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Identify Your Old Photographs - part 5

In my last post I showed how to date a photograph by looking at women's clothing styles for each decade from 1850 - 1940.

This post will give you guidelines for dating photographs based on men's clothing.

After you have noted the type of picture (carte de visite, cabinet card, picture postcard, or a print made from film) you can make a guess as to a date range. To further confirm the decade, take notice of men's clothing. Note their collar, tie, jacket cut, lapel style and hat (if present).

Here are some picture collages and lists you can use when inspecting the clothing of ancestors in your vintage photographs

1850s -

Narrow silhouette with narrow sleeves and trousers in the early 1850s

Higher waist and looser legs in mid to late 1850s

Dropped shoulder seam by the end of the decade

Longer straighter jackets

Frock coat or morning coats were common, with a seam at waist

For casualwear, a sack or lounge jacket offered a comfortable and relaxed alternative

Waistcoats (vests) were usually worn

Shirts were white with separate or attached collars

Collars were mid height on the neck, Folded down in points over a tie

The tie was thin and tied in a flat bow at the beginning of the decade and then moved to a wider ribbon with long tails that lay flat

Typical bow tie with shorter tails by the end of the 1850s were wide and straight across

Top Hat was dominant choice for men

Felt dome crowned bowler hat was introduced

1860s -

Oversized appearance marked much of the 1860s for menswear

Loose cut jackets, retained dropped shoulder seam of the 1850s with roomy sleeves

Wide tubular, even billowing trousers

Wide lapels

Jackets remained long for the first part of the decade and began to shorten by the mid 1860s

The sack or lounge jacket was straight and loose and gained popularity

Waistcoats (vests) were often single breasted with a shawl collar

Coats and Jackets were high buttoned, often only the top was buttoned and then left open and fall away

The top hat reached new heights in the early 1860s but came down in height by the end of the decade

The bowler remained a popular hat choice

Shirts were white with high collars, turned down with sharp points

A wide bow tie in an asymmetrical shape or a cravat was common

1870s -

Sober and understated style marked the 1870s for men

Frock coat was long with a waist seam as in the 1860s although by mid decade the length of coats rose above the knees

Morning coats came into style with a cutaway jacket and waist seam

Single or double breasted coats and jackets

Sack Jackets lacked a waist seam and were often buttoned high up on the chest

The Chesterfield coat, edged with braid and silk velvet was a popular form of outerwear

Some outer coats had attached capes

Shirts had a turn down collar and four-in-hand tie

Four-in-hand tie or bow ties were worn

Bow ties were usually simple and straight across with some tie styles held over from the 1860s

Top hats and the bowler remained fashionable for men

A pocket watch and chain was commonly worn by men

1880s -

Suits were cut closer to the body, lines were slim and straight

The tuxedo was invented providing another formal dinner option with a continuous (non notched) collar

The blazer, a single breasted version of a sack jacket was worn for leisure and casual activities

Jackets were buttoned up high and waistcoats (vests) weren't always worn

High collars, either stand or fold over were fashionable

Bow ties continued to be worn and four-in-hand neck ties became more popular

Top hats and bowler hats continued to be worn

Bowler hats become taller

1890s -

Tall and slim look for men continued but trousers had a more relaxed cut

The longer frock coat remained in style until the turn of the century

The shorter sack coat or blazer took on more popularity

Tail coats, tuxedos and pleated white dress shirts were fashionable for evening formalwear

Shirts were heavily starched and stiff collars remained fashionable

Collars with turned down wing tips became the norm

Top hats and tall bowler hats stayed in style

The fedora hat, a soft hat with brim and crease down the middle from front to back, came into style

The straw boater hat also began to be worn in the last decade of the 19th century

Caps began to be seen but didn't really take off in popularity until the turn of the century

Sportswear came into style with tweed jackets, loose breeches and gaitors which were popular for sports and hunting

1900s -

The long formal frock coat came to be worn less and was reserved for Sundays or for formal evening events

Neck ties were essential and most often a four-in-hand tie or bow tie

Collars remained tall and stiff

The most common collar style in the first decade of the 20th century was a tall white collar with curved tips

Cardigans, knit vests and wool sweaters became popular for mens sportswear

Flannels and linens, tweeds and wool fabrics were common for mens leisure and sportswear

Top hats, bowlers (later called derby hat), fedoras and straw boater hats remained popular

Caps were very common with sportswear and mens leisurewear

1910s -

fashion continued much as it had in the previous decade for menswear

Small changes were seen, such as cuffs on pant legs

Jackets weren't buttoned quite so high by the end of the decade

High stiff collars remained in fashion

Bow ties were worn

Four-in-hand ties were commonly worn but slimmer than in previous decades

Top hats for formal dress, and bowlers or fedoras for every day

Straw hats with wide ribbon bands or caps were very popular

The Homberg hat was a new hat came into vogue during this decade, it was similar to a fedora but the brim was flipped up

Men had quite a range of suits and jackets during this decade

The trench coat was introduced during the 1910s

Utilitarian clothing was more common, especially after the first World War

Wrist watches became fashionable by the end of this decade due to their use in WW1 Invented to keep soldiers hands free they were first called trench watches

1920s -

Menswear adapted to the simplicity and comfort that womenswear did

There was a marked departure from stiff tall collars

Collars were softer and lower, with folded down points at the neckline

Jackets often only had one or two buttons and could be worn with or without a vest

Vests may have no collar at all

The trench coat continued to be worn as an outerwear option for men

Oxford pants and plus fours were a trend in this second decade of the 20th century

Oxford pants were very wide and usually 22 - 44 inches wide at the bottom and worn mostly by young men

Plus Fours were wide knicker style trousers, cut short and gathered at the knee

Sweaters and knit vests continued to be popular

The cap, straw boater and fedora remained popular

The trilby became popular in the 1920s and resembled the fedora except its brim was fixed and it was fashionable to wear this hat low and down on the face

Pocket squares became popular

1930s -

Casualwear and utilitarian clothes were more popular in this decade

Overalls and trousers were worn with casual shirts

Sweaters and lightweight jackets were popular

As fashion was more influenced by the common man than the social elite, canes, gloves and top hats were virtually extinct among regular society

The tuxedo remained as an option for formalware

Suits continued and often sported checked or pinstripe patterns

Suits were looser and more comforable than in previous decades

Pants were high on the waist and then bulged at the thigh and knee, tapering down to an ankle cuff

Shoulders were often padded

Pocket squares gained in popularity

Shirts took on color and collars remained low with folded points

Four-in-hand neckties were predominately worn

Ties were short during this decade and often stopped four or five inches above the waist

The trench coat trend continued and bomber jackets were introduced and quickly gained popularity

Mens hats continued as with the previous decade, with the added walker hat

The walker hat was stiffer and had the back brim flipped up

1940s -

Mens fashion continued as it had in the 1930s with very little change

Due to the Great Depression and need for rationing, clothing became more sensible

The trench coat trend continued

Utilitarian clothing continued as before

Shirts could be open at the neck and no tie worn for a working blue collar man

Suits were comfortable with collars and ties worn as in the previous decade

Single breasted jackets eventually replaced double breasted jackets

Pockets and lapel size were restricted so that less material could be used

One trend that menswear introduced in the 1940s was the Zoot Suit

A zoot suit was an oversize jacket and baggy trousers and was an early example of streetwear - w++ide shoulders, wide legs, high waisted pants and wide ties characterized this controversial suit that faded away in the 1950s

Military men returning from Asia and the Pacific brought back what we know today as Hawaiian shirts, brightly patterned short sleeve button down shirts

I hope you have enjoyed this look at one hundred years of menswear fashion. Noting the new trends and changes in each decade can help you date photographs. Remember, as I mentioned for women's fashion, these are guidelines but not a hard rule. Many men wore outdated fashions especially if they lived in rural or poorer communities. It will be more helpful to you to note what trends and clothing items were invented or got their start. Then you can take note of the earliest estimate that your ancestor's picture was taken based on that trend.

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