MENSWEAR IN THE 1940'S
1940s men’s fashion for day, sport or evening was styled to make a man feel “larger than life.”1940s men’s fashion is unique to the decade due to the cut of the clothes, the patterns and the stylistic details that demonstrated one’s patriotic support of his country.
1940s Men’s Casual and Sport Clothing
Post war casualness opened the flood gates of for men’s knit shirts, vests, and pullovers.
They were made of textured ribbed knits that fit very snugly with a wide rib bottom and smaller ribbed sleeve and neck bands. Necks were almost always round and high on the neck with a small V-neck for an alternative style. They could be worn tucked in or untucked, with the former being the most common style. Solid colors, wide horizontal stripes and “Norwegian” designs for winter were especially common.
Knit V-neck vests were made in the same style and colors as shirts but were worn under a long sleeve dress or casual shirt. In winter, they were knit of wool for extra warmth, and in summer with rayon/cotton blends. This three piece look was especially popular with golfers and sport spectators. Pullovers usually contrasted with the shirts underneath and the trousers, too, creating a very colorful outfit. For example, a tan shirt with green slacks and a blue pullover or a wine colored shirt with navy pants and a grey pullover.
Casual collared shirts could have long or short boxy sleeves and were straight cut at the bottom. Large soft collars could also be worn closed just like dress shirts but more often were worn open with the top button undone. Shirts came with two chest pockets that came in welt, button or fold over flaps. Colors could be plain tan, brown, blue, green or maroon, and plaids, checks, windowpane, and stripes were also very popular for casual wear.
The Hawaiian ‘Aloha’ shirt, featuring hand painted tropical scenes, birds and flowers were introduced after the war. They were worn untucked and fit rather loose. They were imported from Hawaiian although most designers also made tropical themed sports shirt part of their collection.
Hollywood’s wave of American western movies spawned an interest in western style clothing for boys and men. Western shirts, hats, boots, and trousers were popular equally with city and country folk.
Trousers sold separately for casual day wear, sporting events and some work environments were a bit more colorful and comfortable then suit trousers. They were made of lighter weight wool blends in the cooler months and even lighter cotton poplins, gabardine (rayon blend) or seersuckers for tropical climates.
Solid colors of green, blue and tan were staples, while more unique patterns like plaid, pinstripes, diagonal stripes, pin check, and herringbone in medium blues, maroons, and browns were favored.
They featured a narrowed high waist and full hips with straight wide legs. Flat fronts were preferred over a single pleat, although both were acceptable. Waistbands had the dropped belt loops, which always had a thin leather belt worn with them. Shirts were worn tucked in, exposing the pants fully. Shirts rarely matched the pants. Instead, tan pants were matching with maroon shirts, plaid with brown, pinstripes with blue, etc.
Sports coats, too, were a newer trend that gained popularity in the 1930s. They, too, came in a smattering of glenn plaids, herringbone, chevron checks, chalk stripes, and tweeds. They were worn with solid color pants that were darker than the sport coat, with the exception of white pants, which were worn with a navy blue sport coat. Sport coats had wide rounded notch lapels, two very large square pockets, and 3 button closures. Pockets came in a variety of flap, slit or patch styles.
1940s Working Men’s Clothing
For those who didn’t wear suits to work, a collared shirt and work trousers in sturdy cotton twill or gabardine were the way to go. Work trousers had flat fronts with a single leg crease. The leg widths were also generally narrower than suit or sports pants.
Colors were fairly basic tan, brown, navy, and hunter green, although sometimes plaid was thrown into the mix. A matching trouser and shirt set was common for most lines of work. Work shirts had open soft pointed collars, two patch pockets, and pleating at the back and arm holes for freedom in movement. A solid color tie worn with the work outfit kept men looking fine in public settings.
Sturdy cotton canvas coveralls were worn by men that had to get dirty on the job. They were all one piece that buttoned down through the fly with a straight leg. They belted at the waist, had long sleeves for protection and a pointed collar. They also had big patch pockets on the chest for keeping things handy.