Men’s Fashion Trends of the 20th Century
The delineation between Menswear and Womenswear seems to be blurring with time. From the plethora of men shopping bespoke skirts originally intended for women to designers like Grace Wales Bonner juxtaposing gendered garments, the blurring of gender aesthetics is clear to see.
Menswear in the 19th century became a much more colourful and embellished affair than it had been before. This was primarily down to the introduction of elastics and man-made fabrics.
The 1930s were a decade of dramatic social and economic change. This impact created a new era of menswear that balanced style and necessity.
A popular style was the double-breasted 6 button dinner jacket with wide peaked lapels. High-waisted pants were often paired with the jacket to create a sleek look.
Sleeves were widening as well, including puff sleeves and butterfly sleeves at the shoulders as compared to the narrow V necks of earlier decades. This sleeve trend also included capelet sleeves at the elbows, a feature that gives a classy and elegant finishing touch.
The 1950s brought a new freedom to menswear. Playboy founder Hugh Hefner made silk dressing gowns a must-have for guys who wanted to emulate his style, and manufacturers churned out short robes in cottons, rayons and nylons.
Designers emerged from outside of Paris, and men embraced casual clothing as well. From letterman sweaters to match with suits Menswear for high school boys, to khaki bomber jackets for men working outdoors, the casual look broke open design constraints that had ruled for decades.
Shirt styles also broke into a more diverse array of shapes, fabrics and colors. Shirts with spread collar Cuban collars, roll necks and wide-tipped lapels came into their own; knit cotton shirts reminiscent of tennis star Rene Lacoste’s famous design crashed casual menswear.
The 1960s brought a new breed of menswear that challenged the staid rules of masculine etiquette. A mix of youthful dandy and mod styles emerged.
Shirts took on bolder colors and patterns from narrow to wide stripes, plaids, tartans, paisley and tiger skins. Even solid block colors were trendy at this time.
Trousers also took on an array of wild hues and stripes. They could be hemmed to the kneecaps or even shorter.
Accessories dominated outfits. Women wore bangles, chain belts and long fringed shawls that hung past their hips. Sheath dresses without defined waistlines teamed with western-style shirts and dirndl skirts. Nehru jackets made an impact. A flutter of white and silver PVC’moon girl’ suits debuted.
In contrast to the more tailored silhouettes of earlier eras, the 1970s saw men embrace bold extravagance. Severely unbuttoned shirts with wide lapels lent a phallic theme to outfits, while flared pants and cord suits emphasized the hips.
Women’s styles grew more feminine as well. Yves Saint Laurent crafted pantsuits that mimicked men’s style but had softer lines.
The 1970s also gave rise to belted sweaters that hugs the body tightly and have thin bands of color in their cuffs and sleeves. This homespun look is a great way to add a touch of funk to a modern wardrobe. Especially when paired with suede chelsea boots.
The 1980s gave men a range of choices for their casual wardrobe. Track suits were popular along with v-neck sweaters and polyester or velour polo shirts. Sports jerseys and jeans were also widely worn.
Pop culture was also a major influence in this decade. Ripped jeans, snapbacks and gold chains were popular among youths inspired by music artists and films like The Breakfast Club.
New York designers like Perry Ellis, whose peppy clothing introduced a more sophisticated look to menswear, enjoyed worldwide recognition. London fashion designers like Katharine Hamnett, PX, BodyMap and Crolla gained a following for their avant-garde styles. These designs were later picked up by savvy pop stars and the general public.
As the 90s came to an end, baggy jeans were a popular fashion statement amongst teens and skateboarders. Often worn slung low over a t-shirt, they swallowed shoes and trailed on the floor like giant denim sponges. A fusion of formal and casual, this style was championed by characters on Dawson’s Creek and Brad Pitt.
Meanwhile, preppy fashion experienced a resurgence with Ralph Lauren promoting its laid-back take on Americana. This style was less dandified than its 1980s counterpart, favouring khaki chinos and polo shirts. It was also common to see men wearing navy blue blazers with gold buttons bearing their family crest. In contrast, bright colors started to make a comeback.
In the 2000s, it was all about showing off your legs and waist with cargo pants worn with a pair of sandals or sneakers. Layering tank tops with a coordinating color was also popular. Add some bandanas and sunnies for good measure. This style was also a favorite of girl bands and pop singers.
The 2000s saw a rise in rap-inspired gangster style. It was a fad that inspired many men to dress men’s clothing supplier like their favorite rappers and hip-hop artists.
Bling became synonymous with rappers, and their flashy accessories were seen on the wrists of Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian. Today, bling can be found on tracksuits made by Juicy Couture.
The 2010s saw the emergence of influencer culture. The popularity of fashion blogs facilitated the spread of styles that, whilst perhaps not always tasteful, remained memorable and culturally significant.
Galaxy tights, wedge sneakers and handlebar mustaches all had their moment, while the 2010s also saw a rise in normcore. This trend was characterised by a resurgence of 1990s style, most clearly illustrated by Hedi Slimane’s rock’n’roll look for Saint Laurent (later YSL) and picked up on by labels such as Isabel Marant.
Skinny jeans rose in popularity as well. Streetwear-inspired brands like Stussy, A Bathing Ape and Off-White gained cult followings. This influenced luxury houses, with Karl Lagerfeld using technicolor sneakers at his Chanel couture show.