1920s men’s fashion was the start of menswear as we know it today. It was a time of classic sophistication with a level of fun that has gone by the wayside in favor of more and more casual modern clothing. 1920s men’s fashion colors were mostly neutral with patterns, but the accessories popped with vibrant colors– just like they did for women’s 1920s fashion. Popular TV shows, such as Peaky Blinders, 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 website as well as links to new 1920s vintage inspired clothing to create your own outfit. Here is a brief rundown of 1920s men’s fashion history with links to more 1920s men’s fashion history and shopping.
1920s Fashion for Men
- Suits: Three-piece suits with wide lapels and high rise cuffed trousers in stripes, plaid, tweed and wool suiting
- Shirts: Narrow stripe dress shirts with white or matching collars. Colored or plaid two pocket work shirts.
- Coats: Long overcoats with wide lapels or shorter plaid mackinaw jackets
- Sweaters: Pullover, shawl collar, cardigan knit sweaters and sweater vests for casual outfits
- Hats: Derby, Homburg, Fedora, Boater, Panama and Newsboys (Peaky Blinders!) caps
- Shoes: Cap toe oxfords, two-tone golf oxfords, lace-up boots and sport sneakers
- Accessories: Neckties or bow ties, pocket watch or wrist watch, collar pin, cane, gloves, scarf, spats, cufflinks
1920s Men’s Suits
The essential part of a 1920s man’s wardrobe was his suit. For day, evening, work, 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 second-hand and often mismatched suits and wore them with pride.
What sets 1920s men’s suits apart from other decades are the materials and how they fit. Suits were mostly made of thick wool, wool tweed, mohair, wool flannel and corduroy that 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 that grew wider each year. The height of the suit lapels is what really sets 1920s suits apart from suits of other eras. When buttoned, jackets would completely cover vests exposing only the shirt collar and necktie.
Many 1920s men’s suits featured two sets of flap pockets, which is another characteristic missing from modern suits. The colors, on the other hand, were similar to previous decades: dark and light browns, medium blues, dark green and greys with the occasional pastel (pink!) as well as ivory or white linen and cotton seersucker for summer. Patterns were distinctive, which could be big plaids, checks, windowpane, and thick shadow stripes or thin pinstripes. Wearing tweed suits was popular in Europe year-round and winters in America.
Despite what the usual gangster wore in TV and movies, one color a man’s suit was not was solid black. Black was a color for mourning. The 1920s gangster wearing a black pinstripe suit was one perpetuated by Hollywood in the 1940s and 1950s. Wealthy bootleggers and gangsters in the 1920s would have been impeccably dressed in the latest suit fashions, imported from Europe, and tailored to a perfect fit. Those devils would have wanted to show off their wealth and have a larger than life image perhaps to make the gangster life appealing to new recruits.
The 1920s suit fit changed from a snug slim fit in the “Jazz age” early years (1918-1923) to a looser boxy fit after 1924. The current trend for vintage-inspired menswear reflects the slimmer fit while women’s fashion has embraced the later years. Suit jacket lapels grew wider each year, the peak lapel became a new trend, and the slit pocket became a new feature to suits by the late 1920s. More colors in unique shades such as pink, light green, lilac, blue-grey and grey-green also emerged in America. So do not be afraid to wear those colors.
Besides lighter and brighter colors, summer suiting while on vacation or in hot climates embraced the all-white suit. Ivory or bone were easier suit colors to keep clean. White trousers paired with a navy blue blazer was a common summer outfit for yacht owners and ivy league college kids. It was worn with a captains hat and either white nubuck oxfords or two-tone sport oxfords.
Some ivy league outfits embraced the traditional striped boating jacket made up in a college or gentlemen’s club colors. The rowing team started the look back in the 1860s but other team sports such as cricket and la cross wore them as well. Enthusiastic spectators also began wearing the blazers to sporting events.
The vertical striped blazer may have been adopted by musicians and barbershop quartet singers but probably not. Again it was one of those Hollywood (eh hem Disney) interpretations that put performers in more colorful costumes.
Read more about 1920s men’s suit history.
For evening entertainment, men would change out of a day suit and into a full tuxedo to attend the opera, a fancy dinner, the theater or to a high-end night club. Evening suits consisted of a traditional tailcoat, wide satin stripe dress pants, white wingtip collar shirt, black silk top hat, black patent shoes, and either white vest/bowtie for white tie affairs (most formal) or black vest/bow tie for black tie affairs (semi-formal.) The new dinner jacket (tuxedo jacket) began to replace the long tailcoat in the mid-20s as a more casual and comfortable option.
The other formal day outfit is the morning suit (not mourning as in funerals). It was worn for weddings that took place in the morning (get it?) as well as classy British events such as Ascot. Some older businessmen continued to wear them to work. A black morning coat paired over grey striped trousers with a buff, ivory or back vest, bowler hat, spats, and a cane. This outfit is experiencing a rival today as a unique groom’s attire. Learn more about 1920s tuxedos and morning suits here.
Tips for your 1920s suit: Two and three-piece suits can be found in thrift stores, department clothing stores and online. Good suits will start at $400 and go up. Modern suits are currently favoring a very slim fit which is not accurate to the 1920s. Look for a looser, classic fit instead in any neutral color except black for authenticity. Suits with large stripes or plaid or a tweed-like texture will also look more ’20s.
- Authentic: Reproduction 1920s suits can be found, mostly in the UK, for $700 and up. A very worthwhile investment if you want accuracy and quality. Brooks Brothers is a good option in the USA for high end suits (modern).
- Moderate: The classic suits in bold patterns from Paul Fredrick double as vintage and modern enough for daily wear. They have good shirts as well. $250 and up
- Budget: Suits imported from Italy have a very ’20s wide fit as well as bold stripes and patterns. MensUSA and MensItaly have a good selection for under $200. Stock levels change frequently so you may not get the exact suit pictured, but something close.
- Free: Use whatever suit you have and add a vintage hat and accessories. Or leave off the jacket and wear a vest and trousers alone to give yourself a ’20s inspired look.
- Shop these and more men’s 1920s inspired suits here (USA) and here in the UK
Men’s Pants or Trousers
Men’s 1920s pants had a flat front or single inverted pleat and a sharp crease down the front of the legs. Pockets were slit on the side and welt on the back with one button closure. Front flys were button up until the zipper became more common in the later years. The Prince of Wales started the trend for a 2-inch fold up cuff which everyone followed (men followed everything he wore. He was quite a trendsetter!)
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! They were designed to be worn over knickers which were banned in classrooms. Mainstream fashions follow, reducing the width down to a comfortable 10-12 inches.
The high rise of the trouser is what makes men’s 1920s pants very different than today’s options. The waistband came up the natural waist (at or above the navel) with a deep seat for ample room. The fit was full around the hips with a tapered leg in the early years and straight, wide leg in the later years. To keep them up, men used button-on suspenders (clips ons were not invented yet.) The belt became more common in the mid 1920s with casual pants but not suits. Shop suspenders.
Men’s pants hung down to the top of the shoe to prevent the crease from buckling. 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 in fun colors.
Casual or workwear pants featured even bigger patterns and stripes and more colors than suit trousers. Wool, moleskin, tweed, and corduroy in winter. Flannel, light wool, and duck cloth (light canvas) for spring/summer. Dark blue denim was used for overalls and heavy duty work pants.
For sports such as golf, the knicker pant, also called plus fours, were the preferred summer pant. Boys would wear them instead of trousers until they became men around 13. Knickers ballooned out around the knee with tall plain or patterned socks to cover the calf. A bold pattern sweater or sweater vest, button-down shirt, tie or bow tie and newsboy cap completed the casual outfit.
A similar short pant were breeches used for hunting, riding, outdoor work, and uniforms for chauffers and military men. Breeches laced below the knee to fit inside tall boots or under leather gaiters. The hip was extra wide and roomy- which looks very comical to us now.
Learn more about 1920s men’s pants history.
Tips for your pants: Get a pair of high waisted pants and you are half way to a 1920s look. Have a tailor sew on buttons and cuff your trousers for the most accuracy.
- Authentic: A pair of reproduction 1920s trousers will be your best option. Have them hemmed and tailored locally.
- Wide Leg: Wide leg dress pants can be found at MensUSA and MensItaly.
- Casual/work: Historical Emporium carries early 20s style trousers with suspender buttons already sewn in.
- Sport: Knickers can be purchased online or made easily by cutting off pants and securing with elastic below the knee.
- Budget: Choose classic or modern fit pants in bold patterns, tweed or linen and pair with suspenders/belt and/or a vest.
- Shop these and more men’s pants and knickers and here in the UK
Suit Vests or Waistcoats
Unlike today’s two-piece suits, men’s 1920s fashion required a three-piece suit with a matching vest. The poor and lower classes could not always afford a matching vest so they would wear whatever they could find in a similar shade of color or simply go without. A matching jacket and vest could be mismatched with trousers as well. Every man dressed as well as he could afford shopping at second-hand stores, mail order catalogs, or rummaging church donation bins.
Vests, also called waistcoats, had high V-necks, 5-6 buttons, and notch collar lapels. Collarless vests also existed but I think the collared vest looks and feel more 1920s especially when worn without a suit jacket. In the late 1920s, the double-breasted or U shawled vest in matching or contrasting bold prints added variety to young men’s suits.
An alternative was to wear a pullover sweater vest instead of a suit vest for a casual style. Single color smooth knit or two color cable knit vests as well as vivid patterns of fair isle and argyle made for colorful and sporty outfits. Tennis and cricket players favored the white or ivory sweater or sweater vest with colored trim at the V neck paired with matching white pants. Learn more about 1920s men’s sweaters and knit vests history.
Tips for your vest: It was a fashion faux pax to have a shirt exposed between the pants and vest. For accuracy make sure your pants are high enough to fit under the vest. Most modern vests are longer than vintage vests to accommodate mid-rise pants. Suspenders will also help hold up pants higher on the waist. Order pants one size up for an even looser ’20s fit. Shop men’s 20s vests and sweater vests.
Knitwear exploded in popularity after WW1. Fashion leaders wore casual, stretchy, knit sweaters and cardigans instead of country jackets. Knit was flexible enough to make golfing comfortable and cheap enough to appeal to the lower classes as everyday attire. Sweaters came in saturated colors, textured weaves, and puzzling prints. As the decade grew on the colors and patterns went wild and so did demand for them. They were worn by all classes low to high and for all seasons.
Both pullover sweaters and button-down cardigan sweaters featured huge shawl collars knitted in heavy cable stitches. There was also the roll neck sweater, called a turtle neck, which was slim fitting and quite warm. The V neck sweater with wide rib cuffs entered the picture in the mid-20s which was a favorite in spring. The letter or insignia sweater was a pullover style with a school or team’s initials appliqued on the front. Underneath sweaters men wore dress shirts and neckties in keeping with formality. Learn more about men’s sweaters.
1920s Fashion: Men’s Shirts
Underneath suits was where the fun men’s 1920s fashion begins (the top part!) 1920s men’s dress shirts were made of colorful vertical stripes in a mixture of colors– tan, green, blue, lilac, sage green, yellow, peach, pink and white. Solid colors in the same light shades were available in the late 1920s.
Shirt collars were round (club collars or penny collars), pointed (2.5-3.5 long ,) spread (less common), or buttoned down. Most were soft attached collars, but many still came in detachable stiff white linen. Shirts with attached collars were either made with the same material or were white collared.
The white shirt collar against the solid or striped shirt body is what makes early 1920s men’s dress shirts unique. If you want to make another fashion statement, wear a collarless shirt (also known as a mandarin collar shirt or grandad shirt). The Great Gatsby shocked the fashionable world by wearing a shirt without a collar and then everyone copied him. Thomas Shelby in Peaky Blinders is also seen without a shirt collar on more than a few occasions. He has the confidence to pull it off. Do you?
The cuffs are the final unique dress shirt element. They were usually French, double fold or button cuffs sometimes worn with a pair of snazzy cuff links. Cuff links were plain gold circles monogrammed with the owner’s initials.
Shirts were sold by neck size only making the sleeves too long and the body extra wide on many men. Armbands also called sleeve garters made of webbing helped keep the sleeve cuffs from sliding down the hands. Shop armbands.
Casual men’s shirts and work shirts didn’t look too different than dress shirts except for the attached collars. They also pulled over with 5 buttons spaced down the front instead of the entire shirt buttoning down. They were made of heavy cotton, flannel, wool or chambray with one or two chest pockets. Neutral solid colors like blue, khaki, grey and green were favored over lighter colors. Heavy plaid shirts were worn in winter. Casual shirts were paired with wool trousers, coat, vest (optional) belt/suspenders and a casual hat like the 8-panel cap or cadet cap.
Read about men’s workwear in the 1920s.
Tips for your shirt: Paul Fredrick often has round club collar shirts as well as french cuff classic dress shirts in stripes and other vintage prints. Otherwise, you can wear just about any modern dress shirt for your 20s outfit. I encourage you to choose a colored or striped shirt instead of plain white. Women appreciate a man who can wear colors and you will stand out against your mono-chromatic fellow men. Despite photographs being in black and white, the 1920s were very colorful and it all started with the shirt.
Shop for men’s 1920s style shirts.
1920s Neck Ties and Bow Ties
The other fun bit of color in a 1920s men’s outfit was the neckwear. Men either wore a bow tie in wide 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 butterfly shape. Neckties had diagonal stripes, plaid, check, paisley 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 1970s 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 or fringed tips.
Long heavy wool coats with wide lapels dominated men’s 1920s overcoats. The fur collar coat or wool ulster was favored in winter while the light trench coat was ideal in rainy climates. College men took to wearing full heavy raccoon fur coats.
Shorter jackets such as the plaid mackinaw or leather lumberjack were the ideal working class coats as well as for the middle class on weekends. Read more about 1920s men’s outerwear.
1920s Men’s Fashion Hats
The 1920s look isn’t quite done. All men, all classes, wore hats… all… the …time. Hats made of felt were worn year-round but typically were replaced by straw hats in the spring and summer.
The casual cap, an 8-panel floppy cap was worn by lower classes all day and by upper classes doing casual or sports activities. It was quite wide fitting with an attached brim. In the summer, these caps were made of a light colored linen or cotton poplin material and lined in silk for breath-ability. In cooler weather, the caps came in tweed, herringbone wool, and corduroy. Darker colors were worn in the winter– blues, greys, and browns– in solid, tweed, plaid and check patterns. Caps did not need to match or coordinate with an outfit. Wearing a cap could dress down a suit or dress up a casual outfit.
Summer straw hats were much lighter and cooler to wear in warm weather. The classic straw boater or skimmer hat with a wide solid or striped band was the most common summer hat. It had a flat oval top and stiff round brim. Similar oval crown hats were made of finer Panama straw or course coconut fiber with a slightly rolled brim. The Optimo Panama hat was the finest of men’s straw hats. It had a rounded crease down the center crown and a wide brim. It could be rolled up and slid into a coat pocket. Other straw hats came in the Leghorn style, gambler, western Carlsbad and fedora.
Felt hats were worn all year in neutral colors: navy blue, grey, tan, brown, green and black. The round top black, brown or grey Derby hat (bowler) continued to be worn by British businessmen but was hardly seen in America. The stiff black, brown or grey homburg was the American choice for business dress. The brim was narrow with a curled edge and the crown had a deep center dent.
The fedora hat is the most iconic hat of the decade. It was considered a stylish young man’s hat with a wide brim, tall crown, and center dent or pinch front. The brim was snapped down slightly in front and up in the back although the shape was entirely up to the wearer. Fedora hats and other felt hats hardly ever matched suit colors. A grey suit paired well with a blue hat. A brown suit looked good with a grey hat. A blue suit also looked dapper with a grey or light tan hat. Black hats paired well with every suit color except light summer suiting. Hat bands were usually a shade darker than the body with a wide flat bow on one side (no feathers yet).
Read more about 1920s men’s hat styles here
Hat Tips: Vintage fedora hats had wide brims, not the skinny brims sold as modern fedoras. Golf caps were also wide and floppy not narrow and fitted. Choose the nicest quality hat you can afford in a wide width and be prepared for waves of compliments. Especially from the ladies. You will stand out even more if your hat is anything but black.
- Suits: Choose a derby, homburg or wide brim fedora in a color opposite of your suit
- Casual: Choose a newsboy cap (not matching clothing color) or straw boater
- Summer: A light straw Panama or straw fedora or light colored felt hat will keep you cool
- SHOP men’s hats here and in the UK here
Keeping a hat all season without losing it or having it smashed in public places became a daily chore. Learn more about the social history of hats and hat wearing etiquette here.
1920s Men’s Shoes
The turn of the century had most men wearing lace-up dress boots but by the 1920s the preferred shoe was the oxford. 1920s oxford was a short lace up in black, dark brown, rust-brown or white with a cap toe. The wingtip toe was also found on a few fancy models of boots and oxfords. The two-tone “Art Deco” oxford in either brown and ivory leather or brown leather and white canvas was becoming trendy on the golf course and for leisurely days however it wouldn’t go mainstream until the 1930s.
The shape of men’s shoes started off with a pointy almond toe that turned into the square toe style mimicking the change from slim suits to wide suits. Leather soles were the same color as the shoe body with the exception of sports shoes which may have had rubber crepe soles. In the later years’ alligator, snake and lizard skin was used to add texture to oxfords. Perforations, pinking, and broguing along with the toe caps also added interesting details.
The most casual sports shoe was the canvas high top sneaker (Converse) or low top flats (Keds, Plimsoles) in all white or white with brown leather trim. Soles were rubber and flexible. Each sport had its own version of sports shoe to accommodate indoor and outdoor games.
Working class men wore sturdy lace-up boots made of thick horsehide leather. Older gentlemen and the wealthy also continued to wear dress boots as well as grey or tan wool spats that protected boots and shoes from dirt and grime. White spats were only practical to wear for special occasions.
Read more about 1920s men’s shoes style here.
1920s Men’s Accessories
The two other items of color in an older, wealthy gentlemen’s wardrobe were gloves and pocket squares. Bright colors such as 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 today.
The pocket square is a decoration only handkerchief, made of silk, folded into a triangle and placed in the suit’s chest pocket. It coordinated with one color in a man’s tie or band of his hat. A white cotton handkerchief was kept in the pants pocket for practical necessities.
Men’s 1920s accessories may have also included:
- Suspenders- Striped elastic suspenders or leather work suspender kept pants held up. A thin leather belt was also an option for casual outfits.
- Collar pin – Kept soft shirt collars down and neat. Cufflinks were also necessary to close french cuffs.
- Shoe Spats– White, grey or tan wool shoe covers for upper-class gentlemen
- Cane or walking stick – A gentlemen’s walking accessory in the shepherds crook handle or silver-capped stick designs.
- Pocket watch and watch chain. The wristwatch was just coming into fashion. A pocket watch on a chain was slipped into the vest pocket and the chain hooked to one buttonhole.
- Arm Bands– Also were worn by most men but are iconic for bartenders, bankers and musicians to keep shirt sleeves out of the way.
- Glasses or sunglasses– round metal or tortoiseshell frame glasses
- Scarf– A paisley, striped or white silk men’s scarf was a new accessory in the late 1920s. Knit scarves for winter warmth
- Bag- A leather messenger style bag with short handles helped men carry papers to work or school
- Tall Socks in Argyle, fair isle, stripe or solid dark colors held up with elastic sock garters above the calf
- Smoking pipe, cigar or fake e-cigs (that puff water vape)
Men’s 1920s Outfit Ideas:
Are you ready to make a 1920s fashion statement? You can easily make a men’s 1920s outfit from vintage-inspired modern clothes.
- Learn how to create 10 different 1920s men’s outfit
- Dress like Peaky Blinders
- Dress like the Great Gatsby (2013 movie) or his white suit
- Dress like Al Capone, 20s Gangster or other Boardwalk Empire Men
- Men’s vintage workwear – overalls, work clothes, boots
- Banker, Barbershop singer/musician, or Bartender outfits
- Casual men’s vintage outfits from the 1920s to the 50s
- Swimwear – History of women’s and men’s swimsuits
- 1920s Grooms and Groomsmen Attire – Men’s wedding attire and formalwear
- 1920s men’s costumes – Cheap Halloween, fancy dress or party costumes for gangsters, musicians, Gatsby, bootleggers, ect
Buy 1920s Men’s clothing
These new men’s clothes, hats, shoes, and accessories are close enough to an authentic 1920s look for most costume needs. UK shoppers look here too.