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Influence of the 1920's Suit on Modern Menswear

Posted by Rishi Chullani on

Ryan MacMorris

Modern menswear as we know it began in the 1920's, so it is tough to pinpoint the exact influence of the 1920's on modern menswear, but recently many of the styles pioneered by the decade are being seen again.

Men’s fashion is often pushed in certain directions by people emulating styles they see in their favorite period movie or tv show, which if done incorrectly can result in some downright bad fashion choices. Instead take notes on the influence of the 1920's on modern menswear so that you end up looking less like Steve Buscemi and more like you are a master of Boardwalk Empire style.

The early 20's to the late 20's were a period of great change in menswear as the formal uniform of the modern suit was truly cemented in fashion history.

Dressing in the 20's fashion correctly can give you the look of classic style and luxury that we associate with the decade.  Below we highlight the influence of the 1920’s suit on modern menswear.

Ties and Pocket Squares

Ties for men in the 1920's were very much the ties we today associate with men’s formal wear. Dark colored ties, cream colored ties and art deco patterned ties were popular then and work with nearly any suit that is not too loud in color. Creams, browns, greys and dark navy suits were popular during the 1920's which allowed for a quality silk tie to stand out from the rest of the outfit. Ties and pocket squares were often the only sources of color to break up the three-piece suits, which were nearly mandatory at the time, so a quality silk tie and pocket square are essential to pulling off the modern 20's look.

Cream colored suits of 1920's

Cream colored suits were popularized during the 1920's.  Courtesy of

Pocket squares for men at the time did not follow the rules that modern menswear has restricted them to by making it almost forbidden to match a pocket square to a tie. Pocket squares in the 1920's era were crisply and neatly folded often in the style of the tie or in white to match the shirt collar.

To View The Dark Knot's range of hand made linen and silk Pocket Squares, please click here.

Men’s Shirts

The influence of the 1920 on modern menswear can easily be seen in the most common dress shirt styles still worn by men in offices today. Most common colors were white, cream, and a light blue much like they are today. The 1920's however was a time where the dress shirt was almost never seen due to the high peaks of waistcoats or vests coupled with a tie.

High Peak Waistcoats with minimal shirt fabric

High Peak Waistcoats with minimal shirt fabric exposed were a staple of the dapper 1920's gentlemen. Courtesy of

Men’s shirt collars at this time were also moving towards the trend of attachable collars that has now become the standard of men’s dress shirts. A tight double breasted vest and a tie would often then show little more than a glimpse of the shirt’s color because it was considered an extreme faux pas for your shirt to be visible below the vest and because shirt collars were often white regardless of the shirt’s color.

Style Details

1920's men’s fashion was a time of many accessories. Pocket squares, bow ties, neckties, and all manner of formal jewelry were extremely common ways to add a bit of personal style to the monochrome three-piece ensembles that had become the uniform. Tie bars, tie pins and cufflinks were often worn as a symbol of affluence with extreme care paid to match these all with the each other and the metal of the pocketwatch dangling from a vest pocket.

On top of all of that, literally, is the hat. In the 20's the hat to top off a suit was not only a stylish decision, but a respectable necessity. Popular hats of this era came in a number of different styles, with the newsboy cap being the most popular of them all. The hat polished off the outfit of any gentleman during the 1920's and was nearly mandatory for the adult male outside the house.

Two toned brogues rose in popularity which later led to suit pants being hemmed higher in order to show off the shoes and even the socks that went along with them so as to add more color to the outfit. These pants were often hiked up higher to make sure no portion of the dress shirt was shown beneath the vest which eventually became the norm as pleats became possible to hide the true waist of whoever was wearing the pants. This trend along with the overwhelming popularity of suspenders over belts meant that high waistlines were the norm of menswear for years to come.

Two toned brogues, high peak waistcoats, high pant waistlines, exposed socks, ties and pocket squares

Two toned brogues, high peak waistcoats, high pant waistlines, exposed socks, ties and pocket squares were all hallmarks of the Dapper 1920's suits.  Courtesy of

Modern Menswear

While the influence of the 1920's on menswear cannot be denied in today’s fashion world, paying homage to the era must be done carefully or you will find yourself looking like a caricature of the era’s gangsters. The most important things to keep in mind if you are hoping to put together a 20's inspired look are the colors, the fit and the accessories.

Cream was the color that ruled the fashionable decade, things like a cream silk tie, a splash of cream in your pocket square or shoes will certainly show a 1920's style. Dark brown and pinstriped suits were extremely popular at the time and will be complemented by the cream color nicely. It is important to remember to wear a matching vest with the suit which will work to pull the outfit altogether and focus attention on your neck tie.

The 20's style and modern suit styles are all about fit, where they diverge however is on the fit of the pants. While baggier suit pants have been cropping up in designer’s collections, the fit to focus on for the 20's look in the modern day is where they sit on the waist. Wearing a pair of pants with suspenders will allow for this to be heightened if the pants are not too tight to begin with. This high waist along with a tight fitted waistcoat will achieve the 1920's silhouette without much fuss.

pinstripe suits, cream colored accessories, hats, high waist lines, baggier pants

Illustrations depicting the popularity of certain 1920's trends, including pinstripe suits, cream colored accessories, hats, high waist lines, baggier pants (latter half of century) and brogues! Courtesy of

Finally to cap off the look are the accessories. The fabric in suits today are generally much thinner than they were in the 1920's which means that the thick newsboy caps of the era contrast with the fabric too much unless paired with a heavily textured tie. Modern fashion does not require a hat so it is easier to pull off the look without one.

While pocket watches were extremely common at the time unless yours comes with a good story it will seem and look affected. The accessories to pay attention to then are most likely the same that your grandfather wore, cuff links and a tie pin to match are an easy way to add some class to the look. Lastly, wearing two toned loafers or brogues with at least one color matched to your suit will have you looking like a 1920's man transported.

And that's a wrap for this one! We hope that you have found this information helpful!

Want to pull off a dapper 1920's look? The Dark Knot's extensive range of hand made silk neckties and pocket squares can be viewed here.

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