Skip to content
Home > The Story Of Menswear

The Story Of Menswear

We’ve stated that time and again Menswear is ruled by tradition and history. Everyone in the field of men’s fashion (designer or stylist, editor and more) has gotten in the inspiration of past generations in one way or an additional time. No time period has been left unnoticed.

So, as we continue to look at the basis of style and personal taste I’m thinking we should take a look at the past hundred years of men’s fashion. Perhaps this can provide some insight or context on how menswear changes and, more important, how we can make educated choices regarding buying clothes and developing our your own personal fashion.


In the 19th century, as it came to an end, men began to shake off the Victorian influence, which included tophats, frock coats and pocket watches, while also using walking sticks. It may appear to be an extravagant and restricting way to dress however it was an important move towards the right direction, considering that the Georgian period that followed was characterized by feathers, pantyhose, and high-heeled shoes. It was a thought that you were an “dandy”.

1900s TALL and LONG, as well as LEAN.

As we entered the 1900s, clothing for men was largely practical and insignificant. The lean, long and athletic silhouette of late 1890s was still in fashion and the tall stiff collars were typical of the time. Three-piece suits that included an apron coat and matching trousers and waistcoat were worn and matched coats and waistcoat with contrast pants, or a matching pants and coat with contrasting waistcoats. Sounds familiar, right? Trousers were longer than they were previously, had “turn-ups” also known as “cuffs” and were creased both front and back using the new trouser press.

Following the end of World War II (which included a number of designs for men’s clothing that remain in use today, including cargos and trench coats) businesses began to expand and Americans were able to spend more. The increased money enabled people to travel further and expand their horizons in terms of culture and visually. Many of them crossed over the Atlantic and traveled to England or France. Naturally, they returned with suitcases filled with the latest fashions that were being seen in other countries.

Of all the nations, England had the most influence on American males’ clothing. In the 1920s, American college students began to put the finishing touches on the pieces worn by the famous Oxford University, including button-down tops, natural-shouldered jackets regimental ties and bright socks made of argyle. In addition it was said that the Prince of Wales who was later The Duke of Windsor was the world’s most renowned and influential male fashionista. Through newsreels, newspapers and magazines, the elegant Prince became the first global “style iconic” and was widely known and respected for his exquisite fashion sense in clothes. He was a true trend-setter for everyday people, and for the first time in the history of fashion that advertisers used a famous face to market their products, while shamelessly advertising their products “as as worn to by Prince”.

1930S The height of ELEGANCE

The beginning of the 1930s was the time of the Great Depression. While the average person couldn’t afford to indulge in the world of fashion, they would enjoy watching the style options of people who had the money. Hollywood films from the Silver Screen became a beacon to the working class man of this time. Both genders watched with admiration and desire to glamorously dressed actors like Fred Astaire, Clark Gabel, Cary Grant, and Gary Cooper.

In the 1930s, the American style was at its highest surpassing the taste of any European nation. It was a time in which American men were proud of the clothes they wore and the image that they projected. This was the time when men wore certain rules of conduct and manners. These “menswear rules” that we frequently use to refer to, were written in the period of this time.

“For the first time, American men recognized that clothes is not meant to conceal the natural lines that define the human body. It is instead, to be a perfect fit with these lines, which in turn enhances the masculine physique. In the same way clothing should not appear too evident. They should instead be a part of the person who was wearing the clothes. The purpose of wearing clothes was not to mark the person apart (as had been the custom over the years, when nobles and kings dressed in a particular way for the purpose of doing so) but rather to permit him to be a distinct individual within the group of individuals. …. Americans were finally able to realize that the purpose of a good outfit was to flatter , not to make you appear more prominent.” Alan Flusser

1940S The birth of ready-to-wear

At the conclusion the war in World War II, American men were a bit more swayed from the strict standards and the basic rules of formal dress that were that were established in the 1930s. One reason for this was the shifts in the workplace as well as the decrease of formality and formal attire in the daily lives. In the face of lower demand, the cost of tailoring services was increased which enabled the mass manufacturing of menswear as the norm for everyday wear. The period also was the time when mass-produced ready-to-wear clothes in America from a number of brands that still sell clothes in the United States today.

There were both positives and negatives with these new methods that were mass produced. On one hand basic clothing was more affordable and easier to access than ever before. However there was less choice in the fashions available. Even more important, major clothing companies recognized (just like car makers) it was possible to boost sales by offering new styles each season, and even each season. This was the beginning of what is known as the “trend trend cycle” in retail. It was created by the clothing industry to increase profits and was later then propagated by magazines and also in order to make more money.

In the end, this strategy of marketing pushed the customer more away from “ideals of classic clothing” developed in the 1930s. These focused on picking long-term pieces that fit the figure. The goal of the clothiers were to make it difficult for the buyer to “re-invent him” by buying “new designs” that were “in trend”. Sales increase regardless of the long-term viability or style.

1950S The era of conformity

The 1950s were considered to be the Age of Conformity. Men returning from the military were eager to be a part of the society. Being accepted and “looking like the professionals” required a slick Ivy League look, which was the most popular style for menswear. Style and individuality was not a priority. The idea was to appear “part of the group” wearing an oxford shirt, a boxy sack suit the oxford shirt and loafers, and rep tie. This was a huge increase for the mass Ready-to-Wear companies who were happy to sell the same poorly-fitting tweed jackets for any young man looking to appear competent and workable.

In addition in the 1950s, we saw the appearance of synthetic fabrics such as nylon and rayon. This added another benefit in the bottom line of the manufacturers of clothing who were able to save a significant amount on the price of fabrics, and also create clothes that were thought to be “more durable and easier to clean”. In the end, synthetic fabric is a disaster for clothes for men, particularly in suits. The natural fibers always are the best.

The fashion of the time was defined by classic grey suits and simple accessories (hat pocket square, hat martini, and cigarettes) to suit everybody.


The 60s was the period of rebellion and unrest against the establishment and conservatism that was popular throughout the 1950s. The fashion of clothing reflected this change particularly among the young who were more interested in the individuality and self-expression than traditional fashions based on traditional “rulebook”. The fashion industry was able to catch on to the new trend of young people, and offered many designs. The stores had more options than ever before. It was the beginning of an “anything is possible” period, in which the thing that mattered most was not the clothes was on your body, but rather what you didn’t wear.

This began to be the time fathers started asking their sons for guidance. It was the first time in history that mature men were looking younger and relaxed. This fashion, naturally has only pushed us further from the norms of style and elegance, which were established in the 1930s.


The 1970s of the early era were the continuation of late 1960s hippie rebel style. For males, this was a particular reference to bell bottom jeans as well as tie dye shirts and military surplus clothes. The most sought-after accessories of the 1970s were men’s homemade and included headbands, necklaces and bracelets made using all-natural materials like hemp, wood and leather.

Men started to wear fashionable three-piece suits (which came in an array of shades) that were distinguished by large lapels, wide legged pants, or flared ones as well as waistcoats with high-rise. The neckties grew wider and more bold and collars for shirts became tall and pointed when the “disco Funk” was the fashion of the day.

1980s: Power Dressing

In the 1980s, things became more serious with wide shoulders that framed power ties and suspenders. The bold color palette and graphic patterns brought a renewed sense of national pride and businessmen began fashion, focusing on expensive clothes and flashy accessories.


It could be the most un-dressed decade of all. The style of the 1990s was the catalyst for radical changes across the globe that saw the first acceptance of body piercings, tattoos, and tattoos. The result was the return of the casual style of fashion that was non-conformist and led to the rise in the informal chic style that included T-shirts distressed jeans, huge jackets and trainers. “Business Casual” is also being used because corporate offices tend to be less formal, causing the outfit to grow bigger and more ugly than ever.


The fashion of men’s clothing in the 2000s was heavily influenced by hip-hop culture for youngsters, as well as European “slim fitting” clothing for older gentlemen. The suits began to slim and slim down as it became more slim and “European cut” became a sought-after style in America in the sense that it became difficult to find shops that didn’t have “slim cut”. The internet helped men to get educated about their clothes and share their views among fellow fashion enthusiasts. We witnessed the birth of the first blogs for men and this one was launched in the year 2009.

2010S The Evolution of Style ONLINE

The decade of 2010 has seen the development of the “fashion superstar”. Fashion bloggers are now mainstream. On one side, fashion has become accessible to public, and bloggers are producing a wider range of fashions, reviews, as well as opinions, than they ever have. On the other hand the people who are being scrutinized are naturally pushed to work harder and more difficult to make a mark in the crowd. “Peacocking” was a popular menswear term in the beginning of the decade, referring to “trying too difficult” however, males have generally become at ease with subtle, refined style.

The time also witnessed the wide acceptance of shopping online. Fashion lovers across the globe are now able to access the largest selection of brands at the comfort of their own homes. The internet also has enabled the growth of start-up companies than ever before that were marketed through social media and financed with internet-based resources such as kick-starter. In a sense we’re seeing the return of small brands driven by the online powerhouse and the desire of consumers to own something exclusive and unique. The good thing is that middlemen are being cut out each day. Department stores, whose business is marking up goods that were marked up by wholesalers and are losing their grip on the market , as designers now have a scaleable way to market their goods directly to consumers.

My hope that the menswear industry will continue to evolve is to return to the classic style that were popular in the 1930s and slowly add personal touches from there. It starts by understanding that there’s a style that is appropriate to each of us…our bodies, our lives and personalities, etc. There is certainly plenty of variations within this one style, but it doesn’t need to be a necessity to buy a new outfit each season, rather making sure that you have an ongoing collection of stunning pieces that accurately reflect the wearer.