Fashion Throughout History – Men’s Style Essentials

Every generation has its uniform.  Every era, a defining look.  But how deeply does history change the very fabric of fashion? Apparently not much…  Here are five timeless items found in the wardrobe of your dad, grandad and great Grandad before him, and hopefully… if you’re anywhere near as stylish as your reading habits assume – are found in yours t0.


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white shirt throughout history

White Shirt Throughout History

The history of the white shirt dates back over 200 years, and today is so far removed from it’s beginning that you don’t even think twice when button up before rushing out the door to go to work. With even the term “white collar” being associated with a higher social class today, it doesn’t come as a surprise that wearing this shirt was a sign of your wealth. The high standing, a rigid collar was another feature popular in 1800s Europe, distinguishing the gentlemen from the men. This shirt has become the backbone of men’s formal fashion in the Western world, with it being status quo in the workplace, as well as the staple formal piece. In the 1980s, thanks to Spandau Ballet, a looser shape and ruffled variation emerged into fashion, which ended in a parody by Jerry Seinfeld. It has now come full circle, with the modern shape looking almost identical to the ones worn centuries ago.

Why you need it today:

In today’s climate, the white shirt is your most versatile asset. It can move from casual to smart casual to formal with layering or the right accessories. That’s why it’s so important to have a good one, flattering and stylish, so you’re never caught off guard. For a very laid back look, wear open on top of a singlet, with a nice pair of colourful shorts and stylish boat shoes. To achieve that smart casual look, wear with the top buttons undone, tucked into your all-important chinos (also on this list) and finish the look with a rolled sleeve, or add a soft fine merino sweater if it’s a little chilly. For a very posh evening situation, make sure to wear with your nicest 3-piece suit and a bow tie for flourish.

basic brogue throughout history

Basic Brogue Throughout History

First a hunting shoe for European aristocracy, the perforated leather was useful for boggy countryside walks. The sturdiness of the shoe is also a feature that has been favoured throughout history. Originally without a heel or laces, these features were added through different makers of the shoe and refined through the 20th century. Outside brogues were traditionally brown leather, while the more formal brogues were black, proving the stylish versatility and comfort of the shoe. In the 1930’s, the Prince of Wales wore a pair of modified brogues as golfing shoes, which spurred on the fashion. Other fans include Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire and later, Elvis Presley. If those names alone aren’t still enough to get you excited about these shoes, nothing will.

Why You Need them in Your Wardrobe Today:

Nothing smartens up an outfit like a pair of brogues. If you haven’t had a pair in some past life, let us tell you why they are really something you want to invest in. They are a staple because you can wear them to work, then out at night, as well as being sturdy enough to wear for outdoor activities. The classic brown brogue is perfect for adding class to your regular rotation of outfits because you can wear them with pretty much anything, including shorts and suit pants. If you invest in a comfortable, stylish pair you really can’t go wrong. There are a few different styles to choose from, but all have the same great shape and people are sure to notice the difference.

blazer throughout history

Blazer Throughout History

There have been many types of blazers in history, differing slightly in style to match the person that wears it. The word blazer comes from the regatta in England, where the dress code consisted of this jacket with full formal wear. Because of its relationship with sporting codes, many different team colours have been used over the years. It wasn’t quite a suit jacket, but according to 1825 standards, it added just the right amount of formality. Over time, this type of jacket became popular with the general public, and in the 1960-70’s bands such as The Who and others in the Mod movement wore these blazers in order to subvert the meaning behind them, with the piece’s institutional roots still prevalent. The term has become an encompassing term for not just these lighter jackets, but woollen ones as well. It is this style that most men will have hanging in their cupboard today.

Why You Need it in Your Wardrobe Today:

This is a jacket you can wear pretty much every day from late autumn until early spring, and what’s more, it’s perfectly appropriate to wear to work if you’re lucky enough to be allowed to forgo the suit. If you’re going to be getting so much wear out of it, it’s got to be made from good quality and provide enough warmth to get you through early morning and evening travel. Even if you can’t find a way to wear your blazer to work, from a meet up with friends at your local to a swanky bar in one of the trendiest suburbs, your blazer is the one quick fix to keep you looking sharp and sophisticated.

chinos through history

Chinos Through History

A European fashion from the 1800s, chino cloth was used in military uniforms, utilising the same neutral tones and comfort the fabric retains today. It gained popularity with civilians as a result, however, it wasn’t until recently that the current slimmer shape was adopted. In the mid 1900s, these pants fit into a ‘preppy’ style look, and thanks to the Kennedy appeal, these were typically seen on young men looking to emulate the casual comfort of an upper class US summer outing.

Why You Need it in Your Wardrobe Today:

The most casually flattering pant in existence, this is definitely one you’re going to be wearing constantly. The great thing about chinos compared to jeans are the many on-trend colours widely available, as well as looking more sophisticated and being more comfortable than you would be in stiff denim. These bad boys can be paired with any shirt, polo, button-up or otherwise, and it’s an effortlessly cool look all year round.

denim jacket throughout history

Denim Jacket Throughout History

This jacket is all-American in its origins, many people citing Levi Strauss as the creator in the 1870s. It started as a uniform for hard labour, then becoming widely known as the “cowboy staple”, with many people in Western America donning the look. This came down to durability, still one of the best qualities of the garment. The more distressed the jacket was, the manlier the wearer became. A lot of that macho hype was created through 1950’s Hollywood stars riding motorcycles and Bing Crosby’s denim tuxedo. Since then, the jacket has enjoyed consistent popularity, with a peak in the 1980’s with The Clash and other “down with the establishment” ideals. The 1990’s also saw rappers like Tupac flaunt the recklessness that came with throwing on your customised denim jacket.

Why You Need it in Your Wardrobe Today:

These days, a good denim jacket is a must, regardless of your age or style. The casual appeal, as well as durability and warmth provided by denim it really allows for longevity, which means when you find a great one, you stick to it. It’s the one piece of clothing you don to feel and look better in an instant. Honestly, no matter what you’re wearing underneath, the jacket speaks for itself. If you’re feeling a little edgy, there’s always the denim on denim combo when worn with jeans. Ah, makes you feel so young, doesn’t it?

About the Author

Larissa is a journalism student with a passion for cool, quirky places, great people and fun events. She loves getting out there and chasing the next coolest thing on a whim, then writing about it and hoping people think she’s cool as well.


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