There is nothing sexier than a man in a suit and the power suit of the 50s has been given a new lease of life thanks to the hit show, Mad Men and main character Don Draper.
Men’s fashion in 1950’s Hollywood movies is a stereotype of the everyday man, which is businessman husband. The 1950’s costume for these roles: the husband in a dark and drab business suit and hat, with lots of fabric in the pant legs.
Popular materials at this time were cotton, silk, and wools. After work Don Draper’s everywhere relax in looser clothing, loose pants, and a shirt without a tie.
For work and meetings business suits are always worn as well as at social occasions. During the 1950’s man made fibres are introduced, – nylon, rayon, and blends. The styles stay similar but the cloth material is lighter in weight, also colour begins to be used in the fabrics.
If you look at any movies and TV shows of the era, what you mostly see is the businessman look – the gray flannel suit. Dark blue, dark brown and charcoal were the colors of a man’s office suit, whether he was a lowly office minion or head of the company. For much of the 1950s, conformity was the order of the day.
The postwar years were exciting and booming, but the Cold War and the fears wrought by nuclear weapons drove a conservative movement in clothing. Everyone wanted to look like a good American, which meant they all looked alike.
Men’s clothes were simpler than the suits of the 1940s. Gone were shoulder pads and most double-breasted suits. Jackets and trousers were shorter, although there was still a lot of fabric in the trouser legs. Ties were slightly slimmer and shirt collars less pronounced. Everyone still wore a hat, of course, but the brims were considerably narrower than the fedoras sported from the 1920s on.
The clean cut and conservative style of the 1950s remains an influence on fashion today. From subtle touches on modern pieces to retro vintage fashions, men can be seen sporting elements of the past and using them in their existing wardrobes.
The 1950s power suit has never really gone out of fashion but it has recently been given a new lease of life. A suit is instantly glamour in the modern world and true style never goes out of fashion.
(original text published in An Focal XX10 on 8th March 2012)