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
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.
All about expression – 60s and 70s men’s fashion
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.
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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 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.
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.
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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.
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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.
Laying the foundation for modern men clothing – 90s and 2000s
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.
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 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.
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!