How to Dress Like a 1940s Man: Timeless Tips for a Dapper Look in 2023

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how to dress like a 1940s man

1. Typical Clothing Styles for Men in the 1940s

The typical clothing styles for men in the 1940s were influenced by both military uniforms and civilian fashion trends of the time. Suits were the most common form of attire for men, with a focus on tailored fits and structured silhouettes. Double-breasted suits with wide lapels were particularly popular, as were pinstripes and plaids. These suits were often worn with matching vests and wide-legged trousers.

For more casual occasions, men would opt for sports jackets paired with slacks or khaki pants. These jackets were usually single-breasted and had a more relaxed fit compared to formal suits. They often featured bold patterns such as checks or herringbone.

In terms of shirts, men typically wore button-down dress shirts in solid colors or subtle patterns like stripes or small checks. These shirts were usually worn with ties, which were narrower than those seen in previous decades. Accessories such as suspenders, pocket squares, and fedora hats completed the overall look.

Key Elements of Typical Clothing Styles for Men in the 1940s:

  • Tailored double-breasted suits with wide lapels
  • Pinstripes and plaids
  • Sports jackets with bold patterns
  • Button-down dress shirts in solid colors or subtle patterns
  • Narrow ties
  • Suspenders, pocket squares, and fedora hats as accessories

Influences on Typical Clothing Styles for Men in the 1940s:

The clothing styles for men in the 1940s were heavily influenced by several factors. One major influence was World War II, which led to a rationing of fabrics and materials. As a result, clothing became more streamlined and practical, with less emphasis on excess and luxury. Military uniforms also played a significant role in shaping men’s fashion during this time, with elements such as wide lapels and structured silhouettes being borrowed from military attire.

Additionally, Hollywood films and celebrities had a considerable impact on fashion trends in the 1940s. Leading actors of the time, such as Cary Grant and Humphrey Bogart, popularized the sophisticated and elegant style that was characteristic of the era. The influence of Hollywood can be seen in the tailored suits, sharp hairstyles, and overall polished appearance that defined men’s fashion during this period.

2. Hairstyles for Men in the 1940s

The hairstyles for men in the 1940s were characterized by a clean-cut and well-groomed look. Short hair was the norm, with most men opting for slicked-back or parted styles. The most iconic hairstyle of the decade was the “Ivy League” haircut, also known as the crew cut or flat top. This style featured short sides and back with slightly longer hair on top combed neatly to one side or styled into a pompadour.

Another popular hairstyle for men in the 1940s was the “ducktail” or “DA” (short for duck’s ass). This style involved combing the hair back on both sides while leaving a prominent ridge down the center of the head. The back of the hair was then shaped into a V or U shape resembling a duck’s tail.

In terms of grooming products, pomade was commonly used to achieve sleek and shiny hairstyles. It provided hold and added shine to create a polished appearance. Hair tonics were also popular for giving hair a healthy sheen.

Key Hairstyles for Men in the 1940s:

  • Ivy League haircut (crew cut or flat top)
  • Ducktail or DA hairstyle
  • Slicked-back or parted styles

Influences on Hairstyles for Men in the 1940s:

The hairstyles for men in the 1940s were influenced by both practicality and fashion trends of the time. The short, well-groomed haircuts were favored due to their low maintenance and suitability for military service. With many men serving in World War II during this period, shorter hairstyles became a practical choice.

Additionally, Hollywood actors and celebrities played a significant role in popularizing certain hairstyles. Leading actors like Clark Gable and Cary Grant showcased sleek and sophisticated hairstyles that became aspirational for many men. These celebrity influences, combined with the prevailing fashion trends of the era, helped shape the hairstyles of men in the 1940s.

3. Popular Accessories for Men in the 1940s


During the 1940s, hats were an essential accessory for men. The most popular styles included fedoras, trilbies, and newsboy caps. These hats not only added a touch of sophistication to a man’s outfit but also provided practicality by protecting against the elements. Men would often coordinate their hat with their suit or outfit, choosing colors and patterns that complemented each other.


Ties were another important accessory for men in the 1940s. They were typically worn with suits and came in various styles such as wide ties, skinny ties, and bow ties. Ties were often made from silk or wool and featured bold patterns like stripes or polka dots. In terms of color, darker shades like navy blue, burgundy, and black were commonly seen.


Watches were not only functional timepieces but also stylish accessories during the 1940s. Men’s watches had leather straps and round faces with simple yet elegant designs. Gold or silver tones were popular choices for the watch case, adding a touch of sophistication to any outfit.

4. Colors and Patterns for Men’s Suits in the 1940s


In the 1940s, men’s suits predominantly came in classic colors such as navy blue, charcoal gray, and black. These neutral tones provided a timeless and sophisticated look that was suitable for various occasions. However, there was also a rise in popularity of lighter shades like tan and beige during this era.


Patterns played a significant role in men’s suits during the 1940s. Pinstripes were particularly fashionable and added a touch of elegance to a suit. Other popular patterns included herringbone, windowpane checks, and plaids. These patterns added visual interest and allowed men to express their personal style while still adhering to the fashion norms of the time.

5. Influence of World War II on Men’s Fashion in the 1940s

Rationing and Utility Clothing

The influence of World War II had a profound impact on men’s fashion during the 1940s. Due to rationing and limited resources, clothing became more practical and utilitarian. The government imposed restrictions on fabric usage, leading to the creation of “utility clothing” that prioritized functionality over style. Suits were simplified with fewer pockets and buttons, and materials like rayon or synthetic blends were used instead of traditional fabrics like wool.

Military-Inspired Fashion

The war also influenced men’s fashion through military-inspired designs. Military uniforms became a source of inspiration, with elements such as epaulets, double-breasted jackets, and wide lapels being incorporated into civilian clothing. Camouflage prints also gained popularity during this time.

6. Common Fabrics and Materials Used in Men’s Clothing during the 1940s


Wool was one of the most common fabrics used in men’s clothing during the 1940s. It provided warmth, durability, and a polished look for suits, coats, and trousers. Wool was often blended with other fibers to improve its performance or reduce costs.


Cotton was another widely used fabric in men’s clothing during this era. It was lightweight, breathable, and comfortable to wear in warmer weather. Cotton was commonly used for shirts, casual pants, and summer suits.

Synthetic Fabrics

Due to rationing and limited resources during World War II, synthetic fabrics like rayon and nylon gained popularity in men’s clothing. These materials were more affordable and easier to produce than natural fibers. Rayon was often used for shirts, while nylon was utilized for military uniforms and raincoats.

7. Key Elements of a Man’s Casual Wardrobe in the 1940s

Button-Down Shirts

Button-down shirts were a staple in a man’s casual wardrobe during the 1940s. They were typically made from cotton or rayon and featured a collar that could be buttoned down for a neat appearance. These shirts were versatile and could be paired with trousers or jeans for a relaxed yet put-together look.


Chinos became increasingly popular as casual pants for men during this era. They were made from lightweight cotton twill fabric and had a straight leg fit. Chinos offered comfort and versatility, making them suitable for various casual occasions.


Sweaters were essential for layering during the colder months. Men would often wear V-neck or crew neck sweaters made from wool or cashmere over their shirts for added warmth and style. Sweaters came in various colors, including classic neutrals like navy blue, gray, and brown.

8. Differences between Daytime and Evening Attire for Men in the 1940s

Daytime Attire

During the daytime, men would typically wear suits that consisted of a jacket, trousers, shirt, tie, hat, and appropriate accessories such as cufflinks or tie clips. The suits were usually in darker colors like navy blue or charcoal gray with subtle patterns like pinstripes.

Evening Attire

For evening events, men would opt for more formal attire. This often included a tuxedo or dinner jacket paired with matching trousers, a white dress shirt, and a bow tie. The jackets were typically black or midnight blue with satin lapels, while the trousers had a satin stripe down the sides.

9. Impact of Social Class and Occupation on Men’s Clothing Choices in the 1940s

Social Class

Social class played a significant role in determining men’s clothing choices during the 1940s. Wealthier individuals had access to higher-quality fabrics, tailored suits, and custom-made clothing. They would often wear more formal attire and invest in luxury accessories. On the other hand, working-class men had limited resources and typically wore simpler, mass-produced clothing.


Occupation also influenced men’s clothing choices during this era. Professionals such as lawyers or businessmen would wear tailored suits with polished shoes and accessories to convey authority and professionalism. Blue-collar workers, on the other hand, would opt for practical workwear such as overalls or coveralls that provided durability and functionality.

10. Tips for Creating a Modern Take on a 1940s-Inspired Look

Mix Vintage and Contemporary Pieces

To create a modern take on a 1940s-inspired look, mix vintage pieces with contemporary ones. Pair a vintage suit with a modern shirt or accessorize with contemporary shoes and accessories to add an updated twist to the overall outfit.

Focus on Tailoring

One of the key elements of 1940s fashion was well-tailored clothing. Pay attention to fit and consider getting garments altered to achieve that polished look reminiscent of the era.

Incorporate Retro Patterns and Colors

Incorporate retro patterns and colors into your outfit to capture the essence of the 1940s. Opt for pinstripes, herringbone, or windowpane checks in your suits or choose shirts with bold patterns like polka dots or stripes. Stick to classic color palettes such as navy blue, charcoal gray, and earth tones.

Accessorize Thoughtfully

Complete your 1940s-inspired look with thoughtful accessories. Consider adding a fedora or newsboy cap, a vintage watch, and a tie with a classic pattern. These accessories will enhance the overall aesthetic and add an authentic touch to your outfit.

In summary, by incorporating classic elements such as tailored suits, high-waisted trousers, suspenders, and fedora hats, one can effortlessly emulate the timeless style of a 1940s man.

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