Ever since I watched the Mad Men drama series and more recently the Velvet Colección series, I have been interested in men’s ’60s fashion. You too must be fascinated, because it is one of the most asked about decades in menswear history.
The 1960s had many fashion trends throughout the decade, starting with conservative carry over fashion from the 1950s, moving to the youth driven Mod style, and ending with the uber masculine ’70s dandy.
What did guys wear in the 60s?
There were several counter cultures, namely the hippie movement, but also the beatniks, surf culture, racing clothes, and Motown style. Each of these 60s men’s fashions are highlighted below with outfit suggestions and the links to find most of it online. What 60s men’s outfit will you choose?
Conservative Ad Men
During the early ‘60s, men were still dressing quite conservatively, certainly as far as business attire was concerned. For an example of men’s 1960s fashion suits and what men would wear to the office, you need only to look at the television phenomenon, Mad Men, where the first season starts in March 1960. Don Draper, played by the far too handsome Jon Hamm, is the perfect example of how a professional American man would dress.
Rather than opt for an English, European or Italian cut suit, Don Draper (or the costume department) preferred the classic American look, with a single-breasted sack jacket with narrow notch lapels, two buttons, and a single vent in the back.
When you add the typical early 1960s men’s hairstyle of a short back and sides with a side part, a clean professional image is the result.
- Choose a single-breasted two buttoned suit in a muted color (grey, blue, brown) in the boxy fit, not too slim or skinny.
- Add a plain textured skinny tie and white dress shirt (with French cuffs so you can wear cufflinks).
- Add a simple white pocket square folded in your breast pocket, perhaps a tie clip if you’re feeling fancy.
- And highly polished simple, black Oxford shoes.
- Complete the outfit with a nice felt stingy Fedora hat on your head.
- And a high-collared tan trench coat and you’ll be in charge of an advertising agency in no time.
Sports coats in big, bold prints and colors took over the grey flannel suit in the mid ’60s. At first, they were worn as semi-casual attire, but eventually they made their way to the office as young college grads entered the workforce and brought their anti-establishment fashion with them. Mixing the formal and informal with eye popping color and a slim fit is what many men’s professional fashions are modeled on today.
The sportcoat outfit:
- Sportocat or blazer in pastel colors (baby blue, pink), earth tones (mustard, brown, green) and/or prints (plaid, checks, windowpane, vertical stripes). Choose a slim fit or classic fit, not too tight and skinny, either single or double breasted.
- Trousers were dark solid colors if paired with a pattern jacket or a light colored pattern trousers with a solid color jacket. Mix and match colors- the more clashing, the better! Straight leg, medium high waist, with an ankle length for most of the 60s, flared legs by the very end of the 60s.
- Button down white dress shirt with dark solid skinny tie OR mock-neck/turtleneck knit shirt with a matching pocket square in the breast pocket or a scarf tied around the neck (late 60s look.)
- Shoes – slip on dress shoes, loafers, lace up Oxfords, or monk strap shoes/boots in dark brown or black.
Variations of the sport-coat look:
- Captain – A navy blue double breasted blazer with white or light grey trousers and white or yellow shirt (dressy or knit.) Optional captains yacht hat or straw boater hat.
- Boater – The classic boater suit returned in the 60s with vertical striped sports coat, skinny necktie, blue trousers, red or blue belt, white oxford shoes, and boater hat. A striped shirt could be worn instead of a sportscoat. See more about this timeless boater look.
Not all ’60s men’s fashions were started by the young kids. The middle age guys replaced suits and sport coats with cardigan sweaters and took up golfing at the club to socialize or relax after work. They wore this semi-casual look on the weekends, too, without the tie and with a polo shirt instead of a dress shirt. I call this the ’60s Dad outfit.
TV dads such as Jack Arnold in The Wonder Years and Rob Petrie from The Dick Van Dyke Show were no strangers to the after-work/weekend look.
Weekend / Golf Outfit
- Dress shirt and skinny tie (semi formal) or polo shirt in bright color (casual golfer). Knit mockneck shirts, tutlenecks, a striped t-shirts also welcome.
- Chunky or smooth knit cardigan sweater in a plain colors (mustard, brown, baby blue, green, orange, red, white) or with vertical panel stripes. Shirts usually matched or came in the same color family as the sweater. Pullover sweaters/jumpers were less common (cable knit, argyle, Nordic patterns) with a lot of texture. V neck sweater vests were also an option.
- Trousers were solid colors in cheerful pastels and primary colors in spring and summer. Plain dark colors for the rest of the year. Prints were also common, especially windowpane and small checks. Leather belts could be worn and shirts were always tucked into the pants.
- Shoes – Slip on loafers, fringe moccasins, lace up oxfords, and two tone golf shoes in brown, black or white.
- Hat – Optional straw or cloth bucket hat in a coordinating color. Stingy brim, pinch front straw fedora with striped band was also cool and classic.
Ivy League Style
One variation of the sweater outfit was the Ivy league student look. The Ivy Style was not a new look, but experienced a major revival in the ’60s.
Lettered cardigan sweaters or pullovers was were by the preppy kids on campus. Outside of school, the V Neck white tennis sweater or sweater vest with striped edges worn with white or blue trousers or shorts, dress shirt and tie (or knit shirt) was a popular “club” look for rich men. Everyone copied the Ivy Style in summer, whether they went to college or not. Black or white slip on shoes were worn with socks that matched the shirt.
The mid to late ’60s were full of very bright colors. It is what makes them fun to wear again. It also helps that many of the men’s 60s fashions have made the their way back into the mainstream, especially in Europe but somewhat in the USA, too.
Retro knit shirts, t-shirts, and polo shirts paired with slim fit trousers encompasses the typical ’60s casual look. The mock neck knit shirt was a favorite in the decade. The wide striped ringer t-shirt was also trendy with the young.
Pastel colored polo shirts and horizontal wide stripe knit shirts could never go out of fashion. The same could be said for plaid button down shirts with button down collars.
The camp shirt or retro bowling shirt, mostly associated with the 1950s, was even more popular in the early to mid 1960s. Vertical panels and stipes were especially trendy. Embroidered geometric designs on the left chest were also in style. All of these designer can be found again today.
Back to the dad look comes one of the worst (or horribly best?) fashions of the 1950s and 1960s. The Vacation Dad look had men dressed in button down solid shirts, Hawaiian camp shirts, or plaid pattern short sleeve shirts with high waist and long length pattern shorts, a woven belt, tall socks, and loafer shoes. The clash of patterns and colors with the very tall (often white) sport socks is one for the history books.
1960s teenage boys didn’t dress too differently than their dads, especially when going to school. They choose neutral color pants, button down vertical stripe or plaid shirts or pastel polo shirts, white socks, slip on loafers, bomber or gab jackets, pullover knit sweaters, and sportcoats. Private and Catholic schools were more formal (suit and tie) than public schools (shirt and trousers).
After school and on the weekends, it was all about the greaser look with casual- denim jeans (dark or light) with a button down shirt or striped T-shirt, colorblock sweaters and cardigans, pullover sweatshirts, denim jackets, varsity jackets, wayfarer sunglasses, canvas sneakers, and moto boots or penny loafers.
1960s Prom for Guys
Prom was a big deal in the ’60s. For men, it was a time to get away from the all black tuxedo and wear a notch or shawl collar white dinner jacket with black pants, white pleated tuxedo shirts, and skinny black bow tie. Bright blue or grey check suit coats were equally retro in the ’60s, either all matching or with black trousers. Formality was drifting out of fashion but prom, galas, and weddings gave men a chance to dress extra sharp for an evening. Shop men’s evening wear.
Less formal options for a cocktail party could be a neutral suit or solid color/small pattern sportscoat, shirt, tie and trousers.
Motown Music and Fashion with Soul
You simply can’t relive the ’60s without sitting back and relaxing to the soulful tunes of Motown singers. Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, The Isley Brothers, Marvin Gaye, and The Miracles were a few of the best Motown musicians — and they were fashionably dressed, to boot. Motown men’s fashion combined formalwear with the colors and details of the mod movement.
All black or all white suits were popular on stage, as they always had been, but younger groups embraced bold colors with contrasting trim and minimal design such as The Temptations’ mustard yellow one button suits with black trim, ruffled tuxedo shirts, butterfly bow ties, and shiny black boots. Other Motown performers sang and swayed in solid blazers and contrasting pants with white boots or two tone shoes. Chunky horn frame glasses were worn by a few dapper men with smooth or coiffed hair to compliment.
Sports car racing in the both the USA and UK found a new place in the 1960s to feature both futuristic race cars and futuristic fashion. Off the track racers wore corduroy pants, turtleneck shirts, suede gloves, and colored sueded leather jackets with moto boots. The on-track racing suits with the iconic ’60s retro stripes found their way onto cafe racer jackets, zip up shirt-jackets, sweaters, mechanic shirts, and even swim trunks. Real and wannabe Steve McQueen racers had plenty of choices to dress “cool.” Why not join them?
1960s Beatnik Boys
The Beat Movement was a popular youth subculture, attracting those with a creative disposition such as poets, writers, artists and musicians. The beatnik style was about dressing in a very simple and understated way. Similar to the Ivy League look, the beatnik style also came to life in the ‘50s, but it was the ‘60s where it really began to dominate.
Particularly popular in New York, Bob Dylan and Andy Warhol were the two beatnik poster boys, while The Beatles also became fans of the look with their turtleneck shirts. The beatnik style had a romantic allure and appealed to those that desired a more bohemian lifestyle, perhaps as a result of a strict upbringing.
The great thing about the beatnik style is how easy it is to achieve. All you need is a pair of narrow black pants, a Breton stripe t-shirt or a black turtleneck sweater, black shoes, wayfarer sunglasses and for an extra touch, a beret hat.
The most influential young men’s fashion came from Britain, where the mod look was everywhere. Various pieces of the mod look and especially the youthful and skinny mod fit became American staples: mock and turtle neck ribbed shirts, paisley or check print button down shirts, Sherpa vests, low rise trousers with wide belts, pea coats, nehru jackets, Melton caps, and shiny black Chelsea boots.
The Beatles were the icons of mod fashion. Everything they wore became trendy in the mid sixties. Beatlemania wasn’t just for girl fans — even the guys mimicked the clothing, although with a bit more causal American flair.
Over in Britain, young male adults were looking for a way to stand out and be different, led by the legendary British guitar band The Who and Brian Jones from The Rolling Stones. Influenced by the Ivy League look across the pond, they combined this with Italian fashions and the attire worn by movie stars such as the King of Cool himself, Steve McQueen.
Calling themselves Modernists or Mods for short, this youth sub-culture favored slim-fitting tonic and mohair suits with narrow pants and lapels, along with polo shirts, Oxford button-down shirts, chinos, argyle socks, Madras plaid shirts, and penny loafer shoes. They also turned to the military surplus stores for unissued M51 US army parkas to protect their clothes while racing around London on Italian Lambretta or Vespa scooters.
There was much more to Mod fashion in Britain that never quite fully made it to America. We’ll have an article on that coming soon.
On the beaches of southern California, Florida, Hawaii, and Australia, the new surf culture was emerging into the mainstream. The beach fashion for men included swim trunks in short hip huggers, mid thigh trunks, and the new longer board shorts. When not surfing, beach goers wore striped ringer T-shirts or windbreaker jackets in loud colors and prints. The original bell bottom pants were first beach pants with a drawstring waist and bell shape leg that opened up around the calf. They were made in psychedelic colors and flower power prints for the many young hippie-at-heart surfers.
For a summertime pool party outfit wear:
- 60s style swim shorts and Striped t-shirt
- Coordinated cabana set (shorts and shirt)
- Bell bottom pants, T-shirt, sunglasses, and Bucket hat. For shoes, consider simple canvas flat sneakers (Keds or Converse style)
1960s Hippie Guys
The constantly evolving Beatles could be considered early leaders of the hippie movement with their musical masterpiece, Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Released in June 1967 at the beginning of what became known as the ‘Summer of Love,’ it captured the mood rather well. Musical legend Jimi Hendrix was another exponent of this style, embracing outrageous patterns and prints, scarves, and bell-bottomed pants to create a truly distinctive image.
The 1960s hippie was a bit different from the earth tone, bell bottom clad ’70s hippie. Initially, ’60s hippies were pulling fashion pieces from thrift stores, ethnic boutiques, and military surplus shops. Their anti-fashion was mixed with current trends starting around 1967. Psychedelic colors and flower prints were in style for women, but men leaned toward adapting workwear, military jackets, and ethnic print shirts into an outfit layered with love beads and a daisy headband. Decorating jeans and shirts with tie-dye, patches, flags, and peace signs gave each outfit a unique and non-commercial look.
By 1969, the hippie look was entering the mainstream. Men could buy flared pants in flower pints, paisley shirts, suede vests, fringe jackets, and earth shoes in any local shop.
Moving and groovin’ closer to the 1970s, men’s fashion was in for a macho man takeover. The new look continued with bright colors and obnoxious prints but turned up the volume even more. They were called “Peacocks,” and rightly so for the over-the-top display of fashion not seen since the 19th century dandies. They borrowed fashion from women such as oversized shirt collars and neck scarves. Pant waists climbed back up to the middle with a slim, flat front to show off…everything.
Flared or bell legs were beginning to replaced the straight leg pant. Jumpsuits were now unisex. Denim was being made into everything from shirts to pants to jackets to even neckties. By 1969, the beginnings of the manly ’70s were taking hold, saying goodbye to the boyish mods.
While it is tempting to wear ’70s clothes to a ’60s party, they really don’t belong. If you are going to do it, go for the bold, the bright, the flamboyant! Striped flared pants, swirl print shirt, neckerchief, and dress boots. Leave the denim jeans and earth tone colors for the hippies – this is your time to strut your stuff.
Shop 1970s men’s clothes
60s Men’s Costumes
Sometimes all you need is an easy, cheap, ’60s costume for Halloween or fancy dress party. There are plenty of 60s /70s hippie costumes as well as British icons, The Beatles, Elvis, Austin Powers, Gomez Addams, and other popular movie characters.
Well that covers the 1960s menswear and mostly easy to re-create outfits. Need something else? Ask us for help anytime.
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.