Influence of the 1950's on Modern Menswear

Posted by Rishi Chullani on

Ryan MacMorris

The influence of the 1950's on modern menswear can still be seen everyday in the clothes people wear to the office and at more stylish formal events. Your older colleagues and coworkers may even be sporting a wholly 50's inspired look on most days they wear a suit out or to the office. Whether it is these pinnacles of classic style that make you want to take a few pages from their book, or the chic 50's looks of the early Mad Men seasons this guide of history and insight will give you some of the tools to an updated 50's style look. The 50's, like most decades did not confine themselves to just one look, but a few consistent themes can be found in the decade to produce a 50's look that is literally for the ages.

The Jackets

Jackets up through the 40's had become longer and boxier in a response to the easing of fabric rationing after the war. These styles started to fade as the deep dyed colors, excess fabric and over padded shoulders were replaced with newer trends. One trend that truly started during the 50's was a distinct tailored waistline in suit jackets. The menswear silhouette had been blocky for many years, but now had an aesthetically appealing V shape to the jacket as the lines of the suit started with lightly padded shoulders and narrowed to the waist. The single breasted jacket had also regained popularity in the 50's, pushing the double breasted jacket off the top where it has remained for decades since.

1950's suits were characterized by a slimmer, V shaped fit that is common with contemporary wear.  Courtesy of


The single breasted jacket sported 2-3 buttons as is still the custom today. Despite fashion wanting to distance itself from the sometimes outrageous and flamboyant colors of the 40's, the 50's cannot be said to have been characterized wholly by boring suit colors. For most men’s formalwear of the era colors like charcoal, browns and navy were the norm, but in less formal office settings, on weekends, and as the decade moved on flamboyant checkered and plaid jackets became the epitome of style. These flamboyant jackets were often paired with lighter solid colored trousers, keeping the focus of the outfit up top.

Shirts and Ties

Much like the jackets of the 50's men’s ties had also changed quite a bit from the 40's. Men’s ties had narrowed in width making them more suited for the narrower, but wider set lapels of the era. The top suit jacket button had grown lower in the 50's making more of the narrow ties’ length visible. Men’s ties in the 50's were also worn much longer than in the 40's, traditionally the ties extended to the belt buckle or a few centimeters further. Ties in the 50's were mostly of minimal design; solid colored ties and striped ties were very common in men’s formalwear as were ties with a single design element. Silk ties and knit ties alike ruled the decade as more artistic and extravagant tie styles rose in popularity toward the end of the decade.

The dress shirts of the 50's were very similar to the dress shirts that we see worn today. In men’s fashion trendy formal dress shirts come and go, but the 50's style of dress shirts are those that are still acceptable and stylish in the most formal of settings. Shirts were solid colored or striped for the most part with different patterns becoming popular toward the end of the decade.

More variety with shirt patterns were embraced during the 1950's, as did the buttoned down shirt collar! Courtesy of

The collars of the age also saw a definitive turn away from the style of the previous decade. The club collar with its rounded tips saw a resurgence in the 1950's as the pointed collars of the 40's declined in popularity. Button-down collars as well as the collar proportions we see most often today came into popularity in the 50's to allow for more of the men’s ties and dress shirts to be seen, as well as to allow for larger tie knots like the windsor knot. Collars that needed heavy amounts of starch or collar pins became very unpopular during the decade as younger men drove the trend for less casual suiting.

How To Pull It All Off Today

Often decades like the 20's, 40's, or 60's get the credit for being some of the most influential decades of modern menswear, but much can be said about the influence of the 1950's on modern menswear. With the right garment choices from your wardrobe and perhaps a few fashionable menswear purchases you can achieve a 1950's style look or a 1950's inspired look.

The upper portion of the outfit is extremely important in terms of fit and pattern choices. A narrower width tie with a simple design or a striped tie works best when paired with the colors in a checkered or plaid jacket. Make sure the jacket has two or three buttons and narrows at the waist. Most dress shirts will help achieve the look as long as the collar allows for the tie knot to be seen easily and the colors of the shirt are relatively plain or match the jacket in some way.

The tie should drape to about the belt level, which brings us to the belt, pants, and shoes. A leather belt with oxfords or loafers to match will give off the sophisticated 50's sportsman vibe with ease. The trousers should either match the suit jacket or for a more casual look can be a lighter color that might be present in the tie or that simply complements the suit jacket.

Looking to introduce a 1950's look today?  More than anything, the focus should be on the top half of your ensemble, as the Jacket used to take center stage.  Even if you are not wearing a fully coordinated jacket and pants suit combination, wearing a pair of pants that complements your jacket, such as these blue pants with this gorgeous plaid beige colored jacket, will ensure that you are dressed dapper and look the part! Courtesy of

The 50's were the last decade to truly demand a hat be worn with a suit meaning that hats were at their most casual and stylish at this point. Any softer short brimmed hat in colors like grey or brown will top off the look nicely to give a modern menswear take on the 1950's.

The influence of the 1950's on modern menswear can still be very much seen in the plaid jackets and narrower ties that we see today. Along with the long traditions of the narrowed waistline and button-down collars the 50's could easily be said to be one of the more lasting decades in terms of stylishness. The 50's were a time of conservative trends being pushed to the limit and also a time that staying trendy would flatter most body types, so do not hesitate to try and pull some style cues from the classic 1950's look.

And that's a wrap for this one!  As always, comments are welcome below!

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