A Gentleman’s Guide to 1910’s Fashion

If you enjoy period dramas, you’ve probably caught some examples of early twentieth century men’s fashion. Titanic, Peaky Blinders, and Downton Abbey are all set during this time, and more or less represent 1910’s fashion accurately (Leonardo DiCaprio’s 1990s style mushroom haircut in Titanic as a prime example). For accurate depictions it is always best to dig into actual sources from the time.

So we dusted off the 1918 issues of Men’s Wear of Canada and Men’s Wear Review, and discovered some absolute gems of images. While both sources are Canadian publications, the styles are quite similar to American fashion. Let’s look at what men wore during this period.

Hats

Hats were an essential in the wardrobe of men from the 1910s and were worn in almost all public places. A man would only remove his hat if he was at home or engaged in conversation with a woman. Since hats were used to display social class, only men of extremely limited financial means would go out without a hat.

The most extravagant of men’s hats was the top hat. With its iconic flat top, round brim and shiny black silk surface, it was worn by the upper-class. In previous decades top hats were worn at all times, but by the 1910s they were generally reserved for formal occasions or in the evenings.

The fedora didn’t actually become popular until the 1920s, but a similar style called the homburg was prevalent. Unlike top hats which were almost always black, the homburg was worn in black, gray and brown. It had a curled brim and a single depression in the crown similar to the fedora’s indentation.

Straw hats were also common. Boater hats were popular warm weather choices made of straw and extremely rigid. Likewise, Panama hats were made of straw, but much more flexible and comfortable. Despite their name, they are actually made in Ecuador. In 1906 President Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt wore the style upon returning from the Panama Canal construction, beginning a North American fashion trend.

Shirts & Ties

Men in the 1910s wore collared shirts under jackets. It’s important to note that jackets were never removed in public, and as such shirts were treated as an undergarment, intended to protect the more expensive outer layers from sweat. Collars and cuffs, on the other hand, were highly visible and thus given a great deal more thought. Both collars and cuffs were detachable and so could be cleaned and starched separately from shirts. There was an enormous variety of collar shapes and styles available too: wing collars, standing collars, rounded collars and more. Collars were typically attached with collar studs, although other methods existed as well.

Ties were popular, but significantly different from ties today. They were wide, short and of thin material, and came in numerous geometric, striped or checked patterns.

Waistcoats & Jackets

In the 1910s men wore their pants much higher than we do today. Waistcoats were intended to cover the waist of the pants and so they were quite short by today’s standards.

Men’s jackets were manufactured in wool, cotton and linen. Suits became popular during this time, where the jacket, pants and waistcoat were all produced in the same fabric. In previous decades, men wore outfits from a mix of materials. Jackets in the 1910s were wider and straighter than before. Unlike suits of today, which have darts in the front to give fullness to the chest, the popular North American suit of the time was the loose, unfitted ‘sack suit’.

Accessories

Walking canes and walking sticks were all the rage. During the 1910s walking sticks were a stylish accessory with a practical function. After the U.S. prohibition began on January 17, 1920 walking sticks evolved to have another purpose: as a secret booze flask. Alcohol was often hidden in secret hollows within these walking sticks, and these sticks were known as ‘tipplers’. Another popular accessory was the pocket watch. The wristwatch existed at the time, but was considered feminine. During WWI this belief began to change, due to its adoption by soldiers. A wrist watch was simpler to access in the field than a pocket watch.

The Finest Gentlemen in Town!

We restored these old, yellowed images from Men’s Wear of Canada (1918) and Men’s Wear Review (1918), and turned them into crisp vector illustrations. We’re really pleased with how these turned out. Check out these 16 high-resolution, scalable illustrations.

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