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How To Dress 1940s Style (For Him)

As promised, here’s the follow-up to my post on How To Dress 1940s Style (for her). This time, we examine forties threads for the male persuasion.

Let me preface this post by doing a public service announcement for shy/geeky/artistically-inclined guys who are struggling to get a date.

Guys, I want to make it abundantly clear that dressing in a mildly vintage style can be a game-changer for you. Not every girl is hankering for a beefy quarterback. I’ve never dated a man who could bench press me – even my prepubescent self was far more attracted to personality and quirky humour (how else can I explain my early attractions to John Laroquette and Dana Carvey?). However, if you clothe your less-than-Schwartzeneggerian physique in a sloppy t-shirt and pleated jeans, what you’re conveying is that your personality is meek and you have no sex appeal.

Now, take that same beanpole bod/marshmallowy midsection and put it in an outfit that says “hey, I may not be an underwear model but dammit I’m confident enough to wear this unique style” and you will be a THOUSAND times more attractive to cool chicks who value personality.

Okay, enough of the pep talk. Let’s talk practicalities.

The Outfit

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If you can find yourself a uniform, that would be a hit at a special event like the Vintage Picnic we’re hosting on Monday. But for casual threads guys are in luck because 1940s fashion is über-classic: dress pants and shirts.

As you can detect in the illustration above, menswear was boxier and fuller. You may have been jailed for indecent exposure had you attempted to wear skinny jeans in public. Pants tended to be pleated and were worn much higher on the waist than they are now.

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On top, I’m a big fan of rolled-up sleeves and suspenders. Here’s Colin Firth as the cuckold in The English Patient, looking awfully dapper. If Kristin Scott Thomas is tossing him in the rubbish bin, I’ll take him!  (Note: I also found Ralph Fiennes strangely attractive in this movie, so you may want to fire up Netflix and have a watch this weekend in the name of fashion research).

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This is a shot of my own grandpa, just hanging out by a tree waiting to canoodle my grandma. Here, you can see that fitted sweaters were popular in the ’40s.

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So, too, were sweater vests and waistcoats. I’ve noticed that waistcoats are making a big comeback lately, so it should be easy to find one in new clothing stores as well as thrift/vintage shops.
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Or, if you really want to make a splash, try a sailor suit!

Shoes

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In this image, we see a) young men aggressively hitting on tennis players and schoolgirls; b) crystal-clear shoe and sock action.

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Guys, to get a forties foot, it’s all about Oxfords. Two-toned, black or straight up brown – you can’t go wrong.

Accessories

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Here’s a shot I found in my grandma’s photo album of her friends goofing around in the ’40s. Suspenders and sweater vests are both represented here, along with a bit of casual domestic abuse.

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Ties and bowties also complement the ’40s look. Check out this bold bow tie! Somebody might be getting a peck on the cheek tonight!

Facial Hair

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A lot of guys went clean-shaven in the ’40s, but you could always try a Walt Disney style moustache. Beards are okay – but only if you want to look like a wretched hobo (no tennis babes for you!).

Hairdo

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As you’ve been able to see in all of the photos so far, 1940s hair was full of body on top and short on the sides and back. I touched on this in my recent post about Billy’s haircut.  It’s a classic and easy cut for any barber to execute, but if you want to fake it then just get some hair goo and slick the sides back.

Good luck, handsome!

21 thoughts on “How To Dress 1940s Style (For Him)

  1. I just had to comment after your English Patient reference – Ralph Fiennes is one of my favourite actors EVER. Even as Voldemort. I didn’t realize that Colin Firth played the husband – now I have to go and watch it again. Just a FYI – I may come up to you and introduce myself at the Vintage Fair tomorrow in that really awkward, “I’ve been reading your blog but we’ve never met”, kind of way.

    • I hadn’t realized it was Colin Firth either, until I started googling to see what they wore. Now I’m all like – TWO sexy Brits were in that movie? I’ve got to re-watch.
      No awkwardness. Just walk straight up to me and give me a bear hug. Hahahaha!

  2. This is both hysterical and informative. I was researching 1940s fashions for a manuscript I’m writing and came across your blog. Thank you for making me laugh out loud and for filling me in on 40s fashion.

  3. Really helpful, now I will be one of the best dressed at the 1940’s tea dance my cadets are putting on later this year. (You may like to know I live out in the English countryside county of Yorkshire)

  4. Did they have pre-tied or clip on bow-ties in the 40s? I’m making a film set in this era and don’t want to get it wrong!

    • Lois,
      I’m probably too late for your film, and someone please correct me if I’m wromg, but as a WWII living historian, and 36-year fan of 1930s and 40s culture and films, I can confidently say that bow ties in those days were NOT pre-tied or clip-on.
      I hope this helps, and break a leg!

  5. Hello,

    Do you know where I might find a pattern for the above slacks that are presented below the header The Outfit? I just love the baggies slacks from the 40’s.

    Thanks in advance.

    Regards,
    Sean…

    • Big D,
      Finding 1940s suit may be tough, depending on your size. There are lots of vintage clothing sources online, but finding one in your local vintage/thrift stores may be hit or miss.
      By “gangster” hats, I assume you mean fedoras, which were certainly the most popular style. Hats in the 1940s tended to have wide “snap” brims and a “teardrop” crease. Chicago is home to probably the best hat shop in America, Optimo (optimohats.com). Their “Mitchum” model is a pretty iconic 1940s look. It’s not cheap, but it is worth it (I own one in felt and one in straw myself).

      Happy hunting!

      Andrew

  6. I’d like to thank you for the efforts you’ve put in penning
    this site. I am hoping to view the same high-grade content by
    you later on as well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has inspired me to get my own, personal blog now 😉

  7. Thank you for this article. This year for Thanksgiving, my boyfriend and I are attending a”Dress as your favorite decade ” party/dinner, and 2 wanted to dress as from the 40’s, and we have been looking for helpful guides.

  8. I just came across your site today and I really like it. I have always felt that I was born about fifty years too late. I really enjoy almost everything from the thirties, forties, and fifties. I just wish there was another site where I could meet females with the same interests. Keep up the good work.

  9. I’m a WWII living historian and re-enactor, so I have a couple of different U.S. Army uniforms configured to fit into 1943 and 44. Additionally, I have always been interested in the 1930 and 40s, and I’ve been accumulating Web site addresses lately to put together a civilian wardrobe, and I’m happy that I’ve found this site to add to list.
    Gteat work! Keep it up…

    T/Sgt. Terry Sackett
    82nd Signal Co.
    82nd Airborne Div. (re-enacted)
    Las Vegas, USA

  10. Pingback: Mens 1940s Fashion | Ian Young - Lifetime Photography

  11. Pingback: Fashion for Men - 1940 | A. Lee Photo & Design

  12. Found your article really helpful a few months ago when I needed some ideas on how to dress for a vintage tea party. Just wanted to thank you for all the useful tips and to say that dressing forties style has now become a lifestyle choice. I now have several pairs of high waised trousers, spearpoint shirts and various ‘wingtip’ Oxford shoes. Wearing a ‘Fedora’ adds a great finishing touch.
    Many Thanks
    Rob

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