Men’s Jazz Age Style Shirts
Men’s Jazz Age Style style points encompass shirts with Spearpoint Collars. These were long and pointed down to show off your tie. They were also sometimes kept in place by a collar bar which went underneath your tie to make it stand out and fixed in place through holes on each collar. It made removing your tie or loosening it a much more convoluted process but did draw attention to the rest of your outfit although the earlier 1920s styles played with the narrower, higher and more rounded Club Collar styles. Club collar was a derogatory term that referred to the collars worn at Eton and the other Public Schools attended by the gentry. The idea was that this was a club you could never join, and so by copying it you were ridiculing its existence.
The classic Jazz Age trouser style were Oxford Bags, named after the style conscious undergraduates of Oxford Colleges. They were worn with high waists and pleats (also known as pegs or pegged) which gave more volume to the seat, and wide turned-up bottom ends (turn-ups or cuffs). The backs of the trousers were often fish-tailed and higher than the fronts. This was to attach buttons for braces on the inside to enable them to hang correctly.
As belts became more popular in the 1940s trousers often added thin belt loops to give the wearer a choice of either Belt or Braces. This then gave rise to the term of overdoing things with Belt and Braces. Braces remained popular right through to the end of 1950s.
Other styles were not quite so flamboyant but did encompass one or more of these style points. In America the Hollywood Waistband provided a wide and high waistband that epitomised the look many film stars of the day sported in the California sunshine. This was extremely popular as the 40s became the 50s.
Men’s Jazz Age Style jackets & waistcoats
The classic 1940s jacket is double breasted with wing collars and made from a worsted wool or Tweed material. Having said that more casual single breasted Jackets were also popular. Pairing a Tweed Jacket with a contrasting pair of Oxford Bags was a classic 1930s Oxford look, and often copied today. It was also the look adopted by the Swing Kids throughout Europe as they jumped on the new Jazz and Big Band Swing music coming over from America.
In America the Hollywood waisted trousers were often seen with belted back jackets that came as both single and double breasted versions and made from Palm Beach cloth. This was a classic ‘Summer Smart’ suited look. In the UK, linen or cotton was often used for Summer weights although the influence of American styles grew steadily and with ever increasing momentum.
Suits were often paired with waistcoats and the 3-piece suit was often a necessity in a world without central heating. Waistcoat fashion changed a lot and encompassed both single and double breasted versions sometimes adding shawl, notched and wing collars. There is no hard and fast rule, but do pay attention to the length of a waistcoat. It was designed to be long enough to cover the top of your trousers and give a continuous line without being so long that it folds over when you sit down.
An alternative to a waistcoat was a woollen jumper that could be worn under your jacket to provide even more warmth. This might be too much for modern central heating but the classic Fair Isle tank top (jumper without arms) does provide an option if you are dancing outdoors and uncertain of the weather.
Hats were worn by everyone. The classic hat of the period is the Fedora which has a wide brim and a teardrop crease in the top which narrows to a pinched top front. They started out as a female fashion item in the 19th century and were worn as symbol of rebellion against female oppression. Men soon appropriated the look with artists such as Oscar Wilde and by the 1930s they were seen as the go-to head accessory for men. They shouldn’t be confused with the later 1950s British Trilby which had a much narrower brim and often a straighter crease. Both had a pinched front that gave it a very pleasing line from the front.
The Homburg was a more formal style and a particular favourite of Churchill. The Homburg has a higher and rounder crown with a brim that is slightly turned up. The crown can either be worn in it’s original dome shape or with a crease to give it more style.
For working people the hat of choice was the Baker Boy (British) or Newsboy (US) flat cap made from 8 identical diamond shapes sewn together with a peak. This is the classic Peaky Blinders look. Britain also had another style of cap which is the single top Flat Cap. It is very similar to the Baker Boy/Newsboy styles except that when worn it has a narrower front and a wedge shape when viewed from the side. In America the Newsboy Cap style was much more popular than the Flat Cap which was seen as a British style.
In Summer and in tropical climates the Panama Hat became synonymous with the British Empire, and the various viceroy outlets which ensured it ran efficiently (usually meaning profitably). The key distinction of a Panama is that it is woven from toquilla straw. There are different weave patterns that can achieve different finishes with the tightness of the weave also defining the quality of the hat. Styles can vary with the blocking and shaping but the Fedora style with its wide brim provided protection from the sunshine and was a popular choice. Other styles include the ‘Folder’ which has a dome like top and a distinctive raised crease that enables the hat to be folded and stored in a slimline tube for packing into luggage for travel.
Men’s Jazz Age Style Shoes
Shoes were a statement item in the early 20th century with British American and European manufacturers all developing techniques for their own particular climates.
In Britain strong, and thick soled leather shoes using the Goodyear Welt provided protection against the wet and cold pavements. This meant that British shoes were very hard wearing but also heavier to wear. In California with its year round sun, lighter shoes were developed using the European Blake Stitch method. Both produced quality shoes just made in completely different ways.
What all shared was a distinctive Dome Toe shape which is distinct from more pointed modern styles. In Oxford Colleges the choice shifted to brogue styles with wingtips that used the Derby lace fastening as they were seen as being more casual than the formal Oxford Cap toe style that was forced on them in the public schools they had previously attended. Another choice was the Spectator Style (also known as Correspondents in the US). These used 2 different colours of leather, with one light and one dark to give a 2 tone appearance. These became hugely popular as a casual weekend shoe to wear when you were going out. A further development of this was a mix of canvas and leather as a summer shoe which was lighter still. These were known as Colonial Spectators due to their popularity amongst members of the Foreign Office working in tropical areas of the Empire.
In America there was also a craze amongst teenagers of the Saddle Shoe in the 1920s right through to the 1940s. These were originally introduced as a shoe for indoor sports and featured a reinforced instep and low heal. They were light and a good choice to jump around in. They therefore became a good choice for Lindy Hopping young people in the dance floors as the big bands played. They were worn by both men and women and provided a real statement on the dance floor.
Another sports shoe is the classic Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars Low Top which was first produced in 1922 and well known all over America by the Big Band era. The Low Top version is more associated with the 1950s than the 1940s but it is still an iconic look that will not look out of place and provides a cost effective alternative. The Rubber soles also adapt very well to having a suede or leather sole glued over them for extra glide on the dance floor, whilst the original rubber soles are perfect for grass or concrete.
Today dance shoes mimic these men’s jazz age styles and also provide light modern soled versions which are much lighter to wear.
It is the little details that can sometimes make or break a vintage outfit. Braces were often striped but solid colours were also readily available. The novelty prints on modern braces can spoil the effect and are probably best avoided along with the metal clip varities which were introduced much later. Ties in the Jazz age were brightly coloured and made of wool, cotton and increasingly Rayon. Rayon was seen as the most desirable as it took prints and hand painted dyes really well. Typically ties of the era were unlined which gave them a lighter drape against your shirt. Silk ties were not commonly available as they were very expensive to produce and modern synthetic based materials had not yet been invented. Pocket Squares with bright paisley colours were worn by the European Swing Kids in their Tweed jackets and pulled out slightly too far to drape over. This gave them a distinctive look. Socks were often Clocked with bold and colourful designs on the sides, and the 1920s is synonymous with Argyle knitted wool prints.
Men’s Jazz Age Style Resources and Links
These brands make reproduction items for men.
https://www.cathcartlondon.com/collections Cathcart London are a quality reproduction brand for both men and women and offer both smart and casual items in their collections. They also offer vintage inspired modern designs which may be what you are after. Cathcart London has been known by several other names including SJC (Simon James Cathcart) and Cathcart-Elliot. Their range of accessories is definitely worth a look as well.
https://www.chestercordite.com/ For many, Chester Cordite is the go to brand for those that want to look ‘Savoy Smart’ on a night out. Their range of suits and separates follow faithful original patterns from the era and their use of more heavyweight cloths mean the clothes hang in a vintage style when worn. As they don’t cut costs on fabrics, their prices are a bit more expensive.
https://www.somelikeitholy.com/ Another go-to brand for smart menswear although this online store also carries a lot of accessories which really make an outfit pop. With multiple styles that include very good repro Oxford Bags styles these are good to move around in whilst dancing.
https://revivalvintage.co.uk/pages/mens-vintage Revival offer reproduction clothing for both men and women and also provide a more affordable line. Quality can suffer slightly due to the cheaper fabrics used but they do provide a budget conscious way to achieve a vintage look. Their range of colours and styles provides lots of choice with options for both formal and casual looks.
https://www.mapledoram.com/product-category/mens-gents-1940s/ MapleDorum are all about suits and particularly the CC41 standard which was seen on clothing during the war years in Britain from 1941 and continuing years of rationing which followed it until 1951. The offer both off the rack and bespoke made to measure creations.
https://www.darcyclothing.com/ Darcy make vintage styles across a number of different historical periods and are familiar with all manner of Re-enactment groups from the Regency to WW2. They make outfits for men women and children including shoes and underwear. They also sell fabric and accessories for those who want to try their hand at making their own outfits.
https://www.blackbird-rc.com/menclothing Blackbird Re-enactment clothing are based in Poland and make bespoke items for both men and women. As tailors they provide a custom service where every part of a garment can be made bespoke or from a series of patterns. All work is undertaken in Poland and the finished item is then shipped to the UK. As such the costs of production are cheaper but taxes from Europe do apply to items ordered.
https://www.christys-hats.com/ Christy’s of London are actually based in Oxford and are the classic British hat makers. They provide all manner of styles with designs that are both classic and modern. If you stick to the classic Wool and fur felt varieties you will be spot on for period dress, and their range of Summer Panama hats is often surprisingly affordable.
https://www.britishbraces.co.uk/ Provide a wide range of affordable button braces to pair with your trousers for that vintage look.
https://londonbrogues.co.uk/ London Brogues provide an affordable range of classic design shoes using Lasts which are faithful to vintage designs. Their range of Spectator shoes is impressive and you will find both Derby and Oxford fastening styles. Their shoes are typically a leather upper with a resin-based sole which isn’t strictly vintage correct but will definitely pass at an event. They make a good alternative to the expensive Jermyn Street brands of London.
https://www.towerballroomdance.co.uk/product-category/mens-ballroom-shoes/ Dance shoes made by recognised brand leaders specifically for dancers. You will find that many have options for soles and can be custom ordered to provide the choice you want of leather, suede or composite rubber/plastic.
A range of Saddle shoes and other styles developed specifically for dancers by Bleyer in the Men’s Jazz age style.
It is inevtiable that over time resources will change with old ones disappearing and new ones appearing in their place. If you know of a resource we haven’t listed or if we need to make changes, just let us know and we will add it to this page.