During the 1930s, men’s fashion was all about being big. Big pants, big suits, big, bold colors and lots of big prints. When the war broke out in the early 1940s, there was a restriction on men’s clothing. 1930s suits could not have flap pockets, pants could not be more than 19 inches around and cuffs were out. 1940s suits had no vests. Most men kept their 1930s suits and other clothing items and wore them well into the 1940s.
Hawaiian Shirts and Zoot Suits
After the war, clothing restrictions went away. Men went a little crazy because 1940s suits didn’t have to look like 1930s suits anymore. The freedom to wear a Hawaiian shirt in the summer made a big impression on the booming clothing industry in the second half of the 1940s. Strict dress codes were out, and men went for the fashion gold by wearing longer, looser clothing like the Zoot Suit.
The Zoot Suit had a major-league impact on 1940s men’s fashions, and it was a dope summer suit in lightweight fabrics.
1940s Suits for Summer: Cotton and Linen Replace Heavy Wool
The typical men’s suits were heavy looking in the 1940s. Thick wool, tweed or worsted wool, or a blend of synthetic rayon and wool gave men an extra amount of warmth during the winter months. The colors of those suits, black, gray, dark brown and navy gave men an almost lemming sort of feeling. During the summer men got out of those staunch, scratchy, and sometimes confining suits.
After a while it was time for men to let their fashion hair down. Lighter fabrics like cotton and linen were the rage. Colors like tan, off-white, white, light gray, and even light blue gave men a beachy feeling, whether they were walking down Fifth Avenue or attending a wild party in the Pocono Mountains.
Summer in the 40s: It Was All About the White
Nothing screams summer more than a pair of white pants. That was true for 1940s suits for men, because summer wear was all about white linen pants. Linen is timeless, and it is the fabric that makes summer a style event rather than a sweating party. A white pinstriped cotton dress shirt with French cuffs and a set of art deco cufflinks gave 1940s summer suits the sickness that only a true suit lover could relate to back then.
Lightweight summer sports jackets were everywhere. They had pinstripes, windowpanes, and plaid detailing. Mixing prints was right-on in the 1930s, and that trend was still big in the 1940s.
Suspenders, pocket squares, and crazy tie patterns gave 1940s summer suits a pop of color and a dash of eccentricity. Here’s how to recreate the summer suit look of the 1940s suit:
- A white or ivory linen or cotton double-breasted jacket.
- A one button or two button jacket that screams with color.
- A tie and accessories add credence to any 1940s suit.
In other words, suits with the element of 1940s cool are the suits that aren’t afraid to speak for themselves in the language of the times. Although you can add a splash of the 21st century, your suit should have at least one toe, or a whole fashion foot firmly in the past.