History of Men’s Vintage Sweaters
1920s men’s vintage sweaters were heavy chunky shaker knit and cable knit sweaters, either with roll collars in pullover styles or shawl collars for button up cardigans and pullovers. Colors were neutral in the early years while vivid fair isle, windowpane, geometric, and jacquard patterns appeared in the middle years. Brown with burgundy, blue with pea green, mustard yellow and green were common late ’20s colors. Learn about mens 1920s sweaters here.
1930s men’s vintage sweaters were all of the 1920s style but with a narrow knit and tighter fit. The length also reduced to meet the high rise of pants with a wide waistband to accentuate the natural waistline. The shawl collar lost favor to the crew or V neck pullovers and cardigans that zipped rather than buttoned. The quarter zip sweater as well as full zip in solid or two tone patterns were trendy with young collage men. Most sweaters, vests and cardigans were plain neutral colors so they could be layered with patterned suits, pants and jackets. The one new technique was the “knit-in” design that made a subtle pattern on the front or pocket.
1940s men’s vintage sweaters started off with the two tone pattern zip up sweater as the style leaders. Pullover sweater and cardigans added some dimension with wide ribbing. They also continued to reduce bulk with narrow slit pockets or no pockets. The sweater vest followed in the same styles, colors and patterns. The late 1940s saw prints return such as the fair isle, chevron stripe, animal, and airplane novelties added to the already popular windowpane and argyle patterns. Colors moved from neutrals to bright hues. Sweaters and pullover vests continued to be a big deal in the 1940s as a layering piece under sportscoats.
1950s men’s vintage sweaters were still very slim, but now preferred a high crew neck pullover or very deep V cardigan style in a longer length. Color choices exploded with baby blue, teal, red, yellow, and white coming into fashion. The shawl collar also returned in a pullover style. Novelty prints were out, but wintery Nordic patterns and Fair Isle sweaters remained trendy. The contrast trim cardigan also returned in the late ’50s with a low buttoning waist. Don’t forget that the Varsity or Letterman sweater ruled the schools (although the style began decades before).
1960s men’s retro sweaters and cardigans returned to a chunky home-spun texture such as mohair or thick fisherman knits, cable knits and ribbed knits. V necklines were the most popular with minimal edging. Crew necks and especially turtlenecks made a comeback as well in new mod colors- mustard yellow, lime green, and sea blue. By the end of the decade, the ultra-skinny sweater with geometric designs was a part of the Mod fashion and continued into the 1970s.
1970s men’s sweaters returned to some vintage cuts and patterns such as argyle cardigans, “Art Deco” geometric shapes, and crop pullovers (1930-1940s.) There was also a blending of jacket and sweater with suede elbow patches. The crew or roll neck ski sweater returned too with wide horizontal stripes. The belted safari jacket was made in knits, also a throwback to the 1930s bush jacket. Colors fit the 70s palate of clashing reds, green, yellows, and browns.
1980s men’s vintage sweaters were known as the ugly sweater decade. Usually oversized with funky patterns- abstracts, novelty characters, clashing colors and bizarre designs – they are trendy again if only for the laughable cool factor. Also, the Ivy look returned- white tennis sweater vests, pastels pullovers, knit vests and sweaters tied around the shoulders.
Men’s vintage sweaters make a comeback every year from one decade or the other. For 2020 they are revving the 60s and 80s bold patterns. What will the trend be for next year?