men in suits in black and white

Guide On Vintage Clothing For Men | The Essentials

Clothing is, without a doubt, an everchanging aspect of society. We have seen in recent times how a different fashion trend popularizes every decade or so. Over time all these trends eventually become vintage and/or slowly fade in time. With this guide on vintage clothing for men, we speak to men of every age that are looking to develop their own style and require some background knowledge on vintage trends.

With fashion being a very wide topic, the information here is meant to be an overall view on men’s fashion and will be covered more in-depth with future articles.

If you are looking for the best vintage and retro clothes, please check our men’s reviews and men’s outfits. Analysis on some of the most popular pieces and stores, as well as endless oufit ideas for men can be found there!

What is considered vintage in men’s fashion?

Vintage fashion is not only clothing, as it also involves accessories and hairstyles that possess certain traits particular to an era. At least two decades have to pass for a trend to be considered vintage.

Through most part of human history, fashion was a term popularized only in the richest social circles of society. Only important people were capable of even thinking about owning an exclusive accessory or clothing piece.

Up to this day, the appereance in women is a sign of beauty, while in men it is a sign of power.

As for the latter one, the industrial revolution set the basis for the mass production of the first suits (please check our preferred clothes for elegant vintage). The goal was to have, both a stand out, and an affordable piece of clothing. The man wearing it would gain certain status.

During the next decades, the decrease in the prices and the emerging new ideas, gave birth to different types of clothes that people used to represent an ideology, or to show their adherence to a  social group. As more followers unite, these will eventually become the first fashion trends.

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Men’s fashion in the mid XX century – The 1950s

young men in the 1950s

The 1950s are widely considered as the decade where the whole “gentleman” fashion started to fade away. After the Second World War, a combination of a free and rebel mentality took over. Clothing became a natural way to express this.

Young men started to wear the suit-like clothes a little more careless. The leather jacket became a “must” for men, along with the classic white t-shirt (learn more about t-shirt history here), the pleated trousers, the penny loafers, the knitted polo, and many others that revolutionized the casual dressing.

Popular movies such as Grease surely come to mind when talking about 50s fashion.

Nowadays many designers have been inspired by the 50s fashion to produce a hybrid style of clothes. These combine classic styles and modern materials – the best of both eras!. Trends like these are catching the eye of more people every day.

grease movie

All about expression – 60s and 70s men’s fashion

The 1960s

During the 1960s we saw two trends rise. First, as bands like The Beatles became popular, their fashion also did. Not only did long hair was a common thing, but the whole men outfit became tighter. Scarfs were widely used and the same happened with boots.                 

men in the 1960s1960s men in casual clothesImages by: retrowaste.com

Another important fact was the start of the hippie trend, and with it, the overflowing use colours.

Jeans, shirts and even trousers were all tighter and colourful. The unbuttoned shirt and the pants below the hip trends were also introduced during these years. The “bad boy” look that the 50s introduced quickly shifted to a more feminine and liberal look at the end of the 60s.

Despite this, a group of conservative men (specially older men) refused to switch to this new style and chose to keep older trends. Suits and sport coats were still very popular.

The 1970s

The hippie trend continued into the early 1970s, when it peaked.

Items such as headbands, bell-bottoms, tunics, and turtlenecks, all with very bright colours were popularized. Even men began wearing platform shoes and velvet shirts, further increasing the shift to a more feminine style.

men in 70s clothes

During the mid 70s the colourful trend began to shift towards a more “punk” looking type. Rock bands such as Queen began to take over, and with that, the use of piercings, mohawks, and over sized collars began.

As for clothing, ripped clothes were very common in the streets, along with the black leather and shawl-collar tuxedo jackets, and the velvet sport coats.

At the end of the 70s the disco style was at its peak, and with that, the three-piece suits in fancy colours was popularized. The high-rise waistcoats and the flared trousers were essential in that look. Sunglasses were also widely used.

casual men in the 70s                                         Image by: retrowaste.com

Numerous new trends rise – 80s fashion

During the 1980s we saw a wide variety of trends emerge that usually lasted a few years or even months. These were very particular to a social group. The punk/rock look continued into the early years of the decade with young men and adults being the ones keeping this trend alive.

The “preppy” style reflected the social status of the upper class. In contrast to the hip hop fashion, the preppy focused on the bright/light colours and the appropriate way of dressing. Sweaters, vests, polo shirts, oxford shoes and ascots were a must on every preppy man.

two preppy men

 Image by: retrowaste.com

The 80s also so the rise of the fitness trend, reaching the point were people were using workout clothes as everyday wear. The sweatpants, shorts and windbreakers were very common in the streets.

Finally, there was some clothing that did not really fit into a style, but still was widely popular among men. You could consider this as “every day” or “casual” clothing.

Jeans and denim jackets were a staple, along with sneakers, and leather shirts/jackets. The combination of light blue, brown and white was very common.

80s looks in men

Laying the foundation for modern men clothing – 90s and 2000s

The 1990s

In some ways the 90s fashion was a follow up to the 80s fashion.

Polo shirts, sneakers, and jeans (high-waist and stone wash) were still widely used and the preppy trend was modernized. There was a  shift to a more casual look by replacing the ascot ties and the oxfords with the loafers and short-sleeved shirts.

In the late 80s/early 90s, hip hop trend emerged due to the increasing popularity of rap music.

The baggy clothes, sneakers, caps, and gold chains that we still see nowadays were introduced during those years. Men from the middle and lower class were pushing this trend, while the upper class preferred the formal or preppy styles.

boys clothes during the 90s

Flannel shirts were also very characteristic of that decade. These were particularly loose-fitting and padded, and represented the “skater” trend that celebrities like Tony Hawk and bands like Nirvana were introducing.

A number of smaller trends were followed by different social groups. Gothic fashion started to spread and punk trends peaked.  The latter one was characterized by the long under sleeves, the dark hoodies, and the characteristic mohawk.

Also, very popular during this decade ware the Sports jerseys and other sport-related accessories.

The 2000s

The start of the 21st century brought some changes to men’s fashion. The light colours used in the 80s and 90s slowly started to shift towards darker tons.

Dress shirts became an everyday thing and jeans, although still widely used, had a different design (for example, frosted or ripped jeans, worn below the waist) and were somewhat replaced by other types of pants.

couples in today's world

Everyday clothing included polo shirts (stripped), cargo pants, sneakers, baseball caps.

Formal dressing included Nehru suits, blazers, and the slim-fit suit, sometimes combined with a classy watch and some aviator glasses.

Finally, A LOT of different trends co-existed throughout the 2000s, with younger men being the primary users.

Almost every genre of music had a particular aura surrounding it that was expressed mainly (aside by music, of course) through the artists clothing. Some of these styles were: Metal, Gothic, Punk, Psycho, Emo, and many others that explaining them will drift away from the purpose of the article.

A case for going back to the classics

So after our little journey through time, the question you may be asking yourself is… why even bother with vintage clothing?

As a man I get how different we are from girls. Sure, it feels great when someone tells us we look good in a certain outfit, but our primary goal for dressing good is not the attention. Confidence is everything in a man.

With it and with proper work ethic, you can achieve things that transcend your capabilities.

Having said this, what better way to boost your confidence than feeling good in your own skin?. Wearing something in which you feel comfortable can make wonders for you, this is why, my goal is to reach out to men like you to show the potential of vintage clothing.

It’s not about going through the streets looking like Elvis Presley for no reason, its about realizing that even in today’s era, we have access to a wide variety of clothing based on and from previous eras with whom you can develop your own style and feel comfortable.

With that said, we hope that you found the information here useful. Thank you for stopping by Vintage Shape and we wish you luck developing your style.

Don’t forget to leave your comments and suggestions down below!

Until next time!

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8 thoughts on “Guide On Vintage Clothing For Men | The Essentials”

  1. This was definitely a blast from the past and a cool way to show the progression of fashion for men from the 50s to now.  There were definitely some black models listed in this article but I noticed that in this one and the article for retro women’s fashion there was very little black representation.  The reasoning for this is obvious but I would personally love to see an article about black retro fashion specifically as well and how I could participate in those trends now in 2020/2021

    1. Hi Quentin and thank you for your comment!

      Black fashion is definitely a wide topic to cover and has also experimented great changes throughout the years. I think a purely black retro fashion article, both for men and women will surely be coming soon. Oh and don’t worry, I try to incorporate suggestions of how people can rock vintage trends in today’s world, so hopefully, you will get some cool ideas out of the coming articles 🙂

  2. WOW! A vintage clothing for men article?! This is indeed a rare find and remarkably appreciated! I’ve always told my family that I was born in the wrong era – I’d love that sweet spot right after the Spanish Flu/Polio vaccine, but before…ahem, modern fashion. Call me old fashioned, but I simply love traditional, respectable clothing. Then again, I’m the person who wears cuff links on my daily clothes, a sports jacket to the cheapest restaurant, always gels a combover, and dresses his young boys in classic clothes with suspenders. It’s hard enough to find classy clothes for men – even worse for boys. My wife always hears me moan as I traverse through a clothing store, looking at all the beautiful girl dresses (of which we only have 2 boys), because the boys section is all cartoon t-shirts. I love your comments here and can attest to your statement: confidence is feeling good in your own skin and I’ve found that when I dress respectably, it commands more societal respect and makes me feel like I care for myself. 

    1. Hey Jaynes! It is a rare find that someone that likes vintage clothing as much as you do comments on your post haha. I can only imagine you and your kids going out to a dinner in a classic 1930s formal look. Turning heads everywhere I bet! Thank you for stopping by and good luck traversing those boys sections at the clothing stores 🙂

  3. This is a great article. You took me back in time and down to this day, it was amazing. I could see the way our style of dressing evolved and that’s amazing. I also believe that dressing really makes me confident. I do have my own style but most guys consider it archaic. But with this article now I know how to adjust

  4. Vintage clothing is seriously some thing I have been trying to get into a little more. I know it’s a little weird for me to be trying to get into it. At the age of 23. But honestly I love it and I only think it’s weird for me at the age of 23 because my friends are not into it but it could be for everyone, right? What do you think

    1. Hi Misael! I am 25 so I know where you are coming from 😉 I can assure you that it is for everyone. Of course, you don’t have to go out looking like Elvis Presley every day, but what we promote is the inclusion of vintage and retro apparel in your wardrobe as it can be combined with modern clothing. It may only be a vintage jacket, or a pair of shoes, or a set of shorts; the point is that there is room to incorporate vintage items into your life and still look great regardless of age.

      Thanks for your comment!

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