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100 YEARS OF WORKWEAR

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 sneakers and 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 TIMELINE

1910-1960

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.

1910s

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.

ROLE REVERSAL

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.

WHITE COLLARS

After the war, middle-class businessmen attached tall, white collars to their shirts to differentiate themselves from their lower class ‘blue collar’ co-workers.

STYLE ICONS

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.

1920s

In the 1920’s, Oxford bags were a staple trouser trend for middle-class men who often worked as doctors, lawyers and bankers.

OXFORD BAGS

A trouser trend made popular by Oxford University was one of the decade’s most popular. ‘Oxford Bags’ were wide, low-sitting and baggy.

TAKING SHAPE

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.

STYLE ICONS

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.

1930s

As trousers 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.

SUPERMAN SILHOUETTE

With the arrival of Superman, suits got slimmer, with extra broad shoulders, thin waists, and tapered legs.

STYLE ICONS

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.

1940s

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.

MILITARY JACKETS

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.

FASHION RATION

Men wore utility clothing to work due to the rationing of fabric. This meant no pockets, no cuffs, and no embellishment.

STYLE ICONS

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.

1950s

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 typing.

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.

STYLE ICONS

Frank Sinatra
Paul Weller
Hugh Hefner

LOVIN’ LOAFERS

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.

1960-1990

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.

1960s

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 the workplace.

STYLE ICONS

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.

1970s

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 BLOUSES

Bold stripes and polka dots were splashed onto dresses and blouses. It was a loud era, not just in protest, but in style.

NEHRU JACKET

Worn by The Monkees, suits with mandarin ‘nehru’ collars became a popular replacement to the traditional suit jacket.

STYLE ICONS

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.

1980s

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 suit.

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.

WORKING GIRL

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 money-maker.

STYLE ICONS

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.

1990-2019

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.

1990s

As ‘Casual Friday’ made its way into the office, men embraced the chance to ditch the suit and wear their much cooler leather jackets.

GOODBYE SHOULDER PADS

When shoulder pads fell out of vogue, more relaxed suiting took their place, pants often being swapped for pencil skirts and heels.

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.

STYLE ICONS

Brad Pitt
Pierce Brosnan
Michael Madsen

MONOCHROME MAGIC

Reservoir Dogs inspired a monochrome look, meaning skinny trousers, white shirts and dark shades were bang on trend throughout the 90’s.

2000s

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 combo.

STYLE ICONS

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 workplaces.

2010s

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.

ATHLEISURE

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 challenged.

STYLE ICONS

Harry Styles
Kanye West
David Gandy

CELEBRITY SNEAKERS

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 trends.

Whether you wear jeans and trainers, or prefer a to wear a shirt to work, we have a wide range of clothing, footwear, and accessories from leading designer brands including BOSSArmaniFred PerryC.P. Company and Barbour.