How to Fashionably Nail the Retro Look for Men

There are specific men’s fashions that we cannot help but correlate with a particular period in time. For instance, what do we always associate with a white wide-legged polyester uniform? John Travolta in the early seventies, and Saturday Night Fever, hell yeah! And how about the Italian gangster-like pinstriped Al Capone suit? This is reminiscent of the blue-green twenties. 

Some retro fashions are charming, while others may seem ridiculous. But each decade, especially in the west, has trademark fashions that can fit in your wardrobe to give it a retro flair today.

  • 1920s: Along with pinstripe suits, fedoras became necessary for the well-dressed man. Today they are still trendy. To add a little bit of 1920s style to your closet, try a brown suit with an off-white vertical pinstripe. Or, add a wide-brimmed fedora to your preferred outfit. You can also dress these elements together, but if you do, anchor the look with a modern shirt, shoe, and tie. This is key to looking like you are wearing a vintage vogue, not like wearing a costume. For a more detailed dash of 1920s fashion, try a tie with an art deco print on it.
  • 1940s: The 40s were split into two different eras of pre-war and post-war. Perhaps the most unusual men’s style of this decade is the swing era’s zoot suit, which became fashionable after the war’s end. If you want to dress in a typical 40s style, add a pocket square, a pair of wing-tipped shoes, and a pair of suspenders to your chosen suit. Ties at this time were usually flamboyant, in bold patterns and bright colors. This is an excellent trend to copy today. But if you wear a colorful tie, make sure also to wear the right necktie accessories, because with everyone staring at it, you will want make sure it stays in place.
  • 1950s: The 1950s were known as the “Boom Times,” and leisurewear began to appear in men’s closets. For a 1950s laid back look, try a bright Hawaiian print shirt or a polo shirt, which became popular during this decade. For a more athletic look, try wearing black or dark brown Converse One Star shoes with your blue denim, or try going for the Ivy League look by putting a letterman’s jacket or a slim cardigan sweater over your polo shirt. The 1950s also started a Beatnik look, with black as the color of the decade. Look for a wool sweater or a slim fit black chenille and wear it untucked over your trousers for a retro Beatnik vibe.
  • 1960: When we think of the 60s, we often first scream “hippie.” But early in the 19060s, before the eventual hippie movement, we saw the Beatles making their presence felt on the Ed Sullivan show in their gray slim-cut suit, black square toe shoes, and skinny black ties. This slim-cut look is making a huge comeback now in 2020-21. The skinny tie is in style again in the pandemic era. It can inject a 60s retro feel into your outfit.
  • 1970s: The white polyester suit and bell-bottom pants are trends that I would suggest skipping from the 70s! But the 1970s has other great fashion to offer us in 2020. For 70s retro style hints, look at Roger Moore as James Bond for some inspiration. Try a brown chenille turtleneck sweater layered beneath a dark blue velvet blazer. Thick fabrics like velvet and creased wool evoke the era of the 1970s (without being too disco). If you still like the white suit look, do it in a natural fabric, such as linen, rather than polyester.

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