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Men’s Fashion

1920’s Men’s Trousers

Trends were changing and spreading rapidly in a short period of time. However, most 1920’s men’s trousers appear to be very close from the classic suit trousers that we know today.

During the first half of the decade, trousers were very simple, straight and slightly narrow. The waistline dropped just below the belly button and would be worn with either a belt or suspenders. Creases down the front of the leg became popular for the first time, emphasising the silhouette. Cuffs were also added and could be seen a little bit shortened, drawing more attention to the shoe and sock coordination.

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The Yale University Whiffenpoofs of 1927. The cappella group embraces the fashions of the times with sharp, tailored three-piece suits.

As opposed to the previous decade, trousers were also worn as a separate from the suit jacket, creating a more individual and less conservative look.

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1924 Sydney Police Mugshot, Guiseppe Fiori  (found on vintage.es)  – mugshot that looks more like a catalogue picture!

 

1925 saw the arrival of Oxford Bags, broad, pleated trousers which were worn by undergraduates at the English University. These soon replaced the slim trousers worn by most most young men and the fashion for looser-fitting trousers would last until the advent of denim 30 years later. (1)

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Oxford Bags seen on the streets of Britain, 1920’s.

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1920’s Catalogue promoting the Oxford Bags to be worn by young students.

Oxford bags were not a new invention: for some time they had been worn by athletes as an alternative to golf trousers which had been banned in the classroom. The 28” wide bottoms of the Oxfords allowed the trousers to be pulled over the top of their illegal knickers. The original functional size of the hems soon became overlooked as Oxford Bags grew in size, sometimes up to 40” in diameter! Trend-setting Ivy League students brought the fashion home after their stays in Oxford and ordered more pairs from their tailors. (1)

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The comfortable functional aspect of the original 28-inch hems could be lost in grossly oversized versions as much as 40-inches in diameter. (1)

The dominance of loose trousers as city wear was, in fact, partly due to the rise in popularity of sport, in particular, golf. The fashionable golf trousers of the inter-war period were ‘plus-fours’, a version of the knickerbockers but with a fuller cut that allowed the fabric to fall 4” below the knees, thus giving them their name. Their success led the way for widely-worn suits that were ‘sporty’ though no longer worn exclusively for sport but also for strolls in the park on Sundays, for travelling and even by the young in town. (1)

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Two young men wearing knickerbockers, 1926.

Source:

(1) Men’s Fashion in the twentieth century. From frock coats to intelligent fibres, by Maria Costantino, 1997

1920’s Men’s Shirts

During the early 1920s, most men’s dress shirts had, instead of a collar, a narrow neckband with a buttonhole in both front and back. Detachable collars, which came in a variety of styles, were designed with two buttons so they could attach easily to the shirts. Men could choose a collar that was stiff, semi-stiff, or soft, with flaps that were pointed, rounded, or wing-style (stiff points that folded down in front, like today’s tuxedo shirt collars), Washable collars were made of fabric; others were made of celluloid and could be wiped clean with a damp cloth. (1)

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Detachable collars available to order, 1920s

The shirt collar was to be the subject of one of the most fiercely-debated issues in men’s clothing in the 1920’s. Was it supposed to be soft and attached permanently to the shirt or stiff and detachable? Supporters of the stiff collar saw it as the bastion against the slovenly, casual manner of dress, believed to be the ‘American’ style of dress, that they felt was undermining the ideals of British male elegance. At a time when the American economy was booming and America’s impact on European culture was growing, it is not surprising that many felt under threat. (2) 

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Detachable collars available to order, 1920s

By the middle of the 1920s, however, many men preferred shirts with attached collars – they were softer and much more comfortable than most of the rigid, detachable collars. (1)

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Ramon Novarro, 1920s

The soft collar won the day and became part of everyday wear. In summer it was even worn without a tie, unbuttoned and draped wide across the jacket lapels in what was known as a Byron collar. At night, where wing collars remained chic with tails, an attached, semi-stiff, turned-down collar found an ally in the dinner jacket or tuxedo. (2)

Sources:

(1) The 1920s (American Popular Culture Through History) by Kathleen Drowne and Patrick Huber, 2004

(2) Men’s Fashion in the twentieth century. From frock coats to intelligent fibres by Maria Costantino, 1997

1920’s Men’s Fashion – Introduction

In a time of great changes in Womenswear, designers were also introducing innovative styles and shapes that quickly became very popular for men.

August 12, 1924. “International Boys Leagues. Thomas W. Miles and Simon Zebrock of Los Angeles at White House.” National Photo Co. – Shorpy.com

Distinguished London designers, based in Bond Street and Savile Row, drawn the latest fashions to be followed by many men across Europe and the U.S., and new icons of style such as Edward, the Prince of Wales, set the ideals of British elegance.


Edward, the Prince of Wales, 1924 – Google


It was a decade of timeless fashion and contrasting aesthetics. New colours and patterns could now be found in the wardrobes of men who were willing to take the risk.

However, there was only one king in every 1920s men’s attire – the tweed!

1926 © Getty Image


In the next series of posts, I will be exploring these fantastic garments and accessories in detail – from the tailored suit to the popular bowler hat, which continue to be classic menswear pieces to this day. 

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