The evolution of menswear throughout the XX century is nowhere near as breathtaking as its feminine counterpart. While women have pushed the envelope in every direction and even adopted male garments into their mix, men’s style and trends have always moved at a much slower pace.
This doesn’t mean that we have gone by unregistered by the radar of style all this time. But it is true that, until very recently, most (if not all) of men’s clothes were born with a strictly utilitarian purpose. Remember when we said that Brogue shoes were originally made for walking on bogs and not for the city streets? The medallion and holes were designed to drain the water. They're a good example of how men’s style has evolved, turning utilitarian items into a objects of style with a different purpose. And, while this is not always the case, it’s a great part of what has built the contemporary man's wardrobe.
Following are 3 periods of menswear history that have shaped the way we dress today.
The Suited Man – Influence of Prince Edward VII
The suit is undoubtedly the most enduring garment in men’s history. Different shapes, cuts and buttoning styles have been in the spotlight throughout history, but it’s precisely its constant adaptability that makes it such a timeless garment. Thanks Prince Edward VII of Wales, the suited look flourished during the XX century: he became a living example of Savile Row tailoring and a role model in men’s fashion. The suit as a whole has evolved and transformed (leaving frock coats, silk hats, globes and canes behind), but in essence it still is the very same thing—the most masculine and elegant garment that ever existed.
The Worker – Proliferation of Denim
Sure, jeans and denim are now linked to leisure and casual wear rather than work. While denim's origins are rooted in California’s miners and the famous Gold Rush, its proliferation can be traced back to the 10s and 20s when it became the uniform for construction workers. They grew in popularity as America’s emblematic skyscrapers were being built across its main cities. This exposure to common citizens, along with their incredible properties like durability and comfort, earned them universal acclaim. Denim is also a great example of how utilitarian wear garnered widespread appeal.
The Soldier – The Materials Shift
During the wars, civilian wear was severely restricted. Clothes that used too much fabric, extra pockets on garments and jackets with turn-up flaps were, in some cases, even banned. The reason? Wool needed to be reserved for supplying uniform makers. This led to the exploration of new materials, mainly synthetic fabrics such as rayon, nylon and viscose. But evolution is not always a straight line. Many items of military wear stayed home and gained territory in the fashion field: duffel coats, bomber jackets, trench coats, technical gear, rucksacks, cargo pants and, well—unless you've been living in a cave for the past few years—we're you sure you've noticed camo prints are literally everywhere.
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