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The Seismic Shift in Men’s Style That Still Reverberates Today

Before World War I and shortly thereafter, men’s style in the West followed royal conventions and broad societal standards. Clothes were trim in cut and when paired with hard, starched collars gave a formal, stiff effect to the men wearing them.

         12-20-13 Tailored and Styled Blog Post--Men's Fashion Plate 1914

Check out the full effect below. Note the stern formality and military-like posture. See how the high collar serves to keep his head square and chin up.12-20-13 Tailored and Styled Blog Post--Starched Collar Example

The last seismic revolution in men’s style occurred as the West emerged from the tragedy of the Great War. The consensus that had held society together was shattered in the trenches of Verdun. One of the effects was that the rising generation began to rebel against anything that resembled hierarchy and conformity—they didn’t call it the Roaring 20’s for nothing.

Regarding the changes in men’s style, the effects of the rebellion occurred in three areas: 1) fit, 2) color, and 3) fabric.

Clothing became more generous in cut, looser, and draped. The Scholte cut exemplified this new sense of comfort and freedom.

12-20-13 Tailored and Styled Blog Post--Scholte Suit

The draped suits made the men of that time look more casually elegant, and fuller chests and wider shoulders accentuated physical strength. You can see how the cut evolved in the series of illustrations below:

12-20-13 Tailored and Styled Blog Post--Men's Suit Evolution

Fred Astaire exemplifies the spirit of the age–it’s hard to imagine dancing with such exuberance in the tighter, more formal suits men wore in the early part of the century.

12-20-13 Tailored and Styled Blog Post--Astaire Leaping

The second key element of the new style was color. Up until the war, the standard color was black, sometimes accented by grey. This photo from the Versailles conference is typical of the times:

12-20-13 Tailored and Styled Blog Post--Versailles Peace Conference

Contrast this to these Apparel Arts illustrations and the veritable explosion of color.

12-20-13 Tailored and Styled Blog Post--Apparel Arts VII12-20-13 Tailored and Styled Blog Post--Apparel Arts I12-20-13 Tailored and Styled Blog Post--Apparel Arts II12-20-13 Tailored and Styled Blog Post--Apparel Arts III12-20-13 Tailored and Styled Blog Post--Apparel Arts IV12-20-13 Tailored and Styled Blog Post--Apparel Arts V12-20-13 Tailored and Styled Blog Post--Apparel Arts VI

The other change was incorporation of softer, textured fabrics from the countryside. This quote from Apparel Arts (1934) states it well, “The trend today is moving away from the smooth hard-finished type of clothing and is going in the direction of rougher, more rugged dress. The business man’s discovery of leisure is probably the greatest single factor in the swing to rougher fabrics…The man in the city going to the country in search of relaxation…has found solace in suits of soft Shetlands and tweeds in their more brilliant colorings and patterns.”

The combination of a more comfortable masculine cut, vibrant color, and softer fabric textures resulted in a seminal period of creativity and experimentation in men’s dress that brought men’s style into a Golden Age. This age remains the benchmark for and reverberates in men’s classic dress even today.

By Joe Scherrer | Tailored and Styled

Article publié pour la première fois le 21/12/2013

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