Dressing a man in the 1910s, during the Edwardian fashion era, was not very different from today. Men’s Edwardian fashion included suits during the day, formal tailcoats for evening, and slightly more casual attire for sporting events. The look showcased youth with slimmer suits and brighter colors compared to the oversized and bland fashion of the previous decade. Join me as we take a look at the 1910s Edwardian era fashion essentials and how to make a costume for yourself or partner.
Edwardian Fashion Men’s Sack Suit
For starters, Edwardian era men wore sack suits. These were long, plain, loose fitting (some might say baggy) suit jackets with 2.75 inch wide lapels and a one- to three- button closure. Modern suits are similar, but usually shorter in length and more fitted. Sack suits were usually 30-32 inches long (down to mid-thigh) and either single or double breasted with 3 buttons. Color choices were dark navy, grey, green, and brown. In 1912, there was a brief trend for purple suits. Fabrics were all wool with hints of striping, checks, and plaid. Some cheaper fabric blended wool and cotton together. Compared to modern suiting fabrics, they were very thick.
When choosing a suit, the editors of the Men’s Togs Catalog of 1910 warned buyers: “In selecting a fashion, however, careful consideration should be given to the fact that extreme novelty styles are suitable only for young men, and that double-breasted styles look best on slender forms. Corpulent men should adhere strictly to stripe effects in fabrics.”
The jacket hung with straight edges or slightly rounded edges with a slight opening – thus, the overall look was a box shaped jacket with pants that had a fitted high waist, creased front and back, and hung straight down to the ankle with a cuff, exposing a bit of colorful sock or boot top. A typical ankle opening was 16 inches. The overall look was long-legged and slender – not all too different than today’s slim-fit fashion.
Trousers were held up with elastic or leather suspenders. Belts were an option with casual attire.
After WWI, men returning home despised military drab colors and their father’s clothing cuts. They wanted more natural styling (no shoulder pads), brighter colors, and a tailored fit (like their military uniforms). The result was a softer cut, shorter coat, lighter materials, and the inclusion of large patch pockets.
The single-breasted suit with a center vent was the most popular style. Four to six button double breasted suits had the same soft shaping in a tailored fit. Lapels grew up to 4 inches wide with a carnation flower pinned to it. By 1916, the waist was pulled in and up higher, removing any bulk to create a very slender fitting suit.
An extreme of the natural suit was the Jazz Suit. The jacket pinched the shoulders tightly and the waist fit snug against the ribs, with 3 closely spaced buttons. The trousers were short, ending above the ankle, and fit like a stovepipe. It was popular with some young men until about 1923.
Despite its name, the Jazz suit was not a good suit for dancing. Vernon Castle wore a one-button jacket with wide lapels, vertical pockets, and slender long legs that were slim but not extreme like the Jazz suit.
See more pictures of clothing from 1918-1919.
TIP: Some modern suits can double as Edwardian. If it is long, straight, plain, and comes with a matching high cut vest and pants, then it’s probably ok. Order one size up for a more early Edwardian sack suit “baggy look.” Shop new men’s Edwardian style suits.
Summer suits left the dark colors behind in favor of light wool suits in light grey, tan, and white/off-white. After the war, at around 1818, suits in general turned to a new palette of bright and cheerful colors – sage green, sky blue, electric blue, rust brown, lilac purple, and every shade in-between. They also turned to bolder patterns – large checks, contrasting chalk stripes, windowpane, and rough tweed. These could be seen year round but were more prevalent in the summer and at beachside destinations. The new white Palm Beach cloth quickly became popular in tropical climates in every style of suit, from business to casual. It had an open weave, light weight, and was wash n’ wear.
A matching waistcoat or vest was worn under the suit. The five button vest cut was mid chest at the lowest, to be hidden under the jacket — that is until 1914, when fancy vests AKA “high-falutin” vests came up higher on the chest, so as to be seen under the jacket. Most vests did not have lapels or collars. They did have 2-4 slash pockets to hold a pocket watch.
Men’s Dress Shirts and Collars
Under the vest was a basic dress shirt. These, like modern dress shirts, were light colors of whites, greys and subtle thin striping. Shirt fronts had a starched “yoke” bib front (similar to a modern formal tux shirt) that kept the shirt smooth and flat under the vest and suit jacket.
Collars could be high stand, wing tip, pointed, or round club collar. The beginning of the decade had men in stiff starched tall collars that gave way to soft flexible collars after the war. Round club collars are my favorite for this time period. They were usually detachable, made of linen (or rubber) and white. Always white.
TIP: You can turn a pointed collar shirt into a club collar by cutting off the points to a rounded edge. This works better on shirt collars where the fabric in starched/pressed instead of inserted into a collar sleeve. I suggest picking up a few at thrift stores and trying to cut them. To prevent the cut edges from fraying, use a “Fray Stop” available at fabric and craft stores or clear nail polish if you are in a hurry. I keep an eye out for white club collars shirts for sale so you don’t have to make your own.
Duster coats were born during the new motor car age, adopted first by young college men. They were ankle length with side buttons and doughboy collars in lighter colors: white, light tan, and lemon. Duster coats were primarily made from gabardine, twill, duck, and Palm Beach fabric.
Overcoats were mostly the same styles as the 1900-1909 decade. Chesterfields, ulsterettes (an Ulster with narrower lapels and collar), Inverness cape coats (Sherlock Holmes type), and wool trench coats were the most notable. They were very heavy with wide lapels and a long hem that started at the and ankle settle up to mid-calf for most of the decade. The new fashionable coat was just below knee length in the same classic style but made of light wool. A black velvet collar made them look more formal and stylish enough to pair well with business suits. Most overcoats were made of wool, melton, or Chinchilla (a weave, not the animal). Heavy winter coats were usually lined in animal fur such as seal for the rich and sheepskin for everyone else. All-fur coats were made of anything from raccoon to rabbit to bear.
A rubberized raincoat or oil cloth coat did a better job of repelling water. Lumberjacks wore oiled and waxed cotton jackets and pants nicknamed “tin pants” because they were stiff enough to stand up on their own.
Gentlemen wore overcoats, while working-class men wore short coats or jackets. At the start of the decade, the reversible leather and corduroy double-breasted jacket was a durable and affordable working-class coat. Sheepskin-lined corduroy or moleskin jackets coats ranged from waist length to knee length. The Indian blanket plaid mackinaw jacket was a very warm and heavy work jacket. They were worn by working classes but also adopted by athletes and eventually as casual attire by all classes in the decades to come.
The reefer coat, called a pea coat today, was seen in this era. Double breasted all wool navy blue hip-length coats with wide storm lapels. It was a hybrid between a long coat and casual jacket.
Edwardian Men’s Shoes
Moving on, we look at men’s shoes. Here is where we start to see major differences in style. Men could choose between three types of shoes, largely depending on where the shoes were going to be worn.
Boots were designed for heavy walking and were usually worn for traveling, business, and labor jobs. Laces laced half way up and then switched to loop and hooks for the remainder of the shaft. The toes were bulbous with high arches in the early years and cap toe with lower arch by the end of the decade. The middle years saw a two-tone boot with the upper half white like shoe spats or a lighter color than the sole. These were either lace up or more commonly button up to the outer side.
The elastic sided pull-on boot (known later as a Chelsea boot) was still an available style of boot. They were more frequently worn in the country than in the city.
Stacy Adams makes an Edwardian style cap-toe lace up boot, Oxford shoes, as well as a spat boot that it is very close an original style: two-toned with upper “spat” style. Shop for Edwardian men’s boots and shoes here.
The next option for businesswear was the Oxford. These are very similar to men’s dress shoes today. Single tone (rust-brown, black patent, gunmetal grey or white in summer) and a few two-tones (black patent/matte black) were starting to enter the fashion scene. Arches and toes were shaped just like boots. The decoration was minimal. A cap toe was the standard choice for city life while some punctured holes (broguing) on the toe top decorated men’s country shoes. Young men preferred the Oxford over the boot, while older men held fast to their traditional boots.
Spats or gaiters could be worn over the shoe to bridge the gap between shoe and trouser for country wear or rainy weather, however these were more common for women than men.
Finally, formal attire might invite a man to wear “pumps.” Ok, you can stop laughing now. Yes, men’s shoes were called “pumps.” They looked like a cross between a men’s Oxford and a modern women’s low-heeled slip-on pump. They had the details of an Oxford with a high arch and 1-2 inch thick heel. The uppercut was shaped low around the ankle. A buckle on the toe topped some fancy models.
To complete most men’s Edwardian boots and shoes were laces. Thin string laces were not part of fashion yet. Instead, shoes and boots were laced with ½ wide silk ribbon and tied in a bow. The tips were wrapped in metal, which were prone to rust.
The gold pocket watch on a chain had been a standard timepiece for many decades. It was attached to the vest’s buttonhole and draped across to a watch pocket.
The first wristwatch appeared in 1914 and young fashionable men jumped at the chance to wear one. This meant that a man’s vest was no longer a necessity for the watch, but an option to complete the look.
Gentlemen always wore gloves. Common colors were white, grey or tan, and they often matched the neckwear. Gloves were made of soft kidskin leather, suede, or cloth for summer.
Bow ties, neckties, and cravat ties were worn depending on the time of day. Cravats made ideal daywear, while thin bowties were required for formal evening wear. Dark neckties gradually became accepted after 1914.
Men’s ties had to be thin and tightly knotted in order to fit under the high stand shirt collars. The thin knot tie came in a variety of ties, from skinny knitted silk tie to the very wide and draping scarf ties. Vests covered up most ties, so the “fun” ties may have been preserved until summer when its fullness was visible. Colors were rich jewel tones – blue, green, maroon, and purple with some pastels in summer. Solids, stripes (vertical, horizontal or angled), pin dots, and paisley were common prints.
Cravats were still worn with traditional morning suits. Butterfly bow ties became a trendy alternative to the necktie.
Edwardian Men’s Hats
Topping with a hat was the last bit of fashion a well-dressed Edwardian man needed. Felt derby or bowler hats were standard daywear, while silk top hats were worn for formal occasions. The Homburg in black, grey, or dark brown was another formal hat that could be worn for evening affairs, usually by well dressed businessmen.
Both were going out of style after the war, when men wanted softer felt hats in more color choices. Soft felt hats like the new fedora style were a welcome change. With a rolled brim that tapered down in the front, a center dent, wide grosgrain band, and a moderately tall crown, it was a fashionable choice for young men. There were many other soft felts hats with slight variations to the crown, brim, and brands. Most were nameless styles or ones whose names have lost all meaning to use today.
Sportsmen wore flat caps, also called golf, Ivy, cab driver, or newsboy hats. These were 6 panel styles that were more “floppy” than most modern flat caps.
The summer months brought out straw boaters, sailors, and skimmers with a flat round top, flat brim, and solid hat band. The delicate and pricey straw Panama was for wealthier gentlemen. “Panama” referred to the light weave, not necessarily the style. Men’s straw panama hats came in the Optimo style (with a center roll for easy folding on the go), gambler style (flat top, rolled sides), farmer style (slightly dented top), and wide brim.
More Edwardian Men’s Fashion
Eveningwear – Formal tuxedo, morning suit and wedding clothes.
Men’s Socks History – Practical socks were also quite fun.
Men’s Gloves History – Gentlmen’s and working class men’s gloves.
Men’s Jewelry – tie pins, signet rings and other adornments.
Your Men’s Edwardian Costume
For an authentic Edwardian suit, you may need to custom order one. However, you can also piece together a “close enough” outfit from a thrift store or purchase new clothing with a little creativity. Here is how I came up with Oscar’s suit pictured above.
First was a basic brown tweed suit jacket, probably made in the 1970s. Since they didn’t come with matching pants, we found these 1970s brown wool pants. Next came another 1970s light tan vest with brown leather covered buttons. Under the vest is a basic white dress shirt with the pointed collar rounded out to look like a club collar. The tie classic red dot necktie. A black bowler tops his head, and standard brown dress shoes cover his feet. Pretty easy, right?
Use the images on this page to guide you to pair your own Edwardian men’s suit together. Start with a basic suit that fits well (not too skinny or too wide), add a white collar dress shirt, skinny tie, and hat (derby, boater, fedora). Add coordinated accessories such as cap toe shoes or boots, a pocket watch, gloves, and a pocket square or flower pin.
Need more Edwardian men’s outfit ideas? We have them here.
New Men’s Edwardian Style Clothing:
Need help finding Edwardian clothes? Check out the Edwardian men’s Clothing shop for what I have found online: shoes, hats, suits, etc.