After the 2013 The Great Gatsby movie, revived interest in 1920s men’s fashion is huge! And it’s not just the ladies who want to bring back some vintage class. 1920s inspired men’s clothing has made its way into Ralph Lauren’s collection as well as other top fashion designers. Have you noticed men’s vests, shawl collar sweaters, newsboy caps, and white collar shirts in your local department stores? All of these clothes began their popularity in the 1920s, and now they are back today. Thankfully, that makes it a lot easier to re-create The Great Gatsby clothes for men.
Since the movie is our inspiration, let us take a quick look at what the Great Gatsby and his friends are wearing, and then I will give you a guide to dressing like the Great Gatsby yourself.
Great Gatsby Movie Clothes
The Great Gatsby – In this scene, Jay Gatsby is dressed in his finest suit. It is a brown wool, peak lapel, windowpane pattern, four button jacket with a slit breast pocket. He has a coordinating high V-notch button up vest (probably 6 buttons). His pants are of the same fabric, and although I can’t see the details I assume they are flat front with a single pressed pleat down the front legs. Since this is 1922, the leg widths are classic, not thin like jazz suits or wide like they will be in a few more years. His shirt is a light blue, pointed collar, French cuff, with a collar bar holding it neatly in place. His tie appears to be burnt orange, blue and white striped (very Art Deco colors, although I am not sure it’s very accurate to the ’20s). His pocket square is gold silk. Gatsby’s hands are perched on a walking cane made of wood with a gold handle.
Nick Carraway – His wealth is nothing to Gatsby’s, thus his suit is typical for a middle class man. He is wearing a notch lapel, dark brown wool, 3 piece suit with coordinating vest and pants (it is possible his pants are an even darker brown instead of matching, another sign that he is middle class). His vest is a traditional 6 button, high V vest with pointed tips. The shirt is a light pink cotton dress shirt with a contrasting white pointed button down collar. Removable white collars had been a very popular men’s shirt accessory for over a decade. It allowed the shirt to last longer by only replacing the shirt collar when worn out or stained. Nick also wears a diagonal striped tie in green, brown, black, and thin orange stripes. The final touch to his suit is a watch chain draped from one vest pocket to the next and attached to the center vest button.
Tom Buchanan – The man everyone wants to hate looks very gangster-like in his double-breasted, peak lapel, blue wool suit. His matching blue vest is also double breasted and fitted very high up, exposing only the knot of this maroon and black striped tie. His suit has two large patch pockets on the front and an angled slit breast pocket with a maroon and gold stars pocket square. Tom’s dress shirt is a light blue pointed collar French cuff dress shirt with gold square cuff links. He looks extra gangster with large dark and round Aviator style sunglasses.
Note – Tom’s suit is similar to that of Meyer Wolfsheim (pictured top, left). His is also a double-breasted wool suit, this time in grey with peak lapels, flap pockets, a maroon tie, white dress shirt, coordinating vest, and pocket square. Meyer adds a white straw pinch front fedora hat with wide black band.
Great Gatsby in Fashion eBook $2.99
Which Gatsby man do you want to dress like?
At VintageDancer.com, I specialize in helping you find modern clothes with a vintage look. Here are some great options to re-create the three Gatsby men’s styles using new clothing. To shop 1920s style clothes, start here, where I have aggregated the best vintage inspired 1920s men’s clothes I can find online.
1920s Men’s Suits
Suits – Medium brown, grey or light blue are the best colors to wear for suits in summer. Peak lapel suits were very popular, but so were notch lapels (A peak has the bottom lapel larger and pointed upward, then the top collar. A notch is a V cut out of the lapel). Suits fit very high up, so a 4-6 button up suit will be the most like the 1920s. Unlike today, men tailored their suits to fit snug on the body. When choosing a 1920s suit, find one that fits well, not baggy. Learn more about the history of 1920s suits or shop new 1920s inspired suits. UK gentlemen should look here.
1920s Men’s Vests
Vest – A matching suit vest and pants are a must for a Great Gatsby look. He was wealthy and showed it through his coordinated clothing. Middle class and working class men did not always have the luxury of wearing a matching suit. A vest in the same color family as the suit jacket would be acceptable. If you couldn’t even afford a suit jacket, then any vest in solid colors, fun plaids, checks, or windowpane patterns will be the thing to wear. Vests could be single or double breasted with 6 buttons up the front.
1920s Men’s Pants / Trousers
Pants – Avoid fully pleated pants. The 1920s suit pants had single pleats, button flies, a classic width, and cuffed hems at the ankle. Belts were coming into fashion, but button-on suspenders were still preferred. 1920s style pants simply don’t exist today. The main challenge is the height of the waist band. They fit very high, up to just below the rib cage. Modern pants sit very low around the hip. Do your best to find classic fit men’s suit pants or golf pants. They will have the most waist height and usually pre-cuffed legs, too. If you can’t find coordinating pants, then wear them one shade lighter than your jacket. If no jacket, wear one shade darker than your vest.
1920s Men’s Shirts
Shirt – A French cuff shirt with cuff links is a must! All classes of men wore them with suits. Pointed collars or round club collars were the two main options. I love the look of the white collar shirt for ’20s wear. It screams vintage. You can also wear a solid color shirt with matching collar. White, blue, yellow, pink, and green in solid colors, vertical stripes, or subtle checks were best for summer time. Learn about 1920s men’s shirts or shop 1920s style shirts.
1920s Men’s Shoes
Shoes – Don’t forget the very important vintage style shoes. They will really complete your look. Gatsby loved the new two tone shoes that were increasingly popular during the 1920s. These brown and white or grey and white wingtip shoes coordinated with your suit. The more classic shoe was the cap-toe lace-up Oxford in a medium-orange brown, or fancy wingtip brogue in dark browns.
1920s Men’s Hats
Hats – Men always wore hats in the 1920s. It’s difficult to capture actors’ expressions with hats on, so the movie will probably leave them off, but it’s important for you to have one for your Gatsby look. The working class cap or casual summer hat was the linen newsboy cap or straw boater. Gatsby wore a white newsboy cap in the 1974 movie. A business suit-friendly hat was the fedora in light straw for summer and fur felt for winter. A traditional bowler or derby hat was still very common in the 1920s as well.
Read about and shop for 1920s men’s hats.
1920s Men’s Ties
Tie – Men’s neckties in the 1920s were usually of wide diagonal stripes, polka dots, Deco patterns, and paisley prints. The bow tie was equally popular in the same colors and prints as the necktie. Don’t forget a matching or coordinating pocket square, too.
More Great Gatsby Men’s Clothing
That’s it! Now you have the knowledge and connections to buy 1920s style clothing and create you own Great Gatsby men’s look. Have fun with it, and send me pictures when you are done. Need more help? Just contact me.
Debbie Sessions has been teaching fashion history and helping people dress for vintage themed events since 2009. She has turned a hobby into VintageDancer.com with hundreds of well researched articles and hand picked links to vintage inspired clothing online. She aims to make dressing accurately (or not) an affordable option for all. Oh, and she dances too.