1930s Men's Fashion Guide | Style & Effect On Modern Menswear

Posted by Rishi Chullani on

Triston Brewer

In this detailed guide, we cover the evolution of 1930s men's fashion and its effect on contemporary menswear. 

1930's Men's Fashion

The decade ushered in a distinct level of sophistication, igniting the diversification of styling clothing for men. Courtesy of www.gentlemansgazette.com

The 30s Represented an Iconic Blueprint for Men’s Fashion

Fashion is often a marker of society at a moment in time, with each period imprinting its essence through the apparel worn. The 1930s marked a whirlwind period involving economic turmoil as well as extensive social change – factors contributing to the state of menswear during the era. Despite these hurdles, the decade led to the emergence of groundbreaking styles and enduring designs that continue to dictate menswear today. In contrast to the preceding two decades, in the 1930s, men adopted a more relaxed approach to dressing, favoring casual attire. This shift involved an increase in sportswear, a decrease in rigid hats, and a decline in starched collars.

1930's Men's Fashion

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Towards the tail end of the 20s, the stock market crash of 1929 resulted in The Great Depression, a period that significantly impacted all areas of life, including the fashion industry. As a result of the financial state of the country, a marked shift emerged towards more practical and affordable clothing.

Suits for men became simpler in design and more focused on durability and functionality. As a means of saving money, suits of the 1930s emphasized a silhouette characterized by broad shoulders, high waists, and wide-leg trousers. The overall effect was elegant, stylish, and can still be seen in menswear today as tailored suits remain a quintessential element in a man’s wardrobe.

1930's Men's Fashion

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The 1930s witnessed a surge in sports and athletic activities, leading to the emergence of sportswear as a significant influence on menswear. As men became more active, their clothing needed to accommodate their movements and provide comfort. With clothing more molded to the body in the 1930s, athletic bodies became the preference for men as sports and outdoor activities started to trend. Other influences on the aesthetic came from military styles which eventually found their way into the standard men’s look in casual wear.

Due in part to the influence of Hollywood, more men began to embrace casual apparel for everyday wear, proving that men were more open to a broader range of options and versatility in their wardrobes. This new range could be seen in sports jackets, open-collar shirts, and denim jeans and is a perspective that remains in current times.

All of these examples of smart casual dressing can be seen in menswear today, offering a refined yet informal aesthetic that is versatile for various occasions. Signature looks of the 30s included relaxed silhouettes, lightweight fabrics, and functional designs, with the popularity of V-necks, cable-knit patterns, and ribbed cuffs gaining prominence during the period. Modern style has lifted heavily from the 30s, with athleisure and activewear considered integral components of men’s fashion.

1930's Men's Fashion

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The Materials Make the Man

A new decade, new attitude, and newly introduced aesthetic into menswear affected the fabrics used to make many of the clothes of the 30s. The period witnessed the introduction of new textures and materials, including wool, with flannel becoming a trend for men’s suits and outerwear during the era. Wool continues to be a staple in men’s fashion, most notably seen in lightweight wool blends and performance wools.

The surge in the popularity of synthetic materials in men's fashion during the 1930s can be attributed to a convergence of factors, with technological progress, economic influences, and shifting societal norms playing key roles. Amidst the backdrop of the Great Depression, a profound global economic crisis, the availability of natural fibers such as silk, wool, and cotton was scarce and costly, rendering them less attainable for the ordinary consumer.

As a result, man-made fabrics like rayon and acetate becoming mainstays due to their light weight, wrinkle resistance, and affordability. In modern times, synthetic blends provide comfort, durability, and ease of care for men searching for an elevated look.

1930's Men's Fashion

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The Accessories and Fine Details

The 30s represented a decade where men truly paid attention to their style of dress from head to toe, which of course extended to their accessories. Popular items used to complement a man’s look at the time included ties, pocket squares, cufflinks, hats and more. Ties had already been popular from previous generations but became bolder and more vibrant during the 30s.

In the modern era, accessories are more popular than ever before, with pocket squares, cufflinks, and hats worn by many men in pursuit of an upgrade, sophisticated look. In current times, men have the autonomy to veer between the extravagant looks of the 1920s towards the more refined and streamlined of the 1930s.

Incorporating the 30s Into Your Modern Closet

If you’re looking to bring the looks of yesteryear into your current wardrobe, the following are guidelines considered quintessential elements of 1930s style.


1930's Men's Fashion

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Suits during the 30s transformed from boxy and structured of the previous decade to also include more streamlined silhouettes. The newly introduced aesthetic leaned towards a leaner, more elongated appearance that included a slimmer waist and slight flare at the hips.

Depending on the occasion and a man’s personal taste, single-breasted and double-breasted suits remained popular in fashion, with accessories incorporated even more to complete an ensemble. Overall, the men’s suits worn in the 30s epitomized elegance and refinement, noted for precision tailoring and a polished aesthetic that reflected the fashion of the time.


1930's Men's Fashion

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In the past, fashion was predominantly influenced by elites and monarchs. However, a significant cultural shift occurred in the 1930s. People's interest in sports grew, leading to a higher admiration for athletic, muscular figures. As a result, suit jackets were designed to enhance one's stature, creating a more imposing appearance.

These jackets featured firmer and broader shoulders, necessitating wider lapels to maintain a balanced look. The body coat style, prevalent in the 1920s, gave way to a drape style in the 1930s. This drape style featured fuller cuts with excess material over the shoulder blades in the back and the chest in the front.

Casual jackets, also known as sports jackets, gained popularity during this time and were made of materials like corduroy or tweed, ideal fabrics for leisure activities or informal occasions.

During the 1930s, double-vented jackets gained popularity, but a significant number of jackets still maintained a clean silhouette with no vents. However, some jackets featured center vents as an alternative option. Arguably the most defining feature of 1930s men's jackets was undoubtedly the wide lapels.

1930's Men's Fashion

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Trending fabrics used to make jackets for men at the time included wool, flannel, and lighter fabrics for warmer weather. Pinstripes and herringbone patterns became the norm in men’s fashion and the relaxed styles offered additional comfort and ease of movement. The transition towards a more relaxed men’s style continues today in menswear and the popularity of more informal wear has become a significant trend. The influence of the 30s has resulted in a broader range of styles available to men today, merging elements of classic elegance and modern fashion.


 1930's Men's Fashion

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During the 1930s in the US, shirts with attached soft collars became increasingly popular. This shift towards a more casual style was evident, although for formal occasions, men still opted for shirts with starched detachable collars. However, for everyday wear, the preference leaned towards the comfort and convenience of shirts with softer, attached collars.

In general, collar points experienced elongation, leading to the evolution of the spear point collar. These elongated spears were often secured with a collar clip, a style that remained popular, much like in the previous decade. Additionally, some collars featured tabs that served a similar purpose of holding the points in place.

Men of the era had a broader range of fabrics and patterns to choose from in shirts as well, including the solids, stripes, and checks available in lightweight, breathable fabrics like cotton and linen. Today, these fabrics remain popular and are used for both formal and casual shirts in contemporary fashion.


 1930's Men's Fashion

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By 1930, pants with multiple pleats had become popular, and it was commonplace to find trousers with two or more pleats, resulting in wide pant hem openings. The abundance of fabric in these pleated trousers often led to the use of cuffs to neatly finish the bottom of the pants.

The most commonly used fabrics of the time included versatile and more durable options like cotton, twill and wool, with pinstripes and checks favored patterns by many men. The popularity of high-waisted pants and pleats in modern menswear, plus the option of a more refined fit left its mark as well, allowing men the opportunity to incorporate the vintage looks of yesteryear with today’s trends.


1930s Men's Fashion

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In the 1930s, vests and waistcoats were no longer considered mandatory, yet were still a cornerstone of formal menswear, often worn as part of a three-piece suit to add a layer of sophistication and elegance. Fabrics like wool, tweed, and flannel were the preferred choices, with popular patterns such as pinstripes, herringbone, or checks commonly seen on men.

While traditionally associated with formal wear, vests from the 30s were soon incorporated more into more casual outfits. So, in modern times vests are still worn at formal occasions and black-tie events, they are also worn with dress shirts and trousers for a smart-casual look or paired with jeans and a button-down shirt for a stylish and contemporary ensemble.


1930s Men's Fashion

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Trench coats, originally designed for military use, emerged as a huge trend for men in the 1930s, with brands offering an expansive range of options that included double-breasted fronts, wide lapels, and belted waists.

Tailored and typically made from wool, long-length trench coats of the 30s offered a structured silhouette and a polished look. Other outerwear options popular in the 30s were pea coats – short, double-breasted coats that featured a boxy shape and wide lapels. Normally made from wool and melton, pea coats were also popularized by military men and offered warmth, durability, and an upscale aesthetic.

Bomber jackets also began to make their way into men’s wardrobes in the 30s, and featured a waist-length design, zip or button closures, ribbed cuffs and waistbands, and a timeless style that is still popular today. In fact, outerwear of the 30s continues to trend today as they offer classic elegance, versatility, and a timeless appeal.

Men’s Accessories in the 1930s


1930s Mens Fashion

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As in the decade preceding it, the 30s was an integral era for hats, with many styles remaining or becoming popular during the decade. During the 1930s, there was a noticeable change in men's fashion. Young men began to forgo wearing hats, and this was no longer considered a significant taboo.

Meanwhile, among working-class men, the flat cap emerged as the most favored choice of headwear. Fedora hats were still a popular choice for men in the 30s, and their sartorial cousin – also known as trilby hats – nearly as popular, featuring a shorter brim and narrow crown than traditional fedora hats.

In current times, all of these looks are still worn by men to create a stylish vibe that can veer from the nostalgic and casual to the vintage and classic. 

Pocket Squares

 1930s Men's Fashion

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Pocket squares in the 1930s became even more integral in accentuating the personal style of men. Typically made from silk, pocket squares of the 30s brimmed with a plethora of colors and patterns to complement a broader range of ensembles and personal tastes.

Various folding techniques emerged to present pocket squares and add an eye-catching element to an outfit. The tradition continues in current menswear, with more men using pocket squares for both formal and informal suit jackets to bring a bit of shine and polish to an overall look that expresses their personality.

Pocket Square | Silk Pocket Squares | Linen Pocket Squares


1930s Mens Fashion Watches

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During the 30s, slimmer and bolder watch designs dominated the men’s market, led by the Art Deco movement which resulted in watches with cleaner lines, geometric shapes, and symmetrical patterns. Vintage-inspired dials and hands also became mainstream, with many watches of the era including textured patterns, unique fonts, and subdials to evoke an elevated touch of sophistication.

Leather straps also were commonly used for watches of the 30s, making them versatile enough for formal or special occasions. The influences of the 30s on men’s watches are still evident today as current brands combine elements of classic elegance with the latest in functionality  and technology.


1930s Men's Fashion

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During the 1930s, there was a notable shift in eyewear trends towards larger and wider glasses. Unlike the smaller lenses of previous decades, these new styles were more expansive and adorned with decorative elements. Additionally, the materials used for eyeglass frames underwent changes, with options ranging from traditional gold-plated and silver wireframes to innovative choices like celluloid or backlight frames.

Also trending during the era were tortoise shell, horn-rimmed frames, and aviator glasses, all of which gave men more options to complement their clothing with glasses that exuded class and distinction. In the modern era, these frames and more are still worn and provide men a diverse range of glasses suitable for the contemporary fashion aesthetic.


1930s Men's Fashion Ties

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In the 1930s, men continued to wear both ties and bow ties. However, the ties of that era were notably shorter compared to contemporary styles. They featured a diamond shape and were commonly untipped, lacking the lining found in most modern ties today.

During this time, men’s ties also became broader – about 4 inches in width – to create a bolder, more sophisticated look to complement various suit styles. Classic patterns of the era included stripes, geometric motifs, polka dots and more to give men more versatility in their styling. The most common fabrics for ties included silk, knits, and grenadine, and in current times ties add depth and versatility to a man’s overall look and a refinement that is undeniable.

Silk Ties | Ties | Neckties | Extra Long Ties

The Lasting Effect of 1930s Style on Today’s Menswear

The style of the 30s left an indelible mark on menswear, both then and in modern times. Despite the economic challenges and social transformations of the era, this period gave rise to timeless styles, innovative designs, and a sense of elegance that continue to shape men's fashion today. The emphasis on structured silhouettes, classic patterns, both premium fabrics and synthetic materials from the era continues to influence contemporary menswear, providing a broader, more elevated level of elegance and sophistication.

While the style of the 30s celebrated wide-leg trousers and accessorizing with hats, watches, and pocket squares, these elements have been revived and reinterpreted for the modern era. The revival of vintage and retro fashion has further solidified the lasting impact of 30s menswear, fusing classic charm with contemporary sensibilities. Today, the 30s style remains an integral source of inspiration, creating a harmonious merger between the nostalgia of the past and the innovation of the present in men's fashion. 

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