1940s and 1950s Mens Clothing

href="/military-and-wartime/world-war-two">World War II had an immediate impact on fashion, as textiles were rationed and Americans adopted utilitarian styles that required less expensive materials. For men, casual clothing often included garments worn by military members or factory workers: souvenir jackets from travels in Japan with elaborately embroidered backsides or leather bomber jackets made by civilian brands like Schott Bros.

During the austere war years, various subcultures inspired by the zoot suits of the American jazz scene adopted their flamboyant styles to resist the march of fascism, which banned swing and jazz music. Groups like the “Swingjugend” (Swing Youth) in Germany and the Zazous in France wore oversized suit jackets with padded shoulders, loose peg-top trousers that narrowed at the ankles, and long unkempt haircuts to defy the Nazis and their collaborators.

Denim pants like Levi’s famous 501 jeans continued to spread in popularity, moving from their working-class roots to become symbols of teenage rebellion alongside leather motorcycle jackets. After spending years relegated to underwear status, T-shirts finally became fashionable in the 1950s, epitomized by the styles of moody young men played by actors Marlon Brando and James Dean.

Beatnik hipsters and modernist jazz players dressed in a minimalist style including skinny trousers or chinos paired with striped shirts, dark sweaters, and army surplus coats. In the U.K., edgy teenagers known as Teddy Boys combined elements of American working-class clothing with Edwardian frippery—long jackets in loud fabrics, buttoned silk vests, bolo ties, tapered pants, and thick soled boots or loafers with white or bright-colored socks.

For more conventional young men, plaid shirts and letter jackets or letter sweaters from their high school or university made a safe choice. College campuses popularized the monied Ivy League look with Oxford shirts, Brooks Brothers striped ties, khaki pants, and leather wingtip shoes.

During the later 1940s and into the '50s, fashion became more exuberant, particularly in prosperous postwar America. Garments were increasingly made from nylon and other synthetic materials, which reduced wrinkles and were easy to clean. Americans celebrated a fantasy of carefree island living as the Tiki trend spread from Hawaii to the mainland, and men across the U.S. clamored for Aloha shirts and Bermuda shorts.

However, most menswear remained more conservative when compared with its extravagant feminine counterpart, the New Look, pioneered by Dior. Men’s suit jackets and ties narrowed, but a two-piece suit and matching hat was still the standard dress code.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

The Black Tie Guide

The Black Tie Guide

Peter Marshall became an authority on formalwear out of necessity — he needed a tux to wear on the maiden transat… [read review or visit site]

Fashion Columbia Study Collection

Fashion Columbia Study Collection

The Fashion Columbia Study Collection (FCSC) is the digital home of the Columbia College Chicago’s fashion archiv… [read review or visit site]



Most watched eBay auctions    

Vintage 50s Military L-2a Usaf Flight Jacket Superior Togs Sz 36 Us Air ForceVintage Motorcycle Jacket, Chp Jacket, Horse Hide Jacket, Late 50s, Sz 40-42Vtg 1950s Iolani Rayon Crepe Natives Pattern Hawaiian Shirt L Eugene Savage SurfVintage 1950's Men's Hercules Outerwear By Sears, Horsehide Leather JacketVintage 1940's/1950's Cartoon Fire Ant Print Rayon Hawaiian Rockabilly Shirt -mlVtg 1950s Embroidered Rifle Gun Club Gabardine Shirt 50s Vlv RockabillyVintage 1940's "h Bar C Ranchwear" Cowboy Western Embroidery Shirt - Women'sVtg 50s Lakeland Clicker Sz 44 Large Zipped Wool Rockabilly Car Club Coat JacketRare Gianni Versace Silk Blouse Womens 40/sVtg Levi's 501 Button Fly Selvedge 1950s Big E Hidden Rivets Jeans 30x29 StraussVintage 1950's Hercules Genuine Horse Hide Leather Bomber Jacket Size 42 L@@kVtg 40s 50s Front Quarter Horsehide Highwayman Brown Jacket Mens Sz M Biker A2Vintage 1950s California Ranchwear Pearl Snap Rayon Shirt Rhinestone Cowboy LgNwot Indochino Gray Canvassed 2 Pc Suit Ticket Pocket Working Cuffs Bespoke 40 S1950s Gabardine Shirt In Rust Color, Saddle Stitch Accents, Beautiful!Vintage 1940’s Two-tone Mocha Gabardine Hollywood Leisure Jacket Coat! Rare Vtg 50s Campus Leopard Print Swim Trunks Shorts Suit Usa Made RockabillyVintage 1950s Men's Bbq Shirt Novelty Print Vlv Tiki Pool Party Rockabilly1950s Vintage Silk / Cotton Horizontal Striped Shirt L Xl1950's Men's Vintage Arrow Rockabilly Swing Cotton Sz M Shirt Mint With Tags Vintage 50s Penneys Cotton Sweatshirt Great Distressed WorkwearVtg 40s Ww2 French White Cotton Waffle Dress Work Smock Overhead ShirtVtg French Indigo Denim Army Style 40s Lk Ww2 Style Cotton Chore Work Jacket Vtg 40s Ww2 French Striped Cotton Work ShirtVintage 1950's Wilson Jack Kramer Tennis ShortsVtg 30s 40s French White Cotton Grandad Work Dress Bib Front Shirt Authentic Vintage 1950s Rockabilly Atomic Age Flec Pilgrim ShirtVtg 40s 50s Wool Lined Us Navy Army Ma-1 Deck Flight Bomber Canvas JacketVintage 40s Mens Black Canvas Jeepers Sneaker Tennis B Ball High Top ShoesVintage Mens “bradley” Wool Swim Trunks Suit W/ Built-in Jockstrap, 1940s, Sz 341940s 1950s Dungarees Denim Western Dead Stock Sanforized 100% Cotton Jeans Vtg 50's Blocks Detroit Rockabilly Elvis Hollywood Sport Coat Blazer Sz 44Our Legacy Navy Red Soft Flannel Check 1950s Shirt, Size 50 LargeTwo Pair Of Men's Swimwear / Shorts Jantzen Satin Maroon 1940's Or 1950'sVintage Mens “swimaway” Knit Midcentury Swim Trunks Suit, 1940s-50s, Size 32 Authentic 1940's Gent's Vintage Fairisle Cardigan Vest, SmallVintage 50s Kids Cowboy Boots Acme App. 7' In Lnth 3" WideVtg 50s Korea War Wool Army Shirt Mens Sz L Military Green FlannelVintage 1950s 50s Mens Rockabilly Hollywood Pullover Gaucho Shirt Plaid EucCharles Tyrwhitt Blue Wool Suit Tailored Slim Fit 40" Short 40s 32" TrousersVtg French Checked Overhead Smock 40s Lk Ww2 Lk Overhead Work ShirtVtg 50s Men's Oshkosh Vestbak Striped Engineer Bibs Overalls Distressed 34 X 30Vintage Men's Youth Teen Knit Midcentury Swim Trunks Suit 1950s Vtg 50s Rams Head Wool Plaid Flannel Button Up Shirt Top Loop Flap Pocket Mens XVintage 50s Mens Sportsman Ss Shirt Gray Griffin Loop Tab Collar Rockabilly LVintage Hawaiian Shirt Beach Party Wedding Mid Century Modern Hawaii Rayon 50s Albert Nipon 40s Taupe Wool Blend Suit 3 Button 32x28 Pants Men's1950's Rockabilly Arrow Decton L Azure Blue Embroider Crown Loop Collar Ssleeve Superb Vtg 40s Wwii German Hartmann Flight Motorcycle Leather Jacket LuftwaffeVintage Baseball Jersey Uniform Wool Chain Stitch 1940s 1950s Rockabilly VlvAlfani 8152 Mens Black Wool Lined Slim Fit Suit Vest 40s Bhfo#033662 ##vtg 50s Lakeland Deerskin Leather Jacket S To M Union Made