince of Wales who later became The Duke of Windsor was the world’s most renowned and influential male fashionista. Through newsreels and newspapers and magazines, the elegant Prince was the first to be a global “style iconic” and was widely known and well-known for his exquisite style in clothing. He was a true trend-setter for everyday people, and this was the very first occasion in the history of fashion that advertisers employed a celebrity to promote their clothing, shamingly marketing their merchandise “as as worn in the presence of Prince”.

1930S The height of ELEGANCE

The beginning of the 1930s was the time of the Great Depression. While the average person couldn’t afford the fashion world, people were interested in the fashion selections of the people who had the money. Hollywood films from the Silver Screen became a beacon of hope for the middle class man in the time. Both genders were captivated and awed to glamorously dressed actors like Fred Astaire, Clark Gabel, Cary Grant, and Gary Cooper.

In the 1930s, the American fashion sense was at its highest and was comparable to that of any European nation. It was a time in which American men were proud of their clothes and the image that they projected. This was the time when men wore certain rules of conduct and proper manners. It was during this time that the “menswear rules” that we frequently refer to, were written during this time.

“For the first time, American men recognized that clothes shouldn’t be used to hide the natural contours that define the human body. It is instead, to be a perfect fit with the natural lines of their bodies, thus enhancing his male body. In the same way clothing should not appear too apparent. In fact, they should be a part of the person who was wearing the clothes. The goal of clothes did not aim to make a person apart (as had been the custom throughout the centuries, as noblemen and kings wore primarily for the purpose of doing so) but rather to permit him to be a distinct individual within the group of individuals. …. Americans have finally realized that the purpose of a good outfit was to impress rather than make you appear more prominent.” Alan Flusser


After the end in World War II, American men began to depart from the strict standards and fundamental principles of dress code established in the 30s. One reason for this was the shifts in the workplace as well as the decrease of formality in daily life. In the face of lower demand, the cost of tailoring services was increased which enabled the mass manufacturing of menswear as the standard of everyday life. In this time, we was the time when mass-produced ready-to-wear clothes in America from a number of brands that still sell clothes in the United States today.

There were benefits and drawbacks with these new methods for mass-production. On one hand basic clothing was less expensive and accessible than it had ever been. However there was less choice in the fashions available. Even more important, major manufacturers of clothing recognized (just as the auto producers) it was possible to increase sales by offering different styles each season, and even each season. This was the beginning of an era known as “trend pattern” in retail. It was created by the clothing industry to earn more revenue and then propagated by magazines and also in order to make more money.

In the end, this strategy of marketing pushed the customer more away from “ideals of traditional fashion” developed in the 1930s. These focused on picking long-term pieces that fit the figure. The goal of the clothiers were to make it difficult for consumers to “re-invent him” by buying “new fashions” that were “in trend”. Increased sales regardless of the long-term viability or style.

1950S The Age of Conformity

The 1950s were known as considered to be the Age of Conformity. The young men who had returned from the military were eager to be a part of the established. To be accepted as a part of the establishment and “looking like a professional” required a slick Ivy League look, which was the most popular style for menswear. Style and individuality was a secondary consideration. The idea was to appear “part of the group” wearing an oxford shirt, a boxy sack suit the oxford shirt and loafers, and rep tie. This was another major gain for large Ready-to-Wear producers who were happy to sell the same unfitting tweed jackets to every young man looking to appear professional and attractive.

In addition in the 1950s, we saw the appearance of synthetic fabrics such as nylon and rayon. This added another benefit in the bottom line of the clothing makers that could save money on the price of fabrics, and also create clothes that were thought to be “more durable and easier to clean”. In the end, synthetic fabric is a disaster for clothing for men, especially suits. Nature-based fibers will always be the best.

The fashion of the time was defined by classic grey suits and simple accessories (hat pocket square, hat martini, and cigarettes) for almost every person.


In the 1960s, there was a time of rebellion and unrest against the establishment and conservatism that was loved throughout the 1950s. Fashions reflected this new mindset particularly among the young who were more interested in the individuality and self-expression than traditional fashions based on fashion “rulebook”. The fashion industry was able to catch on to this trend with young people, and offered many designs. The stores had more options than they had ever. It was the beginning of an “anything can be done” period, in which the thing that mattered most was not the clothes was on your body, but rather what you didn’t wear.

This began to be the time fathers were seeking advice from their sons. guidance. It was the first time in history that men of a certain age were looking younger and relaxed. This, of course was a step further from the norms of style and elegance, which were established in the 1930s.

1970’s: DISCO FUNK

The 1970s of the early era were the continuation of late 1960s hippie rebel style. For males, this was a particular reference to bell bottom jeans and tie dye shirts and military surplus clothes. The most sought-after accessories of the 1970s for men were made by hand and included headbands, necklaces and bracelets constructed out of all-natural substances like hemp, wood and leather.

Men began to wear chic three-piece suits (which came in a myriad of shades) that were distinguished by large lapels, wide legged and flared pants as well as waistcoats with high-rise. The neckties were widened and bolder and collars for shirts became tall and pointed when the “disco music” was the fashion of the day.

1980s: Power Dressing

In the 1980s, things became more serious with wide shoulders that framed power ties and suspenders. Graphic patterns and bold colors brought a renewed sense of national pride and businessmen began dress, with a focus on expensive clothes and flashy accessories.


It could be the most un-dressed decade of all. The 1990s fashion was the catalyst for an era-defining shift in western culture that saw the first acceptance of body piercings and tattoos. The result was the return of the casual attitude towards fashion, which was anti-conformist which led to the emergence in the informal chic style that included T-shirts distressed jeans, huge jackets and trainers. “Business Casual” is also a word that has entered the dictionary because corporate offices tend to be less formal, causing the attire to become more sexier and more ugly than it ever was.


Men’s fashion in the modern era was heavily influenced by hip-hop culture for young, and European “slim fitting” tailoring for older men. The suits began to lose weight in the midst of the time that”slim fit” or “European cut” became a sought-after style in America in the sense that it was becoming difficult to find shops that didn’t have “slim fitting”. The internet made it simpler for men to get educated about their clothes and share their views among fellow fashion enthusiasts. We witnessed the birth of the first blogs for men and this one was launched in the year 2009.

2010S The evolution of style ONLINE

The decade of 2010 has seen the rise of the “fashion celebrity”. Fashion bloggers are now mainstream. On the other side, fashion has become at the fingertips of peopleand they are producing a greater range of styles, reviews as well as opinions, than they ever have. However, the ones who are watched are naturally pushed to work harder and struggle to be different from the rest of the pack. “Peacocking” was a popular menswear term in the beginning of the decade to refer to “trying too difficult” however, males have generally become comfortable with delicate, elegant style.

This time also saw the wide acceptance of shopping online. Fashion lovers all over the world can now access the largest selection of brands at the comfort at their home. The internet also has enabled the growth of start-up companies than ever before and was promoted through social media, and funded by online sources like kick-starter. In a sense we’re seeing the return of small brands that is fueled by the web’s power and the need for customers to get something unique and unique. The great thing is, middlemen are being cut out each day. Department stores, whose focus is marking up products which have already been marked up by wholesalers they are losing their hold in the marketplace as designers now have a scaleable way to market their goods directly to consumers.

My hope in the near future for menswear style is that we revisit the classic style that were popular in the 1930s and then gradually incorporate personal styles from there. It all starts with knowing that there is a single style that is perfect to each one of us…our bodies, our lives as well as our personality. There’s many variations within this one style, but it doesn’t need to be a necessity to buy a new outfit every season, but instead making sure that you have an ongoing collection of stunning items that are able to show and reflect the wearer.