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Retro Fashion For Men: What Clothing Did Men Wear In the 1930s?

Retro Fashion For Men: What Clothing Did Men Wear In the 1930s?

The 1930s were the years immediately after the Great Depression. While almost everyone had very little money, no one wanted to look or feel poor, (especially not after the Roaring Twenties). As such, keeping up with the latest trends in fashion was an important part of making themselves feel good. 

While good clothes were desired, there was very little money to spend on them. This gave rise to a demand for cheap yet good quality clothes. So, clothes were made cheaply, and a lot of fabric was recycled. 

Many famous designers started offering clothes at lower prices. There was a clear change in the way clothes were manufactured, with less formal designs, cheaper materials, and overall cheaper clothes. 

For those who could still not afford this, there were second-hand clothes. They were bought by the poorest people in society for dirt-cheap prices. 

What did men wear in the 1930s? 

Image credit: Gentkemansgazette
 

In the 1930’s, the world was reeling from the great depression, and people were struggling. However, they did not want to look poor, and this desire was reflected in the clothes they wore. 

Suits were extremely popular for men in the 1930s. They became a status symbol and a sign of rising above the bad times. Men who could not afford fashionable suits had them made. 

However, that is not to say all men in the 1930s wore suits. The average man still wore regular work clothes. 

Men’s 1930s suits

Image credit: Hymenfashion

 

In the 1930s, men’s suits were tailored to make them look like they had large torsos. The suits had padded, wide shoulders and sleeves that tapered at the edges, along with clear V-necks and peaked lapels that formed a frame over the chest area. The pants were creased with cuffed bottoms and were wide-fitting and high waisted. 

Suits and formal wear were dark and dramatic, usually in a rich black or navy. 

The trench coat also became extremely popular in the early 1930s. They were often worn over formal attire. Most trench coats had double-breasted fronts, wide, pointy lapels, and a belt that went around the waist. 

There were several distinct types of suits in this decade: 

  • The London drape suit: This was the standard suit of the decade. It had long, tapered sleeves, higher pocket and button placement, and longer, more tapered sleeves. The armholes were small and the upper arms were roomy, creating the illusion of a man with a large torso and a cleaner fit. 

  • The double-breasted suit: This was a favorite of royalty and Hollywood elites. It was graceful and elegant, with front cross-over panels, six buttons, broad, padded shoulders, and peaked lapels. The trousers were long and full-cut, in proportion with the top half. 

  • The Kent double-breasted style: This is a twist on the original double-breasted suit, featuring four instead of six buttons.  

  • Zoot suits: This was mostly associated with the jazz culture that was massively popular in the 30s. The suits were longer and looser, and while fashionable, were less formal than the double-breasted styles. 

Men’s casual 1930s fashion

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The late 20s and the early 30s saw the soar in popularity of the leather jacket. This was often worn with a cap as part of casual wear. The cap was quite popular among working men. 

Casual attire was rather relative in the 30s. People made a clear effort to make themselves look well-put-together whenever they stepped out. For instance, the sportswear of the day featured plaid cotton shirts or houndstooth polo shirts worn with wide-fitting, high waisted trousers, and linen riding jackets. Often, they also wore matching socks. 

Clean pressed, button-down shirts in a variety of colors and prints were also popular. They were worn with pinned collars. 

Blazers were another common piece. They could be worn over almost anything on top and could be paired with both seersucker slacks and tailored trousers. 

The colors that men preferred for casual fashion changed with the seasons. Lighter colors were more popular in warmer months, where hints of red, blue, and white were combined with muted colors. Popular year-round colors were cream, dark green, and brown. 

Wide-legged pants

High-waisted, wide-legged pants were quite popular. They came in a variety of materials, from chevron (and chevron patterns) to heavier fabrics like cheviot, worsted, and tweed. All the garments were very well-crafted even when the material itself was inexpensive. 

1930s Men’s knitwear

Image credit: Pinterest
 

During winter, they wore a heavy knit wool sweater as a layer under heavy raincoats. This sweater became popular all over Europe and the US. In France, it had three names: “sweater” if it was lightweight and wool-knit, “pullover” if it was warmer and medium weight, and “chandail” if it was very heavy. 

The most popular sweater style was the heavy Shaker shawl collar sweater. Made popular by college men who wore it with their college colors in the 20s, it had a thick waistband with thick cuff ribbing and a shawl collar that could fold up to the neck to keep the cold out. 

Pullover V-necks along with sleeveless wool vests were also quite popular. Available in heavy and light weights, they came in all sorts of bright colors and loud patterns, including greys, tans, yellows, orange-browns, blues, and greens. Patterns included diamonds, zig-zags, checks, plaids, and stripes. 

That’s a Wrap!

The 1930s man liked to dress well on a budget. He looked sharp and dapper and had an air of cool elegance around him, even when wearing cheap tweed suits. Perhaps he had his heavily-padded, broad-shouldered jacket to thank for that!

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