1920s Fashion for Men: Suits, Hats, Shoes

1920s mens fashion: suits1920s fashion for men was the start of menswear as we know it today.  Only minor changes in menswear have come about since the 1920’s. It was a time of classic sophistication with a level of fun that I haven’t seen since. Suit colors were mostly neutral with patterns but the accessories popped with vibrant  colors- just like they did for women’s 1920’s fashion. Popular TV shows such as Boardwalk Empire and Downton Abbey have brought back the appeal for 1920s mens fashion suits today.

Click to Learn How to Dress like Downton Abbey Men

Click to Learn How to Dress like Downton Abbey Men

1920s Fashion for Men:  Suits

1920s mens fashion suits

1920s Mens Fashion- Suits and Hats

The essential part of a 1920s man’s wardrobe was his suit. For day, evening, office, or parties a man always wore a suit. The only exceptions were for blue collar workers or young teen and college men who dressed more casually. But even they owned suits and wore them with pride.

mens 1920s suitWhat sets 1920s mens suits apart from other decades are the material and fit. Suits were mostly made of thick wool or a wool tweed and pants made of wool based flannel which made them heavier than today’s suit materials but lighter than the previous decades. Suit jackets were either single or double breasted and featured 3 or 4 buttons up the front. The top button came to the center of the heart giving way to notch lapels. The highness of the lapels is what really sets 1920’s suits apart from suits of other eras.

Many suits feature two sets of flap pockets which is another characteristic of 1920’s suits not seen since. The colors, on the other hand, were similar to previous years: browns, blues, grey’s, and greens. Patterns could be solid tone or vivid plaids, checks and even thick stripes in the summer months (like Barbershop Quartet suits.) Read more about 1920s mens suit history.

1920s fashion for men- suits. Learn more at VintageDancer.com

1927 Men’s Fashion Suits- Bold prints in single and double breasted styles.

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 Pants or Trousers

1920's wide leg pants trousers

1920’s Oxford Bags Style

1920s mens fashion pants trousers

1920 Mens Pants

The suit pants always matched the suit jacket. They had two single pleats at the top and  a sharp crease down the front of the legs. Pockets were slit on the side and welt on the back with one button closure. The pants hung down to only mid ankle. This exposed the socks which were worn high up the leg calf and secured with sock garters. Socks were usually plain, stripped or argyle pattern. Unlike previous decades, men’s pants started had fold up cuffs at the bottoms. The pant legs were fairly narrow in the first half of the 1920’s (the jazz look) and wide by the second half. Collegiate men took these new wide leg styles to the extreme by wearing “oxford bags” which had leg widths of up to 16 inches! Learn more about 1920s mens pants and SHOP 1920s men’s style pants. 

Vests or Waistcoats

1920s mens vest an panama hat

1920s Mens V Vest

Unlike today’s two piece suits men’s 1920’s fashion required a 3 piece suit with matching vest. Vests also called waistcoats were high V necks with full body coverage. It was a fashion faux pax to have a shirt exposed between the pants and vest. To help avoid this mistake men’s pants were also very high, sitting above the bellybutton, secured by suspenders or a leather belt. Suspenders were buttoned on to pants since modern suspender clips had not been invented yet.

mesn 1920s vest

Knit Pullover Vest

A more casual alternative to the matching vest was a contrasting knit wool pullover vest. Single color smooth knit or two color cable knit vests kept a man warm in winter. They were especially fashionable for golfers who paired them with a pair of knickers, argyle socks, and flat cap hat.

Learn more about 1920s mens sweaters and knit vests and SHOP 1920s style men’s vests:

1920s Fashion: Men’s Shirts

1920s mens shirts fashion

1920’s Mens Striped Shirts

Underneath the vest was where the fun 1920’s fashion began. 1920s shirts were made of colorful vertical stripes in a mixture of colors- tan, green, blue, lilac, sage green, yellow and pink (yes pink!) Solid colors in the same light shades were available in the late 1920s.  Shirt collars were round (club collars), pointed and free (classic or spread), or pointed and buttoned down- just like today’s varieties. Most were attached collars but many still came in detachable white. Shirts with attached collars were either made with the same material or were white. The white collar against the solid or striped shirt really gives it a 1920’s fashion statement. If you want to make another fashion statement wear a collarless shirt (also known as a mandarin collar shirt.) The Great Gatsby shocked the fashionable world by wearing a shirt without a collar and then everyone copied him.

vintage french cuff shirt

French Cuff Striped White Collar Shirt

The cuffs are the final unique shirt element. They were usually french or button cuffs to be worn with a pair of snazzy cuff links.Cuff links were often monogrammed with the owners initials.  Wealthy men also wore shirt links with their nice dress shirts for a bit more high class.

Read more about 1920’s mens dress shirts and collars history.

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1920s Fashion: Neck Ties and Bow Ties

mens 1920s bow tieThe other fun bit of color on a 1920’s mens outfit was the neckwear. Men either wore a bow tie in fun stripes or polka dots, a striped or plaid necktie, or a neck scarf tie. Bow ties were the self tying variety and usually had a thick or puffy look to them. Neckties had diagonal stripes, plaid, check, or an art deco inspired pattern. Solid bright colors made of wool or silk were also common such as yellow, orange, red or green (think 1970’s colors.) They were narrow and short (a few inches above the pants which were already high up.) Thin knit ties were another option with square edges or fringed edges.

The last option is the more casual scarf tie popular in the early 20s. The scamesn 1920s tierf was a thin patterned rectangular silk scarf draped around the neck, tied, and the bottom piece wrapped back and over the knot (see picture.) The ends of neck scarfs and neck ties were pointed in a V however a few neckties were also cut straight at the boom and some even had fringe. A scarf tie was worn with the shirt’s top button undone or over a collarless shirt and tucked behind a knit vest. Read more about the history of mens ties and bowties or SHOP for a new 1920s style tie. 

1920s Fashion: Men’s Accessories

mens gloves 1920sThe two other items of color popped up in gloves and pocket squares. Often these two items matched each other and tied into a color on the necktie.. Bright colors like yellow or red gloves were a favorite choice over the traditional black, brown or gray gloves. They were made of thin leather and buttoned at the wrist sometimes with scalloped edges but usually cut straight. These are the modern equivalent of unlined driving gloves and are usually hard to find in bright colors.

The pocket square is a decoration only handkerchief, made of silk, folded into a triangle and place in the suit’s chest pocket. It coordinated with one color in a man’s tie or band of his hat.

Shop 1920’s men’s accessories here. 

1920s Men’s Fashion Hats

1920s mens fashion the hat

1920s Mens Straw Hats

The 1920’s look isn’t quite done. Now we need to add some 1920s shoes and hats.

1920s men’s hats came in felt or straw depending on season. Popular black, brown or grey felt hats were the tall crown, center dent, fedora, a bowler or derby and homburg with rolled brim.  The porkpie (similar to a gambler) was also common. The casual men’s hat was the wool, tweed, or cotton 8 panel newsboy cap. It had a rather floppy appearance in the 20s, unlike the 30s and beyond with a narrow fit. Summer straw hats were the boater or skimmer, pictured above and the panama which was a wealthier man’s hat. Fedoras were also made of straw with a colorful band to coordinate with his suit.

Read about them here at 1920’s Men‘s hat styles and SHOP men’s hats here:

1920s Men’s Shoes

mens 1920s shoes two tone brown and white wingtip oxfords at VintageDancer.com

1920s Two Tone Wingtip Oxfords

The most iconic shoe of the 1920s is the two tone lace up oxford. Brown and white were the trendiest of casual and semi formal business attire. Black and white and grey and white were less common. The most basic of men’s shoes was a lace up oxford in a burnt orange brown color with a cap toe design. As the decade progresses the designs became more fancy with wingtips. Lace up boots were also still worn with suits or working classes. In summer a pair of white nubucks were ideal for upper classes who could afford to keep them clean. Read more about 1920s men’s shoes style here.

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More 1920s Men’s Fashions

Are you ready to make a 1920’s fashion statement? You can easily make a 1920s outfit from vintage inspired modern clothes. Learn how to create these 6 different looks. 

1920s mens clothing how to

Six 1920’s Men’s Looks- Click to learn. 

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About Debbie Sessions

Debbie Sessions is passionate about wearing history through fashion. She and her husband, Oscar, have turned their hobby into a career by teaching others how to re-create vintage style with affordable new vintage inspired clothing and accessories. We connect shoppers to the best vintage inspired clothing, shoes and accessories and teach fashion history as it was worn by everyday people. Need more help? Contact us anytime.

5 thoughts on “1920s Fashion for Men: Suits, Hats, Shoes

    1. Debbie Sessions Post author

      In winter men wore scarves. They were called mufflers and were usually knit silk or knit wool. Solid colors like brown and grey were common as well as stripes in all sorts of colors. All white was a good scarf for more formal looks or white with small patterns. With formal suits they might have been worn while traveling but taken off while inside. The look of men wearing red or white silk scarves with formal suits came about in the 1940’s. Sinatra wore them often.

  1. jeff

    Thank you Debbie for all your hard work. I am working on a series of detective novels set in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Your site has been a tremendous help in my research.

    1. Debbie Sessions Post author

      Do you mean collarless shirt? You can’t wear any tie with a collarless shirt. The collar is what holds the bow tie in place.

      If you mean colorless shirt as in a white shirt then yes you can wear a white shirt with a bow tie.

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