The '20s and '30s were a time of great cultural and political upheaval. World War I was ending and there was a great sense of optimisim among young people. Women were experiencing a liberating feeling from new, less restrictive fashions and men were busy adapting the suit for every conceivable occasion. Luxurious fabrics and lush colors defined the look of a man's suit, and set the precedent for the classic style of men's suits still seen today.
Men's Fashion in the 1920s
Men in the 1920s were almost always in a suit of some sort, and often changed suits depending on the time of day. In the early part of the decade, a man's suit was extremely conservative. The suit was tightly fitted and created a slim outline. This conservative style reflected the cultural sense at the time. However, the end of World War I brought with it a shift in that sensibility. Men had available to them a variety of leisure and sport clothing, including trousers, sweaters and vests. Whether in a business suit or sports attire, the goal was to look young and vibrant, to reflect America's new found sense of hope and vitality.
Men's Fashion in the 1930s
By 1931 it is estimated that more than 8 million people were out of work due to the Wall Street crash of 1929. The average working man could not afford the finely made suits of the previous era. Now the focus was on affordable, mass-produced clothing. Men’s suits went from slim-cut styles to broad-shouldered styles and from single- to double-breasted jackets. By 1935 the economy was rebounding, which gave way to the finely tailored look of the London cut suit, which featured tapered sleeves and high pockets. During the summer it was fashionable for men to wear blazers and short trousers.
Organized Crime as a Fashion Influence
In the '20s and '30s organized crime was widespread and everyone was familiar with the gangster-inspired suit. It was brightly colored and often featured wide stripes and elaborate accessories, such as gold cuff links and buttons. People wanting to emulate this flamboyant style found a happy medium in the Broadway suit, which featured a double-breasted jacket and large buttons.
The Zoot Suit
In the 1930s the Zoot suit became popular among young people and minorities. It was highly stylized, and was often accessorized with a matching hat and cane. Brightly colored ties and fitted pants completed this look, which ultimately fell out of style in the late 1940s.