Learning about men’s 1940s fashion history is a big help in creating vintage looks for a swing dance or WWII history event, yet questions still come up about how to put an entire look together. The hardest part about finding 1940s men’s clothing besides vintage clothing being to small is finding wide cut suits and pants in today’s world of “slim fit” and “skinny” everything. For years, my secret source has been “urban menswear” shops hidden in inner city areas of town. These shops carry a lot of Italian, Latin-American, and African-American designer fashions that still favor a wide fit. Online, the choices are few and far between.
1940s Men’s Outfit – Classy Suits
Day to day, most working middle class men wore suits to their jobs. For most of the 1940s, this meant wearing single or double breasted suits with heavily padded shoulders, wide notch or peak lapels, and a nipped in waist. Matching trousers were also quite wide and high-waisted and they were held up with a belt or suspenders. A plain white or blue dress shirt was the most versatile option for all suit colors. The final details were in the shoes (solid or two tone Oxfords) and choice of hat (fedora, homburg, or porkpie).
- Hat: Grey Fedora Hat
- Shirt: Dress Shirt Solid White
- Tie: Light Brown Striped Neck Tie
- Suit: Black Pinstripe Double Breasted (Medium to dark grey would be more accurate than black)
- Shoes: Lizard print dress shoes
1940s Semi – Casual Men’s Outfits
The next look exchanges the formal business suit for a slightly more casual sport coat. Sport coats and trousers were often paired together in the same color family with contrasting prints. In the example below, a blue plaid sport coat was worn with plain blue trousers. Otherwise, check, herringbone, windowpane or pinstripe trousers were mixed with solid sport coats. Shades of brown and shades of blue were the most common semi-casual looks.
Accessories were more relaxed as well. A fedora hat could still be worn but wasn’t necessary. Contrasting brown leather belts and two tone brown and white or black and white shoes added to the semi casual style. A white dress shirt made the perfect backdrop for a bold splash of color with a striped necktie. However, a white pocket square was still worn in the breast pocket. The time for matching tie and pocket square was not ready to reappear in fashion just yet.
- Sport Coat: Blue Blazers
- Shirt: Dress Shirt Solid White or light blue
- Tie: Striped tie in blac/red
- Belt: See all Belts
- Pants: Men’s wide leg or classic fit trousers
- Shoes: Black/White shoes
1940s Men’s Casual Clothing
Taking casual to the next level means forgoing a suit or sport coat altogether. The dress shirt also disappears, and in its place is an open collar sport shirt in a solid color or big pattern. Sport shirts often had two large patch chest pockets, although a single pocket was possible. These types of shirts are not very common in our modern wardrobes. The closest match is usually a camp shirt or lounge shirt seen in summer fashion. Open collar shirts sold with matching dress pants called a “casual walking suit” is another option. The shirts are wide fitting with large collars — perfect for a 1940s look. The matching wide leg pants are great to have as well, although most casual men’s 1940s looks did not come in matching sets. Save the pants for another outfit and instead pick up a second pair of high-waist wide leg pleated trousers in the same color family as the shirt.
Accessorize the casual look with a brown leather belt. Textured belts in alternative leather like ostrich, alligator, or embossed scrap leather were necessary during the war years when good cowhide was rare. They were cheaper back then, but quite expensive today.
A note about suspenders. Some men continued to wear button on striped elastic suspenders in the early 1940s, but overall they were out of fashion. Belts were in style and more comfortable to wear. The choice is yours.
Finally, brown and white two tone shoes return for this casual look. Solid brown Oxfords could also be worn. Black looked best as a formal and semi-formal shoe option, while brown was best for casual styles.
- Shirts: Solid or striped camp collar shirts
- Belt: Narrow belt
- Pants: Brown Wide Leg Dress Pants
- Shoes: Brown and white wingtip shoes
1940s Zoot Suits
The iconic Zoot Suit associated with rebellious inner city youth and bootlegging gangsters is a favorite 1940s men’s style to dress in. The oversized suit jacket in large stripes and bright colors paired with wide and often peg legged pants for an exaggerated ’40s fashion statement.
The Zoot Suit could be worn with a plain dress shirt or open collar sport shirt, with or without a neck tie. Neckties could be flashy and wide, long and very skinny, or an oversized bow tie. There were few rules to Zoot fashion, other than to be the opposite of what classy men were wearing.
Suspenders or belts. A long single or double gold chain. Solid or two tone shoes. You can mix and match to your hearts content with Zoot fashion.
- Suit: Royal Blue Fashion Zoot Suit
- Shirt: Striped tie
- Suspenders: Y back suspenders
- Shoes: Black/White shoes
More Men’s 1940s Outfit Ideas
Create these 1940s men’s outfit ideas with this article.
Film Noir –
1940s Men’s outfits. Learn more about these here.
General Vintage Style
Read this article for tips and ideas on building a vintage inspired wardrobe.
Men’s Vintage Workwear
This article will guide you to the many 1940s workwear / working class clothing choices.
1940s Sailor Costume
Find sailor costumes for men here.
Read this article on summer/boating looks throughout the decades.
More 1940s costume ideas:
- WWII Uniform / Pilot – Choose a 1940s WWII uniform as your Halloween costume to compliment your Pinup partner. A vintage pilot costume is the most requested of all the uniforms.
- Vintage Baseball Uniform – Coach the Rockford Peaches or be baseball legend Babe Ruth in a 1930s -1940s striped vintage baseball uniform.
- Comic Superhero – Most comic superheroes were formed in the 1940s — Green Hornet, Superman, Dick Grayson, Captain America, Aquaman, Green Arrow, and many more. Join the superhero trend this year and be at home in the 1940s.
Read about dressing in tuxedos, dinner jackets and other formalwear.
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