Any style-conscience male would be foolish to wear last year’s fashions when a whole new look is taking over. Freshen up your wardrobe with the latest designs and stay in touch with the modern male. Well it all sounds quite plausible but men are different to women and marketing by-lines plus convincing lifestyle imagery has to work much harder to extract the male pound from the wallet.
You see, men have changed, they dress differently and more independently to their parents and grandparents. You only have to look back at the black and white photos from 50 years ago to see that male fashion was very formalised, both at work and during leisure time. Virtually every man, regardless of class and working role, dressed smartly. Of course city bankers and lawyers would wear much finer tailoring and hats compared to the blue-collar workers in the industrial centres, but most men would wear a collar and tie, a jacket of some form and a hat. Just look at the photographs of the huge crowds that flocked to football matches and stood out on the terraces in all weathers, wearing exactly the same garments they would wear to work on Monday.
Men looked smart than they do now, but they also looked very similar to each other. There was very little scope to look different and, due to financial constraints, very little opportunity to keep an expansive wardrobe. Things had to last in those days, so hardy fabrics were selected and garments were kept going with careful repairs and additions like leather patches on elbows and cuffs. Clothes are not built the same way today in our disposable society, if your socks develop a hole in the toe they are more likely to find themselves in the bin rather than in the hands of a skilled darner for repair. Clothes are cheaper and more throw-away, but the hard-wearing approach of these vintage items, means that many still survive today, some in remarkably good condition.
Hats, as mentioned above, were also very common. Flat caps, bowlers, Trilbys and derivatives on those forms were owned by ever man and boy throughout the country. They had to function as heat retainers, rain coves as well as contributing to the formal styling of the male look and again, such was their construction, that many retro clothing shops will offer a wide selection to choose from.
Formal male dressing may be about to make a return in a new form but you don’t need to buy new to sample it. There are pockets of past decades where the vintage men’s fashions of the time survive, still look good and more importantly, offer an affordable route away from the casual norm. From the plain grey and brown designs of the fifties and sixties to the more colourful and slightly unusual styles of the seventies, there is something for every man.