Rightly or wrongly fashion is normally viewed through the lens of each decade. But each decade will see a wide range of different styles and trends. But seems like the 50s male fashion is somewhat of a forgotten decade.
The 60s and 70s styles have a lot of love thanks to the explosion of what we now call retro chic looks.
The 80s saw the rise of many prominent designers and new styles like punk fashion. Even the 90s and early 2000 trends are looked upon fondly by people nowadays as well.
But the 50s is the outlier which is a shame because there is actually a lot to explore. Much of the 40s was focused on the war and the recovery period so clearly, fashion wasn’t the main concern for many people.
But over time fashion and design slowly started to become important again and the 50s really explored this period.
Men’s fashion often falls behind women’s, even today while things are more equal there is still a greater prevalence in the women’s market.
However, male fashion has always had its own niche and in the 50s that was no different.
So, let’s undercover the secrets of 50s male fashion and see what we can uncover. We’ll explore the trends, and the styles, and see what men were wearing.
50s Male Fashion TRENDS
Now when you think of male fashion in the 50s most people likely think of the standard three-piece suit. Now you could likely add the classic three-piece to almost any decade of male fashion.
But in the 50s this suit was not the be-all and end-all of male fashion!
That’s not to say they weren’t still worn, they very much were, and very often they were the popular choice for professional and business workwear.
However, you can point to the 50s as the start of the male fashion evolution.
Rather than simply wearing a suit for every event male fashion started to evolve to add new more relaxed casual wear options.
Big open button-up shirts were often paired with a regular baggy tee for relaxed weekend wear.
Men’s trousers or slacks often had a pattern to them although a belt was still worn even for casual wear. After the war material costs dropped dramatically which meant more colours and patterns became available for men to try.
The cheaper prices and more options meant designers got more creative.
Synthetic materials became more popular during this period because they were easier to clean and maintain.
Both professional and casual clothes were made with these materials so in general the 50s were much more varied than most people think.
The aftermath of the Second World War meant male fashion became much more varied.
Now when you look up images on Google or look through fashion books you’ll likely see plenty of similar pictures.
Often these will be of men in suits and larger coats, but 50s male fashion was much more varied than these images suggest.
The classic greaser look made famous by films like Grease started out in the 1950s as well.
While this was a youth subculture it shows just how varied male fashion was.
Before we dive into our guide to ’50 male fashion, let’s take a look at some 50s male clothing staples.
50s Male Clothing Staples
Going through clothing staples is always difficult because let’s face it every man is different.
What classes as a staple for one man might never be in the wardrobe of another.
However, because we are looking at 50s male fashion as a whole we’ll take a look at all the main 50s clothing staples you need to know.
Sports coats are an unusual term and likely already give you the wrong idea of what this garment actually is.
A sports coat is essentially a suit jacket, but they are generally worn for more casual and relaxed occasions.
Sports coats are also generally much more versatile than suit jackets.
They come in a variety of different colours and patterns and during the 50s knowing the difference between a sports coat and a suit jacket was quite easy.
Suit jackets normally came in single colours and were designed for more professional/ business wear.
Sports coats however often came in a variety of different colours and patterns. Plaid and check patterns for example were quite common.
Coats & Jackets
The 50s was a usual time for coats and jackets and long raincoats became very popular for both relaxed casual wear and more professional environments.
However, jackets also became very popular during the 50s and were often part of men’s everyday casual wear.
The Bush jacket was a very popular look but it’s the Bomber jacket that really made waves during the 50s.
Younger men in particular really took this article of clothing as it became a fixture of greaser culture.
The jacket was a symbol of rebellion and offered something cooler. Even today the Bomber jacket is still popular for the same reason.
The classic retro-chunky sweater became very popular during the 50s and most men had at least one in their daily rotation.
50s male fashion really put casual wear at the forefront and a sweater was most men’s choice for casual day-to-day wear.
The pullover sweater was the most common choice usually in pale colours. But the V-neck sweater was also an option.
Sweaters could also be paired with a shirt and used in some forms of professional attire as well.
The 50s male sweater was quite versatile and while they haven’t really had much of a revival they are very much a staple of 1950s male fashion.
Darker colours weren’t as common but they could be found as well.
When we look at fashion trends throughout the decades we can gradually see designers, as well as the public, becoming more open to showing skin!
Things like miniskirts for example would have seemed unthinkable at one point. However, it’s not just women who experienced this fashion revolution.
In the 50s it became more acceptable for men to show more skin as well.
This was seen in the growing prevalence of shorts which in the 50s took the form of Bermuda shorts. Also known as walking shorts these were more suited for casual or semi-casual wear.
They were generally cuffed just above the knee and traditionally worn with knee-high socks in contrasting patterns.
Seeing men wearing shorts like these on warmer days was very common throughout the 50s.
Like many other staples of 50s male fashion, they were also typically more colourful in design and many also featured patterns as well.
They could also be made from a wide range of different materials including things like cotton and even flannel.
Shoes are an important part of any outfit and this was especially true when it comes to 1950s male fashion!
So far you have likely already seen that the 50s was very much focused on casual clothing or at least making things feel less rigid and “stuffy”, but shoes were a little different.
Lace-up Oxford-style shoes for example remained a popular choice throughout the 50s.
These shoes were especially popular for business and workwear, but they found a new audience for smart-casual wear as well.
Other popular options include slip-on shoes and penny loafers. These shoes were generally worn for more casual day-to-day outfits but could also be worn with business attire in some cases as well.
Shoes during the 50s were very versatile but usually looked quite bold and smart.
Talking about your run-of-the-mill t-shirt might seem a little stranger after all aren’t these always a staple of men’s fashion to some degree?
Well, we might actually be able to thank 50s designers for this because it was during this period that they actually became so popular.
The classic T-shirt we all know and love saw a huge boom in popularity during the 50s. Younger men in particular loved the T-shirt thanks to its versatility and simplicity.
A basic white tee was often paired with a jacket for a casual day-to-day look.
Men looking for that laidback style couldn’t really go wrong with a white T-shirt and jeans.
This look is still rocked today by many men which shows just how timeless it was. Sometimes you really can’t go wrong with the simpler style.
Sweaters weren’t the only popular choice for men’s casual wear. Cardigans were also very popular when it came to 50s male fashion.
Many popular male actors from the period wore cardigans and they quickly became a common look for many men.
A wool button-up cardigan paired with a shirt was considered a very dabber look.
Usually, men of a younger age would stick to darker colours. But it wasn’t uncommon to see older men trying out brighter more adventurous patterns.
While cardigans are still worn today by men they aren’t really as popular as they used to be.
Many people view them to be women’s clothing, but a chunky cardigan was a very masculine look in the 50s.
Men’s accessories have always been behind women’s when it comes to fashion and this was no different in the 50s.
However, this doesn’t mean there are no options for men to enjoy. In fact, hats were very popular during the 1950s for both casual and professional wear.
Now yes you probably know about the fedora but there was a lot more to 50s fashion than just these.
Panama and the traditional pork pie hat were both quite popular as well and they weren’t always dark either.
More colourful hats in a variety of different styles were often worn for casual day-to-day wear.
Even plain straw hats had their fans during the 50s although these were often worn by older men for Summer days out.
Another nice touch that was introduced around the 1950s was the printed hatband.
While these are still around these days they aren’t quite as popular although we do think they’ll be back in style sooner than you might think!
Hatbands, as their name implies, were bands that went around the hat. They were used to add an extra splash of colour to the hat.
This allowed men to personalize their hats in a number of different ways.
The 50s really was a time of revolution and evolution for men’s fashion. It’s also a much more relaxed and colourful period than many people think.
So, be bold and don’t be afraid to try something new.