1920s men’s fashion was the start of menswear as we know it today. Only minor changes in menswear have come about since the 1920s. It was a time of classic sophistication with a level of fun that I haven’t seen since. Suit colors were mostly neutral with patterns but the accessories popped with vibrant colors- just like they did for women’s 1920’s fashion. Popular TV shows such as Boardwalk Empire and Downton Abbey have brought back the appeal for 1920s men’s fashion today.
There is an extensive amount of detailed 1920s men’s fashion history articles on this site as well as new 1920s vintage inspired clothing to create your own look. Here is a brief run down of 1920s men’s fashion with link to more reading and shopping.
1920s Fashion for Men: Suits
The essential part of a 1920s man’s wardrobe was his suit. For day, evening, office, or parties a man always wore a suit. The only exceptions were for blue collar workers, sport players or young teen and college men who dressed more casually. But even they owned suits and wore them with pride.
What sets 1920s men’s suits apart from other decades are the material and fit. Suits were mostly made of thick wool or a wool tweed and pants made of wool based flannel which made them heavier than today’s suit materials but lighter than the previous decades. Suit jackets were either single or double breasted and featured 3 or 4 buttons up the front. The top button came to the center of the heart giving way to notch lapels. The highness of the suit lapels is what really sets 1920’s suits apart from suits of other eras.
The fit changed from a snug slim fit in the early years to a much looser boxy fit by the 1930s. The current trend for vintage inspired menswear reflects the slimmer fit of 1918-1925.
Many suits feature two sets of flap pockets which is another characteristic of 1920s suits not seen since. The colors, on the other hand, were similar to previous years: browns, blues, grey’s, and greens. Patterns were distinctive which could be solid tone or big plaids, checks and even thick stripes in the summer months (like Barbershop Quartet suits.)
Read more about 1920s mens suit history.
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Pants or Trousers
The suit pants always matched the suit jacket. They had two single pleats at the top and a sharp crease down the front of the legs (a modern version is flat front pants. Pleated pants usually have two many pleats) . Pockets were slit on the side and welt on the back with one button closure. The pants hung down to only mid ankle. This exposed the socks which were worn high up the leg calf and secured with sock garters. Socks were usually plain, stripped or argyle pattern. Unlike previous decades, men’s pants started had thick fold up cuffs at the bottoms. The pant legs were fairly narrow in the first half of the 1920s (the jazz look) and wide by the second half. Collegiate men took these new wide leg styles to the extreme by wearing “oxford bags” which had leg widths of up to 16 inches!
Vests or Waistcoats
Unlike today’s two piece suits men’s 1920s fashion required a three piece suit with matching vest. By the late 20s men’s vests often came in a lighter shade than the suit. Vests also called waistcoats were high V necks with full body coverage. It was a fashion faux pax to have a shirt exposed between the pants and vest. To help avoid this mistake men’s pants were also very high, sitting above the bellybutton, secured by suspenders or a thin leather belt. Suspenders were buttoned on to pants since modern suspender clips had not been invented yet.
A more casual alternative to the matching vest was a contrasting knit wool pullover vest. Single color smooth knit or two color cable knit vests kept a man warm in winter. They were especially fashionable for golfers who coordinated them with a pair of knickers, argyle socks, and newsboy 8 panel flat cap.
1920s Fashion: Men’s Shirts
Underneath the vest was where the fun 192s’s fashion began. 1920s shirts were made of colorful vertical stripes in a mixture of colors- tan, green, blue, lilac, sage green, yellow and pink (yes pink!) Solid colors in the same light shades were available in the late 1920s. Shirt collars were round (club collars), pointed and free (classic or spread), or pointed and buttoned down- just like today’s varieties. Most were attached collars but many still came in detachable white. Shirts with attached collars were either made with the same material or were white. The white collar against the solid or striped shirt really gives it a 1920s fashion statement. If you want to make another fashion statement wear a collarless shirt (also known as a mandarin collar shirt.) The Great Gatsby shocked the fashionable world by wearing a shirt without a collar and then everyone copied him.
The cuffs are the final unique shirt element. They were usually french or button cuffs to be worn with a pair of snazzy cuff links. Cuff links were plain gold circles and often monogrammed with the owners initials. Wealthy men also wore shirt links with their nice dress shirts for a bit more high class.
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1920s Fashion: Neck Ties and Bow Ties
The other fun bit of color on a 1920s men’s outfit was the neckwear. Men either wore a bow tie in fun stripes or polka dots, a striped or plaid necktie, or a neck scarf tie. Bow ties were the self tying variety and usually had a thick or puffy look to them. Neckties had diagonal stripes, plaid, check, or an art deco inspired pattern. Solid bright colors made of wool or silk were also common such as yellow, orange, red or green (think 1970’s colors.) They were narrow and short (a few inches above the pants which were already high up.) Thin knit ties were another option with square edges or fringed edges.
The last option is the more casual scarf tie popular in the early 20s. The scarf was a thin patterned rectangular silk scarf draped around the neck, tied, and the bottom piece wrapped back and over the knot (see picture.) The ends of neck scarfs and neck ties were pointed in a V however a few neckties were also cut straight at the boom and some even had fringe. A scarf tie was worn with the shirt’s top button undone or over a collarless shirt and tucked behind a knit vest.
1920s Fashion: Men’s Accessories
The two other items of color popped up in gloves and pocket squares. Often these two items matched each other and tied into a color on the necktie.. Bright colors like yellow or red gloves were a favorite choice over the traditional black, brown or gray gloves. They were made of thin leather and buttoned at the wrist sometimes with scalloped edges but usually cut straight. These are the modern equivalent of unlined driving gloves and are usually hard to find in bright colors.
The pocket square is a decoration only handkerchief, made of silk, folded into a triangle and place in the suit’s chest pocket. It coordinated with one color in a man’s tie or band of his hat.
1920s Men’s Fashion Hats
The 1920s look isn’t quite done. Now we need to add some 1920s shoes and hats.
1920s men’s hats came in felt or straw depending on season. Popular black, brown or grey felt hats had a tall crown, center dent in a fedora, bowler or derby and homburg style with rolled brim. The porkpie (similar to a gambler) was also common. The casual men’s hat was the wool, tweed, or cotton 8 panel newsboy cap. It had a rather floppy appearance in the 20s, unlike the 30s and beyond with a narrow fit. Summer straw hats were the thick woven boater or skimmer and the light woven panama which was a wealthier man’s hat. Fedoras were also made of straw with a colorful band to coordinate with the suit.
1920s Men’s Shoes
The most iconic shoe of the 1920s is the two tone lace up oxford. Brown and white were the trendiest of casual and semi formal business attire. Black and white and grey and white were less common. The most basic of men’s shoes was a lace up oxford in a burnt orange brown color with a cap toe design. As the decade progresses the designs became more fancy with wingtips. Lace up boots were also still worn with suits or working classes. In summer a pair of white nubucks were ideal for upper classes who could afford to keep them clean.
Read more about 1920s men’s shoes style here.
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More 1920s Men’s Fashions
Are you ready to make a 1920’s fashion statement? You can easily make a 1920s outfit from vintage inspired modern clothes. Learn how to create these 6 different looks.