Even though World War I had ended, men’s and women’s 1920s overcoats and jackets continued to be styled after British military coats. Long knee length wool 1920s men’s coats with wide lapels, broad shoulders and a tightly fitted waist emphasized the thin and muscular physique. Men’s coats hung down to below the knee. They came in rich dark colors such as brown, grey and navy blue, a favorite color of the Peaky Blinders men.
Prior to the war, men were not encouraged to exercise or build their natural bodies. The ultra thin and narrow “jazz” look was the ideal Edwardian fashion. Military training officers had a fair amount of physical training to do to get these waifish men into more suitable shape for the rigors of war. It was only natural that men returning from war could no longer fit into their pre-war clothing, or appreciate their snug suits. Military clothing was more comfortable and more flattering on their new bodies.
As 1920s suits grew more fitted in the torso, so did the overcoat in the early twenties. Then, as suits grew a bit wider and looser, the coats followed as well. What stayed the same was losing the bulky fur lining that was a part of most men’s coats in the late teens. Now, a simple silk lining inside a lighter wool or tweed coat was all that was needed. Being fitted up top but roomy around the waist and hips made them easy to move in despite the mid-shin length.
The nipped in waist made by a tight belt lost favor over the straight hanging long coat for most of the ’20s. Single- or double-breasted varieties in popular black, grey, dark brown, and herringbone in black and white or brown and white endured the decade. Oddly enough, men’s overcoats were not brash and colorful as most other clothing was. Younger wealthier men preferred lighter shades and blends of blue-grey or tan-brown but that was as far as colors go. In 1923, the British trend for dark blue coats came to America. It was touted as the color that flattered all shapes, sizes and ages. It was the new “black.” Besides coats, dark formal dinner jackets came in dark blue along with men’s business suits and casual pants.
1920s Ulster, Trench, Chesterfield Coats
Often loose fitting and made of rough, homespun, textured tweed, the Ulster coat was a long, double-breasted winter overcoat with very large notch lapels that folded over each other so the coat could be buttoned up all the way. True Ulsters have wide cuffs at the wrist, two front patch pockets and contrast stitching. The look comes from country gentlemen’s wear in the province of Ulster, Ireland.
Many overcoats resembled trench coats with a wide center belt and a just-below-the-knee length. They were made to repel spring rain in a lighter fabric such as Gabardine. Usually, they were just beige. This went on to become the everyday men’s coat of the 1930s.
The Chesterfield coat was another style that had lesser popularity. Considered an “old” style, it was usually black with a velvet collar. Single- or double-breasted it came back in fashion in the late ’20s when men’s coats were more simple and refined. It looks especially good with a Derby hat.
1920s Men’s Raccoon Coat
Entirely fur overcoats, such as the famous raccoon coat, became a trend and symbol of swanky young college men with sex appeal just like their movie star idol Rudolph Valentino. All men, regardless of age, were quick to buy and wear a raccoon coat, even if it was only worn two or three times a year to football games.
College kids who spent more time outside, riding in fast cars and attending sports had more use for fur coats. However, they were not purchased to be useful, just to be trendy.
In general, all fur coats were rare for men to wear. Only in the most extreme winter conditions were they common among those that could afford it, even fake furs.
“College men, knowledge men
Do a dance called raccoon
It’s the craze, nowadays,
And it will get you soon.
Buy a coat and try it,
I’ll bet you’ll be a riot,
It’s a wow, learn to do it right now!”
(George Olsen and His Music. Listen here.)
Hats with Coats
The type of coat a man would buy had a lot to do with the hat he wore. Conservative men were enjoying the new fad for the rolled brim Derby hat (AKA bowler hat) while wearing single-breasted, wide peak lapel coats. College men preferred the creased felt hat similar to a Homburg. Trilbies or fedoras were worn with a double-breasted, slightly shorter, trench coat style.
Having a unified look identified men as gentlemen. The wrong hat with the wrong coat, gloves, or shoes was a fashion disaster!
1920s Men’s Jackets
For working men, sporting men, and leisure wear, a long overcoat was too cumbersome to wear. Jackets, also called coatee and windbreakers, were the solution to a practical overcoat. A coatee style was a short version of the overcoat. It button up to a high collar to keep the cold out. It was a less common cousin to the Mackinaw coat. The mackinaw is a double-breasted half coat made of a very thick wool horse blanket material. Plaids of dark blue, brown, olive, and black were the most plentiful.
Early 1920s coatees and mackinaws were just short versions of the longer great coats. By the mid and late ’20s, the jacket now looked more like a windbreaker with knit ribbing around the waist and cuffs. This kept the wind, rain and snow out. For extra winter warmth, they could be lined in sheepskin wool or fur. For the most durable style, the all leather Mackinaw in black or brown was both stylish and durable. It was adopted by motor bike riders, auto racers and aviators becoming synonymous with speed sports.
Lighter versions of these jackets became trendy with the youth. They were even popular with women who called them “lumberjack jackets.” Made of softer wool flannel the jackets still came in large plaids or thin leather with silk or satin lining. Some were adopted into uniforms for college team sports. By the 1950s, they turned into Letterman jackets.
1920s Style Men’s Coats
These new overcoats and jackets feature the overall style of men’s outerwear in the 1920s. They make ideal layers for a 1920s look.