Friday, October 2, 2015

Puttin’ on the Ritz

by Rachel Dworkin, archivist
Most people have a pretty good idea of what a 1920s-era flapper looked like, but do you know how a fashionable young man of the period would have looked?  Using examples from Sears catalogs, here’s a look at what the well-dressed man of the 1920s was wearing from the top of his hat to the tips of his shoes.

Hats – During the 1920s, no respectable person would be seen out of doors without a hat, and that included men.  Different types of men wore different types of hats.  Laborers wore the newsboy, professionals wore fedoras or homburgs, and summer sportsmen wore boaters.  For more information on men’s hats, check out this blog post for details.
All sorts of hats, 1929
Hair – A man’s hair was to be worn 5” to 7” long and was slicked down and back.  The sides and back were kept short.  To keep hair in place, not to mention looking glossy, men used hair oils like Hair Silk, Glostora or Brilliantine.  While the oils helped keep hair smooth and flat, they often stained hats, pillows, chair backs, and pretty much anything hair came in contact with.  
A selection of products to make your hair extra slick
Facial hair – These days the perma-stubble look is in, but in the 1920s, your average young man would have been clean-shaven.  A mustache, maybe, but anything more would be pushing it.  New technologies like safety razors made shaving a breeze.  For more on the history of shaving, check out this blog post.

Ties – The bowtie had been the preferred neckwear of the 1800s, but by the 1920s it was losing ground to the necktie.  Bowties, especially in vibrant colors and patterns, remained popular as summer wear, but for the rest of the year the necktie was king.  Bright colors and patterns were in, especially stripes.  Since most people wore them with three piece suits, ties tended to be short.  For formal wear, white bowties remained a must. 
I wish this ad was in color
Shirts and Collars – Victorian shirt collars were detached for easy washing and so starched they could stand on their own.  The 1920s were a period of transition between this older style and the attached, soft collars we have today. 
Note the mix of shirts with and without collars.
A selection of detachable collars, cuff links and garters for keeping up your socks.
Suits – For a gentleman out on the town, a three piece suit was a must.  Most older business men tended to wear double-breasted suits with slightly cinched-in waists and hip-length jackets.  Fashionable young men preferred the so-called Ivy League or Cake Eater suits which were single-breasted with narrow lapels, longer jackets and very wide pants.  Conservative dressers preferred darker, solid colors like Navy blue, black, dark gray or brown.  They younger set went in for lighter shades with stripes, chevrons and twills.  In the summer, less conservative types might often forgo the vest under the jacket. 
Fashionable young Cake Eaters and that one weird kid in a double-breasted suit
Shoes – The lace-up book had been the style for decades.  While they remained popular with workers and conservative types, the Oxford shoe became the style of the day.  Most were either brown or black, but two-toned shoes became popular in more casual settings.   

An assortment of Oxford shoes.
If you’d like to learn more about fashion in the 1920s, be sure to come to today’s Out to Lunch Lecture on life in the 1920s. 


  1. I really enjoyed this article about what people wore from different time periods especially the 1800s, I wonder what kind of reaction President Washington if he were alive now would give comment to our current President's outfit ( no hat, clothing, shoes etc)

  2. Fun reading, thanks. Good use of other blogs.