Men’s clothes have not changed as dramatically as women’s clothes over the past century. Here’s the scoop on the variations for the decade of the 1910’s.

Hairstyles were modified pompadours in the early years of the decade. As the war rolled around, and then the boys came home, they started sporting more easy-care hairdos, short, slicked back, or to the side. Whiskers and mustaches were still seen in 1910. But as the years continued, the young men started emulating the military requirements and facial hair generally disappeared among them. Older men clung to their older styles. So, if your young hero just returned from the Front, he isn’t going to be twirling his long mustache.

Among businessmen and professionals, the suit was the choice for day wear. They were called sack suits, even in the ads, the reason being that they were baggy. The early years of the decade, the sack suits consisted in a long, plain loose-fitting jacket, 30-32” long. This made them end at mid-thigh. The lapels were a standard 2.75” wide. There were 1-3 buttons. The winter colors were dull, dark navy, grey, green or brown. Any striping, checks or plaids were hints, rather than obvious. Summer colors were light grey, tan and off white. The jacket edges were straight edges or slightly rounded at corners. The pants for the suits were high-waisted with straight legs sporting a crease both front and back. They were cuffed at the ankle. Suspenders, either elastic or leather, were used to hold them up. Belts were used for sporty clothes, only. Suits were accompanied by collarless vests with 6 buttons. Before the war, the vest was cut low enough so that it was not seen when the jacket was buttoned. After 1914, the vests took on more prestige and were cut higher.

After the war, the young men returned with their own tastes. The material was more colorful, the look more tailored with a defined waist. Shoulder pads were gone, the jacket hem moved up to mid-hip and showed off large patch pockets. Materials were lighter. The extreme version was called the jazz suit. It had tight shoulders and waist with three closely placed buttons. The pant legs ended above the ankle. It was a strange name to give the suit, seeing as it was too tight to dance in. The materials changed too, making the suits lighter in weight. Light wool was not the only choice. A new cloth had been developed called Palm Beach cloth. It was a tropical weight mohair-cotton blend which was washable and comfortable to wear. The suits came in cheerful colors like lilac and sky blue, checks, windowpane and stripes.

Like today, men wore dress shirts with their suits. These shirts were in pale colors or stripes. Detachable collars were coming in celluloid, for high stand versions. Attached collars came in pointed and round versions.

Coats were more popular then, than now, probably because there were no such thing as heated cars, yet. Every gentleman had a coat, or three.  One of the most renowned coats of the era was the duster. Designed for driving in a dusty open car, these coats were popular with the young men. Ankle length, with side buttons, they came in gabardine, twill, duck and Palm Beach cloth. They were either white, light tan or lemon.

The heavy coats for gentlemen came in several different styles, all wool, all knee-length or longer. They were made of wool, melton or chinchilla weave, and lined with heavy cloth or fur for warmth. The Chesterfield was a plain coat with a velvet collar, looking very gentile. The ulsterette had a cape over the long sleeves, narrow lapels and collar. It could be made with lighter material, too. The Inverness cape coat was similar to the previous, but without sleeves. The suit coat sleeves were shown below the caped shoulder. Some materials could be rubberized for rain protection, or oil cloth could be used.

Working men had to have specialized work jackets. Some jobs were outdoors. Oiled or waxed cotton coats and pants worked for rain gear. For warmth, there was a reversible leather and corduroy double-breasted jacket fit to just below the hip. There was also a sheepskin-lined corduroy or moleskin jacket which could be waist-length to knee length. The well-known Indian blanket plain mackinaw was very popular and has continued to be so to this day. The reefer coat (now known as the pea coat) was longer and, thus, warmer, than the jackets.

Footwear was of three types: boots, business dress shoes and pumps (yes, that is what they were called for men). Boots, used for travel, business and labor, were a few inches above the ankle. They were usually attached by a combination of laces and hooks. Some were two tone. Heels were not flat like typical boots today, but had a height of 1 ½”.  For business, men could also wear shoes, cut high on the foot, mostly single tones like brown, black patent leather, gunmetal or white. They were very plain, with broguing (cut out patterns) for country wear only. The heels were 1 – 1 1/2” high. Formal pumps did, indeed, look similar to women’s pumps today, cut very low with a heel from 1 – 2” high. Laces were made of ½’ wide silk with metal covered tips, which tended to rust.

Accessories were common among men at the time. Pocket watches were very obvious until 1914, worn in a vest pocket with a chain that fit into a button hole. Then wrist watches came out. As is typical, the young men wore them first.  All gentlemen wore gloves. Leather and suede were most common in the winter, cotton in the summer. The colors could be white, grey, tan or matching the neckwear.

The type of neckwear worn depended on the time of day. Cravats or large bow ties were for daytime. Narrow bow ties were for evening wear. Dark long neckties showed around 1914.

Socks were mostly black or grey wool. They were valued as difficult to produce, so they were cared for and mended as needed. Dress socks for the wealthy were cashmere, sild or cotton and might be embroidered. Being as there was no elastic in socks, men had to worry about them bagging around the ankle. So, they had elastic or leather sock garters at the upper calf where the socks were attached. Those who did not have much, like workmen, had drawstring cords at the top of their socks to tighten around the calf.

The hats of the Edwardian age, the derby the top hat and the homburg, were mostly gone after the war. The young men coming home from the war wanted color, not black and brown. They chose the fedora, with its grosgrain ribbon, flat caps in many colors, or straw hats, like boaters. The Panama hat, a new kind of weave, though expensive, was very popular.

The men looked good throughout this decade.

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1910s LADIES

The “Belle Epoque” is a nickname for the 40 years or so ending with the Edwardian era. That was the reign of King Edward of England, the son of Queen Victoria. He reigned less than 10 years but is famous for that short, elegant era. The epitome of high society and the destruction of said society were all contained in that generation.

The Gibson girl was the design of the “ideal” woman in the 1890s by cartoonist-fashion artist Charles Dana Gibson. He claimed his pictures were the synthesis of thousands of American women. These women were presented as tall, willowy with an S-curve to their spine, thrusting out their top halves, via corsets, to present their femininity. The style stuck for almost 20 years. In addition to the pompadours, the upswept hair of each Gibson girl, which became more exotic with the years, and the hats, which became more unwieldy, the dresses became more elaborate. The first half of the 1910s decade was a celebration of ostentation.

The socially prominent woman was obligated to change dresses four times a day. The morning outfit was usually a plain dress or morning suit. Then there was the afternoon dress for lunch. The casual dress, of cotton or linen, was for afternoon tea and the evening gown, often of silk, for those formal dinners. The woman who had to change that many times needed different under garments for the various fashions. No wonder she needed a ladies’ maid to help.

The accent at the beginning of the decade was on pretty, petite and sedate. That meant delicate pastel colors, or whites, with laces, ribbons and feathers. High waisted, or Empire-waisted dresses were the mark of the first few years. If a dress or tunic top had a V-neck, a blouse was worn underneath. Tunics over long, straight skirts were very popular. Jackets and ties were even introduced into business attire, but with skirts And corsets continued the stilted Gibson girl look with the limited movement. Waistlines started high then gradually lowered throughout the decade.

High necklines and longer sleeves were the requirements for daytime. For evening, a sleeveless gown was accompanied by a shawl draped around the shoulders and elbow-length gloves. The designers went crazy with gossamer and peculiar dyes for various effects.

The skirts in the first half of the decade were to the top of the shoe. The second half of the decade saw a shortening to mid-calf, for the first time. Skirts were losing their fullness and tended to be straight, with dresses columnar in shape, also losing the waist definition. The “hobble” skirt saw a brief surge of popularity around 1913-1914. But the hem was not conducive to walking. Pleats and slits were brought in to help the woman get around. Every year the styles changed as if in a surge to be ahead of the common people. The styles went from columnar to waisted to columnar again.

The trend was towards simplicity by the beginning of the war. Women had to get out and work the jobs the men left behind. They needed comfort and flexibility to do those jobs. The styles became simpler to wear, and to put on. Even the high society ladies followed the innovations, empathizing with the workers. Colors got darker, earthier, like copper, navy and greys, in keeping with the somber times of the Great War. Corsets were eliminated by many to free up movement. The waist-less outfits did not need them.

Sports for women had opened up. Women could play both golf and tennis, wearing white skirts to below the knee, white sweaters, blouses and stockings. And, thanks to Keds, they had white sneakers to make movements easier.

Swim outfits existed, but they were bulky. Made of wool, a woman had a dress to just above the knee, clingy pants (or footless stockings, not unlike long johns). These outfits sucked in water and were not very practical, since they would sag when wet.

The middle-class women, those most likely to be in the factories, especially clothing manufacturing, wore basic shirts and skirts to work, saving the dresses til Sunday.

Everyone, who could, wore hats when they went out. The large hats, with voluminous decorations were very popular for several years. Winter and fashionable hats were decorated with feathers and beads and were made of wool felt, straw or fur. Then, the war got underway. In keeping with the new style of simplicity, the hats began to shrink in size and décor. Straw boater hats became popular in the summer. Small brimmed hats, decorated plainly, were worn in the winter.

As long as skirts stayed long, the typical feminine boot, which looked like a pump over white socks, was worn, except for evening wear. But, once the skirts rose, showing ankle and some stocking, the shoes took on the look of today, looking similar to pumps.

Next time we will talk about men’s and children’s styles from the 1910s.

Book 1 in the Hadley Sisters Mysteries. Available now at Amazon in paperback and eBook