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How to Dress Retro for Men

by Chance Henson, studioD
Shop at specialty stores for your retro look -- like these three young men at London's Angels Retro Sale in 2010.

Shop at specialty stores for your retro look -- like these three young men at London's Angels Retro Sale in 2010.

There's an ebb and flow to fashion that visually manifests in every man's style. Some clothes, such as the fedora, are timeless and never go out of style; other clothes, like 70s bellbottoms, are easily dated and languish in the graveyard of fashion. Still other outfits hold a special charm, an endearing quality of sentiment. In retrospect, they can represent an entire style era and reach out through the decades of fashion evolution and speak to your personal tastes in way that modern fashions do not. Although retro fashions can be difficult to duplicate, it can be done by understanding fashion basics and the popular culture of the time period.

Identify the Period

Clothes can be the ultimate symbol of a particular decade, and every decade has it's own iconic style. The British culture invasion of the 1960s brought the original skinny jean and Italian ankle boots, the 1970s mixed social and political rebellion with bellbottoms and tie dye, and the 1990s are well known for the torn denim and loosely worn plaid shirts that define the grunge style. For example, you can try a 1950s-style, letterman, cardigan sweater with a T-shirt and skinny jeans -- or a pair of acid-wash jeans, reminiscent of the 1980s, with your favorite sneakers and polo shirt.

Revel in Research

Among the most useful resources at your disposal is the wealth of images that were used to market music artists, bands, films and television shows in the past decades. Music, films, magazines and television all play important roles in popular culture and are often an accurate reflection of trends and fashions of the period. For example, review the online archives of magazines such as "GQ," "Esquire" and "Rolling Stone" to get a solid impression of fashions such as the punk look of the '70s or the prep style of the '80s.

Thrift Like a Pro

Shopping for clothes may not be one of your favorite things to do, but it's absolutely necessary if you want to get a truly retro look. Although fashion designers frequently incorporate elements of retro looks into their designs, the most effective way to get authentically retro pieces is to purchase them from specialty, resale, thrift and consignment stores. Have a few items in mind before you begin your shopping excursion in order to maximize your time and create your ideal outfit.

Balance it Out

The key to any well-arranged outfit is balance. You don't want to appear as though you just stepped out of a time machine -- your retro articles should complement your existing wardrobe. For example, a retro 1980s outfit might include a Members Only jacket with a pair of slacks and a dressy button down. Similarly, a retro 1960s look might include black skinny jeans with pointed-toe ankle boots and a modern, V-neck T-shirt.

About the Author

Chance Henson earned a B.A. in English literature and a writing minor from Lamar University. While interning at the "University Press" newspaper and "UP Beat" magazine he received an award for news feature writing from the Texas Intercollegiate Press Association. Henson went on to serve as content editor for "CUSH Magazine," eventually leaving to pursue the development of an online secular humanist educational publication.

Photo Credits

  • Marco Secchi/Getty Images News/Getty Images