Thursday, December 17, 2009

1940's Men's Fashion - A Time of Transformation Toward the Swing Era

1940's Men's Fashion - A Time of Transformation Toward the Swing Era
By Jackie D.

As the Great Depression came to an end and World War II was descending onto the globe, the 1940s became cemented in human history as a pivotal decade.  This time period brought on a dramatic shift in men's fashion.  In fact, some people consider the 1940s as one last great hurrah in the elegance and style of men's fashion.

Influence of World War II

Because World War II was taking its toll on Europe in the early 1940s, Italy and Paris were no longer the fashion leaders.  It was during this time that strict rationing was the norm in many places, including the United Kingdom and the United States, which meant that fashion designers had plenty of challenges when it came to making clothes.  Fashion quickly became more about substance and functionality than style.

During the early 1940s men's fashion was to be transformed forever.  In wartime, natural fibers were reserved for uniforms and military wear.  Practical, sturdy clothing became the norm.  It was during this time that men's suits actually lost the vests, pocket flaps, and trouser cuffs to conserve material.  At the end of the war, men's fashion changed again, and perhaps became one of the most iconic periods in recent history.

Swing Era in Full Swing

In the mid-1940s, the Swing Era boomed onto the scene and so did the Zoot suit.  Designers began to create more stylish outfits meaning that men's suits were full-cut again.  The double-breasted suit, wider trousers, and oversized longer jackets quickly became in vogue.  The pants were particularly different from decades past with low crotches, high waists, and narrow ankles.  Additionally, shirts and coats began to be made in a full range of vibrant colors including peach, blue-grey, cedar, and putty.  This exciting change also influenced the neckties, which were previously traditional and almost boring.

Flamboyant Neckties

Men's ties of the 1940s were something to be seen!  Hand-painted shaped silk neckties were all the rage and were made to appeal to every taste and style.  The designs ranged from elegant to quite exotic and borderline strange for the time.  It was not shocking to see brightly colored geometric designs or even pin-up girls painted onto neckwear.  They were secured with equally flamboyant tie pins and clips.  Neckties became a personality-defining accessory that many men took advantage of. 

Men who chose not to wear the more flamboyant neckwear opted for solid colors of red, blue, or white stripes.  Regardless of pattern or color, neckties were quite wide and fairly short.  However, all of them were worn mostly in Windsor knots. 

Accessories that Make the Man

It was during this time that accessories began to really make the man.  Aside from ties, hats and shoes became quite influential.  It was during this decade that the wide-brimmed fedora made its mark on history.  The shoe of choice quickly became the wingtip, reminiscent of the 1930s with one sure difference - two tone designs.  However, black patent leather dress shoes also became quite popular.  Other popular accessories for men in the 1940s included good cufflinks and tricked out suspenders.  Suspenders are a direct throwback to wartime when all the leather went to the military rather than to the public for belts.  


Though the decades leading into the 1940s were quite desperate, men's fashion became more exciting, flattering, and opulent during this time.  We often think back on men's fashion and the daring styles remind us of swing-dancing and gangsters.  Today, we can see the influence of the 1940s in the most elegant and classy of men's fashion design.

Jackie D. is the owner of Ties2Pillows, an online resource for Designer Neckties with the largest selection of Vintage 1940's Men's Ties for sale on the web.

Ties are separated by era (1920's through today's), by style (wide, extra long, square end, knit, silk) and by pattern.

The site carries every novelty theme imaginable, including hard to find vintage unique novelty ties.

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