Summer in the 1920’s was a time for socializing at afternoon Tea’s, luncheons, and picnics. Men and women avoided the heat by wearing cooler, lighter fabrics much like today. Clothing color was also light and airy. The “Great Gatsby” having taken place during the summer of 1922 makes several references to Gatsby’s clothing:
“Gatsby, in a white flannel suit, silver shirt and gold-coulored tie”
“…his gorgeous pink rag of a suit…”
“…Carmel colored suit…”
Putting together a summer outfit with light colors can be fun and fairly easy.
While not many men today would be willing to wear a “pink suit,” a wealthy man in Gatsby’s time frequently used fashion to set himself apart from normal society. Color pallets of pinks, yellows, and blues set the mood for summer’s merriment. The most plentiful color choice was off-white or ivory suit made of Flannel (the most affordable) or linen (a wealthy man’s choice.) Some men didn’t like linen because it wrinkles easily, while others thought wrinkles showed off a men’s willingness to be casual, free spirited, or “sporty.”
Suit jackets were usually single breasted, with minimal buttons, and had an overall fitted appearance. Pants were held high on the waist and usually pleated at the top and cuffed at the bottom.
Vest- A vest for day wear, if not designed to match the suit, would be of a similar shade of color such as tan with an off white suit, or pastel color with a darker suit.
Shirt- A typical button down dress shirt in white would be most fashionable and comfortable. However a pink shirt also makes that extra statement of confidence and fashion forwardness.
Tie- Bow ties were more common then neck ties in summer. Bright colors of red, blues, greens, and pinks in various kind of geometrical patterns were the one accessory that were allowed to deviate from an otherwise one note color pallet. Bow ties were thinner and a bit longer in the 20’s then they are today. Buying a modern self tie bow tie and tying it yourself allows you to adjust for a longer length.
Pocket Square- Also known as a handkerchief, the Pocket Square was the second spot of color on a man’s summer outfit. Usually they matched the bow tie in color if not in pattern as well.
Suspenders- Light colored suspenders were necessary for a light colored suit. Dark colored suspenders would show through light linen jackets too much.
Hat- Straw boater or panama hat- The icing on the cake, and the most distinguishing accessories for a summer outfit was a straw hat. The straw Boater with a 4 inch brim, or the Straw Skimmer with a 3 inch brim, were made of thick straw and woven into a stiff, flat topped, breathable hats. They were highly durable and afforded by all classes.
The Straw Panama hat, on the other hand, was generally afforded only by the upper class. Hand made in Ecuador the fine weaving of straw
makes a lightweight alternative to the Boater and Skimmer. It’s also packable meaning it can be rolled up and kept in a suitcase or pocket, unrolled and popped back into shape. The early style of a Panama, was the Optimo shape names for the rolling crease down the middle of the crown.
Both styles of hat were wrapped in a 3 inch band of fabric. Black was the color of choice in the first half on the 20’s followed by brighter colors (often associated with a college or sporting team) in the latter half of the 20’s.
Shoes- Needless to say white, ivory, or tan leather dress shoes or brown and white spectator shoes were the most appropriate. Read more about mens shoes of the 1920’s.