Men’s fashions of the 1930s showed dramatic changes due to the start of the Great Depression in 1929. A return to a more stable economy in the decade’s later years allowed more expression in male fashion. Hollywood and the glamour of celebrities also influenced 1930s fashion for men.
Suits during the early 1930s were close cut to use less fabric. The Great Depression started a conservative fashion climate. Extravagant colors were in bad taste; somber hues like gray, brown, beige or light blue were more acceptable. Men's suits were fitted with single or double-breasted lapels, button fastenings and wide shoulders. Wool, flannel, tweeds and linens, depending on the season, were the most popular fabric choices. Knitted waistcoats were also popular. Men wore shirts of plain or striped cotton with attached collars. Trousers had straight wide hems turned up with center creases and cloth color that matched jackets and waistcoats.
In the later 1930s, with a return to greater economic stability, cuts of men’s suits were more generous. Jackets with heavily padded shoulders and fuller sleeves were popular. Businessmen wore tapered trousers, whereas younger men wore flowing trousers with long coats in the zoot suit style. Buttons were used to fasten men garments in the early 1930s but zippers were promoted as an alternative for men to avoid humiliating exposures caused by missing or unhinged buttons. Storekeepers also promoted zippers as a cheaper alternative to buying buttons. Fashion designers, especially the Italian Elsa Schiaparelli, made these devices popular in couture.
Undergarments And Swimwear
Undergarments for men in the 1930s were loose underpants and a vest. Men also wore union suits in winter, but these were no longer fashionable. Boxers and briefs became popular with elastic waists that replaced buttons, snaps and ties. Y-vent brief styles were invented by Jockey in 1934 and reproduced by Munsingerware in 1936. Swimwear was constructed from wool and was styled as a one-piece that covered the chest area, with straps over the shoulders and a panel over the front leg openings. Swim trunks, with the creation of elasticized boxers and briefs, also became popular.
Men wore shoes of black, brown and tan leather. Two-toned brogues were a popular style and the loafer trend started in this decade. Laborers were likely to wear boots.
Hats and Hair
Hats were an essential item. Norms in the 1930s required that both men and women wear hats. Men wore their hair short under bowlers or snap-brim fedoras. Trilbies (hats with pinched crowns and short brims), homburgs (with a crease along the crown length) and straw, flat-crowned boaters were also worn. Beards were unacceptable, but short mustaches were popular.
Accessories during the 1930s included pocket handkerchiefs, silk scarves, leather gloves and rolled umbrellas. Sunglasses were known as “cheaters” in American and British slang. The term was originally for spectacles in general, but became specific to sunglasses because they blocked a person’s identity.
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Anne Cagle has been writing ever since she was a toddler who could scribble with crayons. Her first published article, at age 12, was in a teachers' newsletter. She was published in "Optical Prism" magazine and has worked as a reviewer for the Webby Awards. She holds a degree in English from the University of Oregon.
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