1920s Men's Fashion | Great Gatsby Style

1920s Men's Fashion | Great Gatsby Style

Written by Ben Chuang

The 1920s marked a significant shift in men's fashion, reflecting the dynamic cultural and societal changes of the Jazz Age. Emerging from the aftermath of World War I, this era brought about a newfound sense of liberation and prosperity, influencing every aspect of life, including clothing styles.

Men's fashion in the 1920s was characterized by a departure from the rigid sartorial norms of the past, embracing a more relaxed and flamboyant aesthetic compared to formal three-piece suits in the past eras. This period saw the rise of the iconic flapper style for women, while men embraced tailored suits, daring patterns, and innovative accessories that epitomized the spirit of the Roaring Twenties.

With the dawn of the 1920s came a revolution in men's attire, challenging traditional notions of masculinity and propriety. The era witnessed a departure from the stiff, structured garments of the Victorian and Edwardian periods, as men embraced looser silhouettes and bolder fashion choices.

Source: "1920s in Western Fashion." Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation.

From the rise of the zoot suit to the prominence of fedora hats and two-tone shoes, 1920s men's fashion was a celebration of individuality and self-expression. This article delves into the rich tapestry of styles that defined the fashion landscape of the 1920s, exploring the key trends, influences, and iconic looks that continue to resonate in modern menswear in contemporary styles such as the old money aesthetic.

What's Unique About 1920s Mens Fashion

The 1920s witnessed a transformative period in men's fashion, characterized by a departure from the conservative styles of the previous decades and the embrace of a more daring and flamboyant aesthetic.

Source: Whitehead, F. A., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Emerging from the aftermath of World War I, society experienced a newfound sense of liberation and prosperity, influencing fashion trends across the globe. One of the most significant changes was the decline of formal wear and the rise of more casual and comfortable clothing options.

The iconic silhouette of men's fashion in the 1920s was the suit, albeit with notable modifications from its predecessors. Suits became more relaxed in fit, featuring jackets with wider lapels and trousers with wider legs.

The traditional three-piece suit remained popular, but with a looser and more comfortable feel. Fabrics also underwent changes, with lightweight materials such as tweed and wool being favored for their versatility and comfort.

 Source: Artist unknown. Fashion Plate, 1920-1939. New York: Costume Institute Fashion Plates.

In addition to changes in silhouette and fabric, patterns and colors also played a significant role in defining 1920s men's fashion. Bold patterns like plaids, checks, and stripes became increasingly popular, adding a sense of vibrancy and individuality to men's wardrobes. Colors ranged from classic neutrals like navy and grey to more daring hues such as pastels and jewel tones, reflecting the celebratory spirit of the era.

Accessories were another key component of 1920s men's fashion, serving as embellishments that enhanced the overall look. The fedora hat emerged as a staple accessory, adding a touch of sophistication to any ensemble.

Other accessories included pocket watches, cufflinks, tie clips, and collar pins, which added personality and flair to men's outfits for special occasions. Although collar pins are no longer as fashionable, they can still be worn in certain occasions.

Overall, 1920s men's fashion represented a break from tradition and a celebration of individuality and self-expression. The era's styles reflected the dynamic cultural shifts of the Jazz Age, as men embraced a more relaxed and carefree approach to dressing.

While the influence of 1920s fashion waned in the following decades, its impact continues to be felt in modern menswear, serving as a testament to the enduring legacy of this iconic era in fashion history.

Great Gatsby 1920s Mens Fashion

Great Gatsby 1920s men's fashion epitomizes the essence of Jazz Age glamour, sophistication, and opulence, drawing inspiration from F. Scott Fitzgerald's iconic novel and the extravagant parties depicted within its pages. At the forefront of this fashion era are impeccably tailored suits, meticulously crafted to convey a sense of refined elegance and confidence.

Source: Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-00103, via Wikimedia Commons

The suits of the era typically featured loose-fitting jackets with wide lapels and padded shoulders, creating a relaxed yet dignified silhouette that was emblematic middle class men of the time. Trousers accompanying these suits boasted high waists and wide legs, a departure from the more constrictive styles of previous decades, offering wearers both comfort and style in equal measure.

When it came to fabric choices, the emphasis was on luxury and texture. Fine materials such as wool, tweed, and silk were favored for their sumptuous feel and exquisite drape, adding depth and richness to the garments.

Men sported bold patterns and bright colored double breasted suits, with options ranging from timeless neutrals like black and grey to rich, jewel-toned hues such as burgundy and emerald green. These choices reflected the exuberance and vitality of the era, capturing the spirit of a generation that embraced life with fervor and abandon.

Photographer unknown. France, Horse racetrack, 1926. 

Accessories played a pivotal role in completing the Great Gatsby look, serving as the finishing touches that elevated the ensemble to new heights of sophistication. The iconic fedora hat, with its sleek silhouette and distinguished presence, became synonymous with the style of the era, adding an air of debonair charm to any outfit.

Other essential accessories included silk ties or bow ties in bold colors or intricate patterns, cufflinks embellished with precious stones in solid colors or intricate designs, pocket squares crafted from fine silk or linen, and leather Oxfords or brogues polished to a high shine.

Navy pocket square

Furthermore, grooming and attention to detail were paramount in achieving the quintessential Great Gatsby look. Hairstyles were carefully coifed, with slicked-back hair or meticulously styled waves exuding an aura of refinement and sophistication for formal occasions.

Grooming essentials such as pocket watches, tie pins adorned with precious gems or intricate designs, and impeccably manicured nails were additional elements that added an extra layer of polish and elegance to the ensemble.

In essence, Great Gatsby 1920s men's fashion is a masterful fusion of luxury, extravagance, and meticulous attention to detail. From tailored suits crafted from the finest twill to iconic accessories that exude sophistication, this style embodies the glamour and allure of the Jazz Age, capturing the essence of an era defined by excess, opulence, and boundless possibility.

Peaky Blinders Fashion vs 1920s Mens Fashion

Peaky Blinders men's fashion, as depicted in the popular television series set in the early 20th century, shares some similarities with 1920s men's fashion while also incorporating distinct elements that set it apart.

Both styles evoke the essence of the post-World War I era, characterized by societal upheaval and rapid cultural change. However, there are notable differences in the specific details and overall aesthetic.

In terms of similarities, both Peaky Blinders fashion and 1920s men's fashion embrace tailored suits as the cornerstone of the wardrobe. These suits typically feature structured jackets with wide lapels and trousers with varying degrees of width, reflecting the evolving trends of the time.

Additionally, both styles emphasize the use of accessories to elevate the overall look, including hats, pocket watches, and cufflinks, which add sophistication and polish to the ensemble.

Where Peaky Blinders fashion diverges from traditional 1920s men's fashion is in its more rugged and working-class aesthetic. The characters in the show often wear three-piece pinstripe suits with flat caps or newsboy caps, reflecting their industrial backgrounds and gritty lifestyles.

Additionally, the color palette in Peaky Blinders men wore fashion tends to be darker and more subdued, with earthy tones like brown, grey, navy blue, and black predominating, in contrast to the vibrant hues and bold patterns often seen in 1920s men's fashion.

Furthermore, Peaky Blinders fashion incorporates elements of military-inspired attire, such as overcoats, waistcoats, and trench coats, reflecting the influence of the Great War on men's fashion during the post-war period. This militaristic aesthetic adds a rugged edge to the overall look, distinguishing it from the more polished and refined patent leather shoes of the Jazz Age.

In summary, while Peaky Blinders men's fashion shares some commonalities with 1920s men's fashion, including tailored suits and attention to accessories, it also incorporates unique elements that reflect the gritty realism of the time and the specific cultural milieu of the characters depicted in the series.

Despite these differences, both styles capture the essence of the post-war era and continue to inspire fashion enthusiasts and historians alike.

Outfit Elements of Roaring 20s Fashion

Tailored Suits

Source: "File:Edward Beale McLean.Jpg." Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation.

When aiming for a 1920s-inspired look, suits serve as the foundation of your attire. Choose tailored suits with form-fitting suit jackets that boast wide lapels and broad shoulders. These features were characteristic of the era's fashion, exuding both elegance and confidence.

Opt for bold colors like navy blue, burgundy, or forest green, or classic patterns such as check or pinstripe suits to capture the essence of the time. Additionally, consider adding a vest or waistcoat in a contrasting color or pattern for added sophistication and visual interest to pad those broad shoulders. Lightweight fabrics like wool or tweed are ideal choices, providing both comfort and versatility for various occasions.

Proper Dress Shirts

closeup of white dress shirt fabric and semi-spread collar

A proper dress shirt is equally crucial in achieving an authentic 1920s look. Invest in crisp white dress shirts with a soft collar and French cuffs, as these were staples of men's fashion during the era. Subtle patterns like stripes or checks can also be incorporated for added interest, but ensure the fit is impeccable, with sleeves ending at the wrist and the collar sitting comfortably around the neck.

High-quality materials like cotton or linen should be prioritized for their breathability and durability, ensuring both comfort and style. Take a deeper dive into the topic of different collar styles.

Waistcoats and Vests

Source: "1920s in Western Fashion." Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 31 Mar. 2024.

Adding a waistcoat or vest to your ensemble not only enhances the aesthetic appeal but also provides an extra layer of warmth and sophistication. Opt for waistcoats in contrasting colors or patterns to create visual interest and elevate your look.

Ensure the waistcoat fits snugly around the torso without pulling or gaping, and experiment with textures like silk or wool to add depth to your outfit. Whether worn under a smoking jacket or as a standalone piece, a well-chosen waistcoat can truly elevate your 1920s-inspired ensemble.

High Waist Trousers

Source: "1920s in Western Fashion." Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 31 Mar. 2024.

Trousers play a crucial role in achieving the iconic silhouette of 1920s fashion. Opt for trousers with a high waist and wide legs, characteristic of the era's style. Choose fabrics like wool or tweed in navy blue, gray, or black for their durability and comfort, ensuring proper fit with trousers grazing the tops of the shoes and no excess fabric pooling at the ankles.

Pleated fronts can add class in formal occasions, while flat-front trousers offer a sleeker silhouette. Paying attention to these details ensures that your trousers complement the rest of your outfit seamlessly.

Knitted Sweaters

Source: "1920s in Western Fashion." Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 31 Mar. 2024.

Layering with knit sweaters adds both warmth and style to your 1920s-inspired look. Opt for lightweight materials like wool or cashmere, and experiment with patterns like argyle or Fair Isle for a touch of vintage charm.

Neutral colors such as grey, navy, or brown complement your suit and skinny-fit shirt effortlessly. Ensure the sweater fits comfortably over the dress shirt without being too tight or too loose, providing both comfort and sophistication for any occasion.

Hats & Caps

Source: William Orpen, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Complete your 1920s-inspired ensemble with a classic fedora hat, adding a final touch of sophistication and flair. Choose a hat in a neutral color like black, grey, or tan, and experiment with different brim widths and crown heights to find a style that suits your face shape.

Consider adding a contrasting band or feather for added visual interest. Proper fit is essential, ensuring the top hat itself sits comfortably on the head without being too tight or too loose, completing your look with finesse.

Appropriate Accessories

Accessorizing with ties and pocket squares adds personality and charm to your 1920s-inspired attire. Opt for silk ties or bow ties in vibrant colors or bold patterns, coordinating them with your suit and collared shirt for a cohesive look.

Complete your outfit with a silk pocket square in a complementary color or pattern, experimenting with different folds and placements to add visual interest to your jacket pocket. These accessories serve as the finishing touches that elevate your ensemble, capturing the essence of 1920s fashion with finesse.

Dressy Shoes

In the 1920s, men's dress shoes underwent a transition towards more practical and versatile styles while still maintaining a sense of sophistication and elegance. Oxfords and brogues were among the most popular choices, featuring leather uppers and sturdy soles for durability and comfort. These lace-up shoes came in various colors, with classic shades like black and brown being the most prevalent.

Wingtip detailing and perforations, characteristic of brogues, added a touch of refinement to the footwear. Additionally, two-tone shoes became fashionable with black dress socks, featuring contrasting colors on the upper and lower portions of the shoe. Overall, younger men's shoes in the 1920s combined practicality with style, reflecting the evolving fashion sensibilities of the era.

Casual Wear for Men in the 1920s

In contrast to the formal styles prevalent in the earlier decades, casual clothing options for younger men in the 1920s underwent a notable evolution, reflecting the changing social norms and attitudes of the time.

The era marked a departure from the strict sartorial conventions and formal occasions of the past, as men embraced a more relaxed and carefree approach to dressing, influenced by the newfound sense of liberation and prosperity following WWI.

Source: Bell, Charles Bertram, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

One hallmark of casual attire in the 1920s was the adoption of sportswear-inspired garments for everyday wear. This shift was driven in part by the increasing popularity of leisure activities such as golf, tennis, and yachting, which necessitated attire that was both functional and fashionable.

Younger men began to favor comfortable and practical clothing options, such as knitted sweaters, cardigans, and polo shirts, which offered freedom of movement while still maintaining a sense of style.

Another defining feature of casual dress in the 1920s was the influence of the burgeoning film industry and Hollywood's leading men. Screen icons like Douglas Fairbanks and Harold Lloyd popularized a more relaxed and effortless style characterized by open-necked shirts, rolled-up sleeves, and wide-legged trousers.

Source: "1920s in Western Fashion." Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 31 Mar. 2024.

Their on-screen personas exuded a sense of adventure and masculinity that resonated with audiences, inspiring men to emulate their casual yet dashing look in their everyday lives.

Furthermore, the increasing popularity of outdoor pursuits like camping, hiking, and picnicking also influenced casual dress in the 1920s. Practical yet stylish garments such as khaki trousers, business casual shirts, and canvas jackets became wardrobe staples for men engaging in outdoor activities.

These garments were designed to withstand the rigors of outdoor adventures while still maintaining a sense of refinement and sophistication.

Overall, casual dress in the 1920s represented a shift towards comfort, practicality, and self-expression, as men embraced a more relaxed and individualistic approach to fashion.

Whether influenced by sporting activities, Hollywood icons, or outdoor pursuits, the business casual attire of the era reflected the changing attitudes and lifestyles of a generation younger men that sought to break free from the constraints of tradition and embrace the spirit of the modern age.

Male Fashion Icons of the 1920s

Source: "Rudolph Valentino." Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 15 Mar. 2024.

The 1920s saw the rise of several male fashion icons whose style and charisma captivated the masses and left a lasting impact on the trends of the time. One such icon was the legendary silent film actor, Rudolph Valentino, whose suave and sophisticated demeanor made him a symbol of masculinity and allure.

Valentino's preference for tailored suits with wide lapels and impeccably styled hair set the standard for men's fashion during the era, influencing countless individuals to emulate his debonair look.

Another influential figure of the 1920s was the iconic jazz musician, Duke Ellington. As a bandleader and composer, Ellington not only revolutionized the world of music but also left an indelible mark on men's fashion with his sartorial elegance.

Source: "Duke Ellington." Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 17 Mar. 2024.

Known for his impeccable taste in suits, Ellington favored bold colors and intricate patterns, often accessorizing with fedora hats and pocket squares to complete his ensemble. His sophisticated yet daring style served as a source of inspiration for many, shaping the trends of the Jazz Age.

In addition to Valentino and Ellington, other male fashion icons of the 1920s included the enigmatic author, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and the charismatic aviator, Charles Lindbergh.

Fitzgerald's portrayal of the dashing Jay Gatsby in his novel "The Great Gatsby" epitomized the glamour and decadence of the era, while Lindbergh's adventurous spirit and rugged charm made him a symbol of modern masculinity. Together, these figures embodied the spirit of the Roaring Twenties and influenced men's fashion in profound ways.

"F. Scott Fitzgerald." Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 1 Apr. 2024.

The influence of these male fashion icons extended beyond their individual personas, shaping the trends of the time and inspiring men from all walks of life to embrace a more refined and expressive approach to dressing.

From tailored suits and fedora hats to daring patterns and accessories, the style of the 1920s was defined by a sense of sophistication and confidence that continues to resonate in modern menswear. Ultimately, the legacy of these fashion icons serves as a testament to the enduring allure of 1920s fashion and its impact on the world of style and culture.

Cultural Impact of 1920s Fashion

The legacy of 1920s fashion continues to exert a profound influence on contemporary fashion trends, shaping the way we dress and express ourselves today. One of the most enduring legacies of 1920s fashion is its celebration of individuality and self-expression.

Source: "1920s in Western Fashion." Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 31 Mar. 2024.

The era marked a departure from the rigid sartorial norms of the past, as men and women embraced a more relaxed and daring approach to dressing. This spirit of experimentation and liberation continues to inspire modern designers and fashion enthusiasts, who seek to push boundaries and redefine traditional notions of style.

Additionally, the 1920s introduced several key garments and accessories that remain staples of contemporary fashion. The iconic silhouette of the era, characterized by loose-fitting suits, wide-legged trousers, and drop-waist dresses, continues to influence the design of modern clothing.

Elements such as bold patterns, vibrant colors, and luxurious fabrics are often incorporated into contemporary collections, paying homage to the glamour and sophistication of the Jazz Age.

Moreover, the influence of 1920s fashion extends beyond clothing to include hairstyles, makeup, and accessories. The sleek, bobbed hairstyles favored by women during the era have experienced a resurgence in popularity in recent years, while makeup trends inspired by the flapper aesthetic, such as bold lipstick and smokey eyes, remain timeless classics.

Accessories like fedora hats, statement jewelry, and embellished headbands also continue to add flair and personality to modern ensembles, serving as nods to the glamorous spirit of the Roaring Twenties.

Furthermore, the legacy of 1920s fashion is evident in the ongoing fascination with the era's cultural icons and landmarks. Films, literature, and art from the 1920s continue to inspire designers and creatives, who draw inspiration from the aesthetic and ethos of the time.

From the iconic style of silent film stars like Rudolph Valentino and Louise Brooks to the lavish parties depicted in F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby," the glamour and allure of the Jazz Age continue to captivate imaginations and influence contemporary fashion.

In summary, the legacy of 1920s fashion is multifaceted and far-reaching, encompassing both aesthetic elements and a broader range of cultural influences. From its celebration of individuality and self-expression to its enduring impact on contemporary design, the fashion of the Roaring Twenties continues to shape the way we dress and perceive style in the modern world.

Frequently asked questions about men's 1920s fashion

What did the men wear in the 1920s?

In the 1920s, men commonly wore suits that featured a high-waisted jacket with wide lapels, paired with matching trousers. These suits were often made of wool or tweed fabric, and they were tailored to have a boxy silhouette.

Men also sported dress shirts with detachable collars, ties, and sometimes vests or waistcoats. Accessories like fedora hats, pocket watches, and leather shoes completed the ensemble.

How to dress like the 1920s for men?

To dress like the men of the 1920s, opt for a tailored suit with a loose-fitting jacket and wide-legged trousers. Look for suits in classic colors like a dark navy suit or blue, grey, or brown, and consider adding a vest for an authentic touch.

Pair your suit with a white dress shirt featuring a detachable collar, and tie it with a skinny tie or a bow tie. Complete the look with a fedora hat, leather Oxfords or brogues, and a pocket watch for added flair.

What is Roaring 20's attire?

Roaring 20's attire typically consists of dapper suits with wide lapels and high-waisted trousers, reminiscent of the fashion trends of the Jazz Age. Men can embrace this style by opting for tailored suits in bold colors like white or navy blue and classic patterns like pinstripes or checks, as well as more colorful shirts.

Accessories such as fedora hats, suspenders, and pocket squares add authenticity to the ensemble. Embrace the spirit of the era by paying attention to details like cufflinks and tie pins for a polished look.

What do you wear to a 20s party?

Attending a 20s party calls for channeling the fashionable flair of the Jazz Age. Men can make a statement by donning a sharp suit with wide lapels and pleated trousers, preferably in vibrant hues or classic patterns.

Consider accessorizing with a fedora hat, suspenders, and a pocket watch to capture the essence of the era. Complete the look with leather Oxfords or brogues, and don't forget to add a touch of personality with a stylish tie or bow tie.

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