The Roaring Twenties, or the Jazz Age, was a transformative historical period that brought significant cultural and social changes. It was an era of prosperity, liberation, and vitality, reflected in the time’s fashion. The fashion trends of the Roaring Twenties remain timeless and continue to inspire designers and fashion enthusiasts today. In this style guide, we’ll return to the glitz and glamour of the 1920s, exploring the iconic fashion statements defining this unforgettable era.
1. The Flapper Look: Embracing Freedom
The Flapper Look was a rebellious and iconic style embraced by young women of that era, characterized by shorter dresses, bobbed hair, and a more carefree attitude.
For men’s fashion in the 1920s, the term “Flapper Look” isn’t used. However, I can discuss how men’s fashion evolved during this period to embrace a sense of Freedom and nonconformity.
- Casual Attire: The 1920s saw a rise in more casual clothing for men. While formal suits were still prevalent for business and formal occasions, men adopted more relaxed outfits for leisure and social events. This included sporting attire like knickers, polo shirts, and sweaters.
- Shorter Jackets: The length of suit jackets became faster during the 1920s, reflecting the trend towards a more youthful and dynamic appearance. These jackets, known as “sack suits,” had a straight-cut silhouette and were less structured than their predecessors.
- Bold Patterns and Colors: Men’s clothing started to feature more aggressive patterns and colors. Stripes, checks, and plaids became popular, and brighter hues emerged in ties and accessories.
- Wide-legged Trousers: Trousers continued to be high-waisted, but they also featured wider legs, giving men a more relaxed and comfortable feel. This style contrasted the narrower and more restrictive trousers of previous decades.
- Art Deco Influence: The Art Deco movement, characterized by geometric shapes and modern designs, influenced men’s accessories like cufflinks, tie pins, and pocket watches. These accessories added a touch of glamour and modernity to their outfits.
- Hairstyles: Men’s hairstyles in the 1920s also embraced a more carefree and youthful look. The traditional slicked-back style gave way to more relaxed haircuts, including the side-parted hairstyle and the tousled “windblown” look.
- Sporty Influence: The rise of sports and leisure activities in the 1920s impacted men’s fashion. Sportswear elements, such as knitted sweaters, cardigans, and blazers, were incorporated into everyday attire.
While men’s fashion in the 1920s did not adopt the exact “Flapper Look” as seen in women’s fashion, it did share some common themes of embracing a more liberated and free-spirited style. The decade marked a shift towards more comfortable and casual clothing, and men began to explore different patterns, colors, and techniques to express their individuality and embrace the changing times.
2. Cloche Hats: A Statement of Elegance
I must clarify that cloche hats were not typically worn as a statement of elegance in 1920s men’s fashion. The cloche hat was a popular style during the 1920s, but it was predominantly associated with women’s fashion, not men’s.
The cloche hat was a close-fitting, bell-shaped hat that hugged the head and typically had a downturned brim. It became synonymous with the Flapper Look and women’s liberated, independent spirit during the Roaring Twenties. Women wore cloche hats with short bobbed hairstyles, creating a fashionable and modern look.
For men’s fashion in the 1920s, hats were still an essential accessory, but the styles differed from the cloche hats women wore. Men typically wore fedoras, bowler hats, Homburg hats, and newsboy caps. These hats complemented the more formal and casual ensembles that were popular for men then.
The fedora, in particular, was an iconic hat worn by men in the 1920s. It had a wider brim than the cloche hat and was often worn tilted at an angle. Fedoras were considered stylish and sophisticated, and they added an air of elegance to men’s attire.
While cloche hats were a statement of elegance and modernity for women’s fashion in the 1920s, they were not commonly worn by men. Instead, men had various other hat styles to complete their looks and express their sense of style during this transformative decade.
3. Art Deco Jewelry: Bold and Dazzling
Art Deco jewelry indeed had a significant impact on men’s fashion during the 1920s. While it is essential to clarify that Art Deco jewelry was not specifically designed for men, its bold and dazzling style influenced the accessories worn by men during that era.
Art Deco was an influential art and design movement that emerged in the 1920s and continued through the 1930s. Geometric shapes, clean lines, and a sense of modernity and luxury characterized it. Art Deco jewelry, both for men and women, often featured intricate designs, vibrant gemstones, and precious metals, creating a glamorous and opulent look.
For men’s fashion, Art Deco jewelry found its way into various accessories and details, including:
- Cufflinks: Art Deco cufflinks for men were trendy during the 1920s. They were often made of precious metals like gold or platinum and adorned with gemstones or enamel work featuring geometric patterns. Cufflinks became an essential accessory, adding a touch of sophistication and style to formal attire.
- Tie Pins: Tie pins or tie clips were another way men incorporated Art Deco designs into their fashion. These accessories were often crafted with geometric shapes or motifs that reflected the Art Deco aesthetic, providing a striking focal point to a man’s tie.
- Rings: Men’s rings with Art Deco influence were also sought after during the 1920s. Signet and statement rings featured bold geometric patterns, onyx, diamonds, or other gemstones set in intricate settings.
- Watches: Art Deco-style wristwatches and pocket watches were fashionable for men. They often had angular cases, ornate dials, and engraved designs, capturing the essence of the Art Deco movement.
- Accessories: Other accessories, such as money clips, key chains, and belt buckles, also embraced the Art Deco style. They were adorned with geometric patterns and streamlined designs, showcasing the modern and luxurious vibe of the era.
While Art Deco jewelry was not explicitly designed exclusively for men, its influence on men’s accessories cannot be overlooked. The bold and dazzling designs of the Art Deco movement added flair and individuality to men’s fashion during the 1920s, complementing the overall spirit of the Roaring Twenties and its celebration of modernity and luxury.
4. The Rise of Coco Chanel
Coco Chanel was undoubtedly a groundbreaking figure in the fashion world during the 1920s. However, it is essential to clarify that her influence was primarily in women’s fashion, not men’s.
Coco Chanel revolutionized women’s fashion by introducing more comfortable and liberating designs, moving away from the restrictive and ornate clothing of the previous era. Some of her most significant contributions to women’s fashion in the 1920s include:
- The Little Black Dress: Chanel popularized the concept of the “little black dress,” a versatile and elegant garment that became a staple in women’s wardrobes. It offered women a simple, chic, timeless option for various occasions.
- The Chanel Suit: Chanel’s tweed suits with boxy jackets and knee-length skirts gave women a new sense of modernity and sophistication. The claims were comfortable and practical, challenging the conventions of women’s formal wear at the time.
- Sporty Influence: Chanel incorporated sporty elements into her designs, introducing jersey fabric into women’s fashion. This move allowed for more relaxed and casual attire while still maintaining a sense of luxury.
- Bobbed Hair: Chanel’s iconic bobbed hairstyle symbolized the Flapper Look and complimented her modern and daring fashion designs.
While Coco Chanel played a transformative role in women’s fashion during the 1920s, her impact on men’s fashion was less significant. Chanel was not known for designing menswear, and her influence in this area needed to be improved.
Other designers and trends more heavily influenced men’s fashion in the 1920s. As mentioned earlier, the decade saw changes in men’s clothing, including the adoption of looser and more casual styles, the popularity of the fedora, wide-legged trousers, and the use of bold patterns and colors. However, these changes were not directly attributed to Coco Chanel.
Coco Chanel’s rise to prominence in the 1920s was a remarkable story in women’s fashion, but her influence on men’s fashion was less significant.
5. Menswear-Inspired Fashion: Androgynous Chic
Menswear-inspired fashion, also known as androgynous chic or borrowing from the boys, significantly impacted women’s fashion during the 1920s. While it was not directly a part of men’s fashion in the traditional sense, it represented a revolutionary trend in women’s attire during that era.
During the 1920s, women’s fashion underwent a dramatic transformation, with many women seeking greater Freedom and independence in their clothing choices. They wanted to break away from the restrictive and elaborate techniques of the past and embrace more practical and comfortable styles. As a result, women began to adopt elements of men’s fashion in their clothing, creating a fashionable and liberating look.
Some key features of the androgynous chic or menswear-inspired fashion for women in the 1920s included:
- Trousers: Women daringly started to wear trousers, a garment previously considered exclusively for men. They often chose loose-fitting trousers or wide-legged palazzo pants paired with a simple blouse or tailored jacket.
- Vests: Vests or waistcoats were a popular choice for women’s ensembles. They were worn over blouses or dresses, adding a touch of masculine flair to their outfits.
- Button-Down Shirts: Women wore button-down shirts with pointed collars, resembling those typically worn by men. These shirts were often paired with skirts or trousers.
- Ties and Bow Ties: Women occasionally donned bow ties as accessories, further blurring the lines between men’s and women’s fashion.
- Short Haircuts: Many women embraced short bobbed hairstyles, influenced by the Flapper Look. This hairstyle added to the androgynous vibe of their overall appearance.
- Flat Shoes: Women increasingly opted for comfortable flat shoes, such as Oxfords and loafers, instead of traditional high-heeled shoes.
The androgynous chic style of the 1920s was a bold and liberating fashion statement for women, challenging societal norms and traditional gender roles. It reflected the spirit of the time, with women seeking greater equality and Freedom in their fashion choices and lives. The adoption of menswear-inspired elements in women’s clothing paved the way for more gender-neutral and diverse fashion trends in the following decades.
6. T-Strap Shoes: Dancing in Style
T-strap shoes were primarily a popular style of footwear for women in the 1920s, especially during the era of the Flapper Look. While they were not specifically designed for men, the 1920s did see a transformation in men’s footwear, embracing more comfortable and stylish options, particularly for dancing.
For men’s fashion in the 1920s, footwear underwent changes that catered to the active and energetic lifestyle of the time, which included dancing the Charleston and other popular dance crazes of the era. Here are some notable features of men’s shoes during the 1920s:
- Two-Tone Spectator Shoes: Spectator shoes, also known as co-respondent shoes, were a trendy choice for men. These shoes had a distinctive two-tone design, contrasting colors on the toe, and vamp. They were often made with leather and added a touch of flair to men’s outfits.
- Tassel Loafers: Loafers gained popularity during the 1920s, and tassel loafers were a fashionable choice for men. They were slip-on shoes with tassels or fringes on the front, providing a stylish and comfortable option for dancing and leisure activities.
- Oxfords and Brogues: Oxfords and brogues were classic and enduring choices for men’s shoes. Oxfords were formal and versatile, suitable for both business and evening wear. Brogues featured decorative perforations and were often worn as semi-formal or casual footwear.
- Rubber-Soled Dance Shoes: Men opted for rubber-soled dance shoes for dancing and other active pursuits. These shoes provided better grip and flexibility on the dance floor, allowing smoother movements during dance parties and social gatherings.
While T-strap shoes were not part of 1920s menswear, they were a beloved choice for women’s fashion during the Flapper era. These shoes featured a strap shaped like a “T” that connected the toe to the ankle or the instep. They were often paired with short dresses, adding a touch of elegance and style to the Flapper Look and making dancing more comfortable for women.
The 1920s witnessed a transformation in both men’s and women’s footwear, with men opting for more comfortable and stylish shoes suitable for dancing and the active lifestyle of the era. However, T-strap shoes remained primarily a fashionable choice for women during this period.
7. The Charleston Dress: Flair for the Dance Floor
The Charleston Dress, also known as the Flapper Dress, was a significant fashion trend for women in the 1920s, particularly during the iconic Charleston dance. However, it was not a garment designed for men’s fashion.
The Flapper Dress symbolized the Roaring Twenties and the liberated spirit of women during that era. Its short length characterized its dropped waistline, and loose, straight silhouette, allowing greater ease of movement on the dance floor. The dress was often adorned with fringes, beading, or sequins, which added flair and movement as women danced the Charleston and other popular dances of the time.
As for men’s fashion during the 1920s, the Charleston Dress did not have a direct influence. Men’s attire during this period continued to feature suits with more relaxed cuts, wide-legged trousers, and looser-fitting jackets. Men also embraced more casual and sporty clothing for leisure activities, including knickers, polo shirts, and sweaters.
While the Charleston Dress was not a part of men’s fashion, the 1920s did see a transformation in men’s dancewear. Men began to wear more comfortable and flexible clothing for dancing, allowing for more significant movement on the dance floor. Dance parties and social gatherings became popular pastimes during the Jazz Age, and men’s fashion adapted accordingly to suit the active and energetic lifestyle of the time.
The Charleston Dress was a remarkable fashion statement for women during the 1920s, reflecting the spirit of the Flapper Look and the vitality of the Charleston dance. While it did not directly influence men’s fashion, men embraced more comfortable and stylish dancewear to accommodate the lively and energetic dance trends of the era.
8. Makeup: Bold and Bright
Makeup was not a standard or accepted part of men’s fashion during the 1920s. In that era, makeup was primarily associated with women’s fashion, and its use was limited to the female population.
The 1920s marked a significant shift in women’s makeup trends as the Flapper Look became popular. Women embraced bolder and brighter makeup styles, which included:
- Dark Lipstick: Women wore dark and dramatic shades like deep reds, plums, and maroons. The cupid’s bow was often exaggerated and emphasized with lip liner, creating a distinct and bold look.
- Smoky Eye: The smoky eye makeup style became fashionable, featuring heavily darkened eyelids with black or dark-colored eyeshadows. Kohl’s eyeliner created a dramatic, sultry effect around the eyes.
- Thin, Dramatic Eyebrows: Women often plucked their eyebrows into delicate, arched shapes, which added to the overall dramatic and expressive look of their faces.
- Powdered Complexion: A pale and powdered complexion was considered fashionable during the 1920s. Women used face powder to achieve a porcelain-like finish.
- Dramatic Cheeks: Women applied blush in a round, bold circles on the apples of their cheeks, emphasizing the youthful and vibrant Flapper aesthetic.
While makeup played a significant role in women’s fashion during the 1920s, it was not embraced or considered appropriate for men’s fashion then. Gender norms and societal expectations dictated that makeup was exclusively for women, and men adhered to more natural and traditional grooming practices.
In modern times, makeup has become more gender-inclusive, and some men do choose to wear makeup for various reasons, such as self-expression, performance art, or creative expression. However, in the context of 1920s menswear fashion, bold and bright makeup was not a part of the typical grooming routine for men.
9 . The Influence of Hollywood
Hollywood significantly influenced 1920s menswear fashion, and it continues to shape fashion trends today. The emergence of the Hollywood film industry during the 1920s coincided with a transformative period in men’s fashion, and the silver screen played a vital role in popularizing new styles and influencing what men wore.
Here are some ways in which Hollywood impacted men’s fashion during the 1920s:
- Celebrity Style: Hollywood celebrities, known as movie stars, became fashion icons. Their on-screen personas and off-screen appearances heavily influenced public perception of style and glamour. People looked up to actors like Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks, and Charlie Chaplin, adopting their fashion choices and hairstyles.
- Tuxedo: The tuxedo, also known as a dinner jacket in some parts of the world, gained popularity as a formal evening wear option for men. It was frequently seen in Hollywood films and became a staple for elegant occasions.
- Tailoring and Formalwear: Hollywood films showcased well-dressed leading men in perfectly tailored suits, promoting the importance of proper fit and classic formalwear. Men aspired to dress as elegantly as the stars they saw on the big screen.
- Casual and Sporty Attire: Hollywood films also depicted men in more relaxed and sporty attire, such as golf outfits, tennis wear, and leisure suits. These looks influenced the development of casual menswear.
- Hairstyles: Men’s hairstyles in Hollywood films had a significant impact on popular trends. The slicked-back, parted, and wavy hairstyles seen on screen were widely adopted by men who wanted to emulate the leading actors’ suave and sophisticated looks.
- Accessories: Hollywood stars often wore accessories like cufflinks, bow ties, and hats, setting trends for formal and semi-formal occasions.
- Masculine Icons: Portraying solid male characters on the silver screen influenced perceptions of masculinity and fashion. Leading actors’ confident and debonair personas encouraged men to dress with poise and elegance.
The rise of Hollywood as an entertainment and cultural powerhouse during the 1920s significantly impacted men’s fashion by introducing new styles and setting trends. The influence of Hollywood on fashion has continued throughout the years, as celebrities and movies continue to shape and inspire popular clothing choices worldwide.
10. The Great Gatsby: An Enduring Source of Inspiration
Absolutely! “The Great Gatsby,” the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald and the various film adaptations, has been a timeless source of inspiration for 1920s menswear fashion. The story, set in the wealthy Jazz Age, perfectly captures the essence of the Roaring Twenties, and the characters’ fashion choices reflect the glamour and sophistication of the era.
Here are some key elements of 1920s menswear fashion that “The Great Gatsby” has influenced:
- Three-Piece Suits: The characters in “The Great Gatsby” are often depicted wearing elegant three-piece suits, a hallmark of men’s formalwear during the 1920s. The cases were tailored with a loose fit and wide lapels, usually made from luxurious materials like silk or linen.
- Double-Breasted Vests: The double-breasted vest, a waistcoat, was a popular accessory worn with suits. It added a touch of formality and sophistication to men’s attire.
- Bow Ties: Bow ties were a fashionable choice for formal occasions, and characters in the novel can be seen wearing them in various styles and colors.
- Tuxedos: “The Great Gatsby” showcases men dressed in tuxedos, particularly at the extravagant parties Jay Gatsby throws. The classic formal option, the tuxedo became a staple for elegant evening events.
- Hats: Men in the 1920s often wore hats, and “The Great Gatsby” highlights various styles like fedoras and straw boater hats, which added flair to the characters’ looks.
- Two-Tone Spectator Shoes: The novel features characters sporting two-tone spectator shoes, a stylish and eye-catching choice that remains popular in vintage-inspired fashion today.
- Hairstyles: The characters’ hairstyles in “The Great Gatsby” align with the sleek and tidy looks of the 1920s, including side-parted hair and slicked-back styles.
“The Great Gatsby” showcases the lavish lifestyle of the rich and famous during the 1920s, and the characters’ fashion choices have left a lasting impression on the collective imagination. The book and its film adaptations continue to serve as a rich source of inspiration for vintage enthusiasts, designers, and fashion enthusiasts seeking to capture the timeless allure of 1920s menswear fashion.
11 . The Legacy of 1920s Fashion
The legacy of 1920s fashion has had a profound and lasting impact on the fashion world and continues to influence modern style. Several key elements of 1920s manner have left a lasting legacy that is still celebrated and referenced in contemporary fashion:
- Flapper Look: The Flapper Look, with its short dresses, bobbed hair, and rebellious spirit, is an iconic representation of the 1920s. This bold and liberated style challenged traditional norms and inspired a sense of Freedom and empowerment for women. The Flapper Look continues to be a popular theme in costume parties, fashion shows, and vintage-inspired collections.
- Art Deco Influence: The Art Deco movement of the 1920s has had a lasting impact on design, architecture, and fashion. Its geometric patterns, sleek lines, and luxurious materials are still seen in modern style, interior design, and art.
- Coco Chanel’s Legacy: Coco Chanel’s revolutionary contributions to women’s fashion in the 1920s continue to shape the industry. Her designs, including the little black dress, the Chanel suit, and her use of jersey fabric, are still highly regarded and influential in contemporary fashion.
- Casual and Sporty Attire: The 1920s shifted towards more casual and sporty attire, particularly for men. This laid-back approach to clothing paved the way for the development of modern casualwear, which remains a dominant aspect of contemporary fashion.
- Elegant Menswear: The 1920s introduced a more relaxed and comfortable approach to menswear, with wider-legged trousers, fedoras, and tuxedos becoming timeless staples in men’s fashion.
- Hairstyles: The short bobbed hairstyle of the 1920s remains a classic and versatile look that continues to be embraced by women today.
- Hollywood Influence: The rise of Hollywood during the 1920s solidified the link between fashion and celebrity culture. Hollywood stars’ influence and fashion choices continue to shape trends and styles.
- Dancewear: The active and energetic lifestyle of the 1920s influenced the development of dancewear, such as dance shoes and comfortable clothing for dancing. This legacy can still be seen in modern activewear and dance attire design.
The 1920s was a time of immense cultural and social change, and its fashion legacy reflects the era’s spirit—bold, modern, and forward-thinking. Many aspects of 1920s fashion have become enduring symbols of elegance, liberation, and creativity in the world of style, making it a pivotal and iconic period in fashion history.
Roaring Twenties fashion continues to captivate the imagination of fashion enthusiasts worldwide. The flapper look, cloche hats, Art Deco jewelry, and the influence of Hollywood are just some of the timeless trends that emerged during this era. From glamorous evening wear to androgynous chic, the Roaring Twenties was a time of innovation and bold self-expression that remains an enduring source of inspiration for modern fashion.
Were flapper dresses only worn by young women?
Flapper dresses were popular among young women, but women of all ages embraced the freedom and comfort they offered.
Did men also wear cloche hats during the 1920s?
While cloche hats were primarily associated with women's fashion, some men did adopt the style as well.
What made Art Deco jewelry so unique?
Art Deco jewelry stood out for its geometric designs, bold colors, and luxurious materials, making it a distinctive and glamorous choice.
Was Coco Chanel the first female fashion designer of her time?
While Coco Chanel was one of the most influential female designers, she wasn't the only one. However, her impact on fashion was undeniable.
Did the Roaring Twenties influence men's fashion as well?
Yes, the Roaring Twenties had a significant influence on men's fashion, particularly with the rise of the dapper, well-tailored look.