Trends in Menswear From the 1920s to the 2000s
The men’s market is booming. New luxury cult brands have caught the zeitgeist, capitalising on trends like blokecore, which is driving sales for items like wide-legged jeans and quilted cardigans.
Hedi Slimane helped usher in this new era with his razor-thin rock n roll androgynous aesthetic at Dior Homme. Meanwhile, e-commerce retailers are expanding their menswear offerings.
The 1920s – also known as the Jazz Age – brought with them prosperity and change, and the decade’s style reflected that. Men wore fuller shapes and more flowing fabrics, inspired by gangsters like the Peaky Blinders as well as European trends.
From three-piece suits – popularised by the Shelby family on the show – to flat caps, this is an era that continues to influence today’s fashion. Kent & Curwen, for example, have brought back baker boy hats after the Peaky Blinders phenomenon, while Cillian Murphy’s onscreen persona of Thomas Shelby has made high-waisted trousers fashionable again.
The 1930s saw a return to classical elegance and high quality fabrics. The popular bias cut, made famous by couturier Madeline Vionnet for evening gowns and underwear, produced slinky dresses that hugged the body and emphasised curves.
The Great Depression reduced couture clients and the lucrative business of licensing Paris models for sale in department stores dwindled. Huge duties were imposed on imported garments, but toiles (a muslin pattern with full directions) could be purchased duty free.
Clothes catalogues became more popular in America and the UK, allowing working women to spread the cost of Paris fashion. Short silk scarves and furs were worn for Menswear warmth and hats, such as fedoras and bowlers, finished the look.
The ’50s was an exciting time for men to be fashionable. From Cliff Richard urging us to move-it-and-a-groove in his Teddy Boy suit with a single-breasted drape jacket to Alex Turner clad in a Saint Laurent varsity jacket, there’s a certain 1950s rebellious charm that has lasted into our modern times.
Women’s fashion loosened up with silhouettes that were less fitted. Dior’s New Look replaced the boxy look from the war era with an hourglass shape that featured rounded shoulders and small waists.
Cigarette pants came up to a woman’s mid-calf and could be paired with tailored blouses that were tucked in. Small hats were also popular and added to the era’s playful style.
In the 1960s, young men challenged the conservative rules of masculine fashion. Informed by music, the news media and high culture, they forged a confident new identity.
Iconic mod girls wore short mini skirts and tall, brightly colored go-go boots with tight fitted sleeveless tunics and polo necked ribbed sweaters that revealed the midriff. Flared trousers and bell bottoms also emerged in the 1960s along with a style of beehive hair popularized by singer and actress Barbra Streisand.
For business attire, men favored a sport coat in contrasting colors. Early Ivy League styles of mismatched suit jackets and pants were replaced by suits with dark vests in bold patterns such as wide boater stripes, large plaids and windowpane checks.
The 1970s saw men embrace a more relaxed, hippie aesthetic. Wide-legged jeans and shirts with patterns like plaid prints were popular, as were long hair and beards.
The decade also saw the rise of khaki chinos, three-piece leisure suits and leather jackets. It was also the time for eye-catching colors and fabrics like velvet and corduroy, as well as the return of big shoulder pads.
Today’s men aren’t shy to channel the ’70s either. Look to wider-leg trousers as a welcome antidote to Love Island-esque circulation-sapping skinnies and pair them with sherpa jackets, roll neck Menswear sweaters and trainers. Suede is a go-to too, for that timeless rock ‘n’ roll vibe.
The 1980s were a decade where big meant better, with power dressing styles for men and women. Leggings, leotards and tights made from the new stretchy fabric of Lycra/spandex became a huge fashion trend in this period, inspired by Jane Fonda’s exercise videos (Fig. 1).
The punk-rock aesthetic from the late 1970s continued to evolve, with Madonna, MC Hammer and Boy George becoming style icons. British designer Vivienne Westwood brought a punk influence to her early collections.
The look of Miami Vice became popular on TV, with men wearing casual t-shirts under suits and loafers or even sneakers. Gold artificial nails and chunky eye-catching jewelry were also in fashion, paired with crimped or permed hair.
During the 1990s, men’s fashion was casual and non-conformist. Oversized tees, tie-dye and bandanas were popular among grunge fans inspired by bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Pair this trend with baggy jeans and Doc Marten combat boots for a tough throwback look.
A minimalist approach to style was also popular during this decade, particularly with slip dresses worn by Emma Bunton (aka Baby Spice from the Spice Girls). High-shine fabrics were a showstopper too, with velvet suiting being a favorite of Gwyneth Paltrow.
Lastly, snapback hats – first made famous by rappers – became a staple of streetwear. These flat-brimmed hats can be worn forward or backward and add a cool, retro feel to your outfit.
The 2000s were all about a mix of styles. Popular tv shows like Friends and SATC still influenced fashion but the style was more casual and laid back. Velour tracksuits became socially acceptable when paired with jeans and bandanas. A kind of boho style emerged in paisley patterns and asymmetrical tops.
Baker boy or newsboy caps took over trucker hats and were worn by celebrities. They sported a retro 1920s look and were also worn by nu metal fans or goths as a counterculture statement.
Menswear in the early part of the 2000s had a futuristic influence with black, silver and metallic trends. But after September 11, styles sobered and men wore smart casual clothing such as power suits and flannel shirts.
The 2010s saw the birth of streetwear-inspired wares, with brands like Stussy, Off-White and A Bathing Ape amassing cult followings. Meanwhile, Hedi Slimane was both a lightning rod for criticism and an immensely influential designer, reshaping cult label CELINE into a slim-fitting rockstar wardrobe of skinny jeans and pointed boots.
The decade also marked a watershed moment in the fashion industry, as designers made a commitment to inclusivity and diversity. Ashley Graham and Halima Aden became the first plus-size models to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated, while Rihanna unveiled a genderless lingerie collection for her Savage x Fenty line in 2016.
Finally, the fashion world came to grips with the idea that culture is political, with designers like Balenciaga and Gucci pushing a more overtly political agenda.