The National Institute for Genealogical Studies

LEADERS IN ONLINE GENEALOGY EDUCATION

The National Institute for Genealogical Studies - LEADERS IN ONLINE GENEALOGY EDUCATION

Clues in Photographs: Men’s Clothing

Men’s Clothing, 1900-1950 

What trends existed in men’s clothing during the 20th century? Knowing what clothing was popular in which decade can help you pinpoint when that family photograph was taken and who possibly is pictured. Some trends by the decade include:  

Photography: Clues Pictures Hold, Editing, Digitizing and Various Projects

1900s – The frock coat from the previous decades was being pretty much replaced by the sack coat, especially when it came to daywear.  A man might wear plaid trousers, a solid color jacket, and a vest of a different but complementary color. The turn-cuff in trousers was introduced, as was the front crease in pants. Shirts collars were very tall and stiff, often turned down into pointed wings.  

1910s – The vest was collarless and fastened lower on the chest. The flat cap and newsboy cap were becoming popular. Spats or gaiters made their appearance.  

1920s – Casual dress was emphasized, and Hollywood and the military uniforms of World War I were the greatest fashion influences. Lapels were narrower at first, becoming wider later in the decade. Pants were straight and narrow, cuffed and shorter, revealing the socks.  

1930s – The Great Depression that ushered in this decade resulted in the loss of the bright colors in clothing that had been popular for two decades. Sportswear abandoned knickers early in the decade in favor of casual pants. Neckties were the only colorful relief for this decade and included stripes and other geometric designs.  

1940s – Hollywood ruled fashion in the 1940s, as the suits of the 1930s became more exaggerated, resulting in heavy chest padding, double-breasting, wider shoulders, and billowing trousers. The most exaggerated form, the ‘zoot suit’ had a longer coat, high waist, and pegged pants.  

1950s – Teens and young men were favoring white tee shirts under leather jackets. Jeans were becoming popular as well. The businessman was wearing business suits that were single-breasted, narrower in form, with less shoulder padding. The vest was falling out of favor.  

Men’s clothing during the 1900s can hold some helpful clues in your genealogy research. Our “Photography: Clues Pictures Hold, Editing, Digitizing and Various Projects” course will offer you insight to help you answer questions you have about your historical family photographs.  

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