A lot has changed in the last 100 years, especially when it comes to
fashion. The male workwear wardrobe has evolved, with the strict
business suit now replaced with
sweatshirts. Opening the doors to the historical workwear wardrobe, we’ve picked
out the most popular fashion trends from every decade in the last
century, exploring how and why they’ve changed so much.
The traditional three-piece suit dominated this era, and hats were an
essential part of a man’s outfit, regardless of their job or societal
class. Whilst the cut, colours, and style of suits changed, tailored
garments remained a workwear staple.
As World War 1 began in 1914, military uniform dominated the
decade. The trench coats we wear now were inspired by the ones
worn by soldiers over 100 years ago.
During WW1, women took on a lot of male jobs, working as
blacksmiths, welders and electricians. They would often wear
men’s overalls and their hair tied up in knots.
After the war, middle-class businessmen attached tall, white
collars to their shirts to differentiate themselves from their
lower class ‘blue collar’ co-workers.
Henry Ford George M. Cohan Thomas Edison
IN THE TRENCHES
British officers wore trench coats as part of their uniform,
however when Burberry launched a range, most men owned one by
the end of the decade.
In the 1920’s, Oxford bags were a staple trouser trend for
middle-class men who often worked as doctors, lawyers and bankers.
A trouser trend made popular by Oxford University was one of
the decade’s most popular. ‘Oxford Bags’ were wide,
low-sitting and baggy.
Post war, popular women’s jobs such as nursing and waitressing
still required strict uniform, however styles began to take
shape and waistlines could be seen under fabric.
Joan Crawford Anita Page Coco Chanel
HATS BY CLASS
Your hat defined your class in the 20’s, with only Gentlemen
wearing top hats. Middle-class businessmen sported a trilby,
whilst those with labouring jobs wore a cloth cap to work.
tapered and skirts softened, a change was definitely starting to
emerge. The 1930’s began to consider comfort in workwear, rather
than just convenience.
HIPS DON’T LIE
Both hair and hems got longer in the 1930’s. Skirts widened
softly below the hip and then stopped at mid-calf. Ensembles;
matching dresses and skirts, appeared as a popular trend.
With the arrival of Superman, suits got slimmer, with extra
broad shoulders, thin waists, and tapered legs.
Clark Gable Henry Fonda James Stewart
A BOWLER FOR BUSINESS
Bowler hats were generally only seen by city businessmen in the
1930’s, whilst labourer’s still wore cloth caps.
During the 1940’s fabric rationing and cutbacks in clothing
production meant clothes were basic. Most men were at war wearing
uniform, and colours were dark, getting notably brighter when the
war came to an end.
The military jackets we see today are inspired from the RAF
pilots in the 1940’s. Navy blue with gold buttons, the uniform
was sleek and stylish.
Men wore utility clothing to work due to the rationing of
fabric. This meant no pockets, no cuffs, and no embellishment.
Doris Day Bette Davis Grace Kelly
SEWING GETS SEXY
Despite the economic struggle, women embraced the call to ‘mend
and make do’. They sewed cups into their bras and cut material,
so it clung to the body.
As the war ended, life slowly went back to normal. Workwear
reflected the change, as the freedom of fabric inspired new styles
such as the Teddy Boy jacket and slip-on loafers.
TIED BACK TO TYPE
A lot of women worked as typists after WW2; hemlines sitting
just below the knee and dresses getting looser. Hair was short
and parted to the side so it wouldn’t get in the way of
THE TEDDY BOY BOOM
A knee-length, single-breasted drape-style jacket with
contrasting cuffs and lapels in velvet or satin, the Teddy Boy
jacket gave the first glimpse of the Mod trend.
Frank Sinatra Paul Weller Hugh Hefner
The slip-on loafer was a hit with businessmen in the 50’s. More
colours such as grey, dark brown and even blue suede appeared,
along with two tone shoes.
You can thank the rebellious attitudes of men in the swingin’ 60’s for
igniting the workwear revolution. They introduced new fabrics and
styles, with music heavily influencing their wardrobe. Open collars
reflected the relaxed attitudes, and the statement shoes from the 70’s
took the party to the office.
The 1960’s was a decade of drastic change, especially when it came
to fashion. Unisex fashion made its first appearance, and The
Beatles inspired a number of timeless trends.
ROLL UP, ROLL UP
Men in business began wearing roll neck jumpers instead of
shirts in the mid 60’s, thanks to the rebirth of Saville Row.
PANTS GET PRETTY
There is a new trend in town, and it’s called unisex. For the
first time, a woman in pants was acceptable both in and out of
Cher Diana Ross Nancy Sinatra
STRAIGHT OR SKINNY
Thanks to The Beatles, suits became tighter-fitting, trousers
were straight legged, and vests were all but a thing of the
past. The band had a huge influence on 60’s fashion - and if
they wore it - so did you.
1970’s fashion focused on freedom and fun. Colours became
brighter, collars became looser, and the restricting business suit
seen in previous decades was long gone. Those who could wear
denim, totally would.
Bold stripes and polka dots were splashed onto dresses and
blouses. It was a loud era, not just in protest, but in style.
Worn by The Monkees, suits with mandarin ‘nehru’ collars became
a popular replacement to the traditional suit jacket.
David Bowie Mick Jagger Jack Nicholson
OPEN COLLAR CULTURE
The 70’s saw the top button pop open, reflecting the relaxed
attitudes of the decade.
The 80’s saw a huge job shift, as the launch of the internet meant
more men than ever were working in an office environment. It was
the initial birth of Silicon Valley, and the decade of the power
FEEL THE POWER
Businessmen wore ‘power suits’ with wide shoulders, with the
aim of looking masculine and authoritative. Three-piece suits
gradually went out of fashion in the early 1980’s and lapels
on suits became very narrow.
Keen to succeed, an increasing number of women were focused on
climbing the career ladder. Dropping the cleavage and high
waists, a wild perm resting on shoulder pads was the
Madonna Princess Diana Whitney Houston
GETTING TIED UP
Ties made a return, coming back in a variety of styles. As with
most 80’s fashion, ‘anything goes’, and you could choose between
extra-wide kipper ties, skinny ties, and square-end ties.
This era saw the arrival of the Casual Friday concept, which soon
stretched to Thursday. Mark Zuckerberg influenced the cool Silicon
Valley uniform, making denim and sneakers totally acceptable. In 2019,
the suit is rarely seen, and you’re more likely to see a pair of
Balenciaga’s than a blazer in the workplace.
As ‘Casual Friday’ made its way into the office, men embraced the
chance to ditch the suit and wear their much cooler
GOODBYE SHOULDER PADS
When shoulder pads fell out of vogue, more relaxed suiting
took their place, pants often being swapped for pencil skirts
CASUAL EVERY DAY
As more men made their way into the office, they brought a
casual look to the desk, ditching the tie for an open shirt and
blazer. Casual Friday now crept into Thursday.
Brad Pitt Pierce Brosnan Michael Madsen
Reservoir Dogs inspired a monochrome look, meaning skinny
trousers, white shirts and dark shades were bang on trend
throughout the 90’s.
The Naughties saw some fearless fashion trends, including the
blazer and tee combo, and the loss of the sock - which still has
the nation divided, almost 20 years later.
SILICON VALLEY UNIFORM
Men in tech often opt for a similar look. Plain tee, jeans,
and sneakers - every day of the week. It was inspired by Steve
Jobs in the 80’s who said this basic approach to workwear
allowed him to focus his energy on important decisions, rather
than aesthetic style dilemmas.
BLAZER AND TEE
In the early 2000’s, suits in the workplace were no longer
essential, with more people rocking the infamous blazer and tee
Sarah Jessica Parker Kate Moss Naomi Campbell
A DECADE OF DENIM
In the decade of denim, women felt empowered to wear their jeans
straight to work. “Business casual” was a trend accepted by most
Research shows office apparel has declined by 39% in the time that
co-working spaces have increased 28%, suggesting that suits could
soon see extinction. Gender fluidity floods through the modern
workplace, redefining stereotypes and evolving limited attitudes.
With almost 50% of the UK worforce set to work remotely by
2020, men are embracing the out of office culture in
athleisure. Oversized hoodies, joggers, and snapbacks aren’t
uncommon in today’s working world. To see a suit in the
creative industry is rare.
GENDER FLUID FASHION
As gender fluidity in fashion rises, it makes its way into the
mainstream workplace. Most employers encourage the shift, and
traditional attitudes towards gender and clothing are
Harry Styles Kanye West David Gandy
Yeezys, Balenciagas, and Air Jordans were once only worn by
celebs, but now, you’ll also find them on the feet of
office-based millennials - cult followers of designer trainer