Introduction: Back To The 50s?
When I first came across the current (and future) trend of 50s inspired clothing I automatically thought; bleak and restricted fashion. An era paired with post-war moodiness that was quite literally lagging just behind the greatness of the 60s.
However, it’s clear after more research that there are fonder memories of the decade; strong community ties, not having to lock your front doors and an end to rationing – which was a celebration in itself.
[We could all do with society being able to revert to these old fashion values and ways of living – especially with the tragedy that is occurring up and down the UK right now.]
On The Runways
The biggest endorser of the 50s trend was seen at Prada. If you watch the video above you can see that Miuccia Prada has taken us for a quirky round of golf, whilst narrating the key focuses in 50s style; including the most inspiring one of the decade – Western Cowboy, taken from the Hollywood interest in this particular genre of film. The Rivet patterned cowboy shirts and jackets vary from pastel colours (such as blues and yellows) to more in your face graphics and contrasting florals.
These prints are then taken and juxtaposed with some of the tailored looks; created with tone-on-tone checks or more muted colours such as beige and grey. Prada’s aim was to create something “a little more on the carefree side”, which was supported by the array of eccentric berets and neck scarves. However, we were also presented with more classic garments such as cardigans and sweaters which are also reminiscent of the 50s and its popular preppy style – giving people the chance to dress down that businessman look.
The 50s Key Looks
We have already broken down some of the key fifties looks in our piece on American Vintage, so today we will be focussing on the key pieces, cuts and fits that came out of the fifties. Plus we will give you a little breakdown of how you can put a modern spin on them and integrate them into your current looks to set you apart.
If you haven’t already, I recommend you take a look at our key guide to American Vintage, which included sections on Western, Rock’n’Roll and Ivy League dressing.
BBC 2: The Hour
Now things may have changed a little since the 50s but we can still sample tastes of the decade whilst watching the BBC’s latest drama, The Hour – behind locked front doors of course. The trend is extremely dominant in the wardrobe and styling for this Madmen-esque series, and it really channels the same look that is filtering its way onto the catwalk for the upcoming seasons in 2012.
Key Items Of The 50s Trend
Conservative business suits were favoured by men, mainly due to the effect the war had on the public – they liked the sense of security that dressing the same gave them. Conformism was so prominent that the “Man in the Gray Flannel Suit” became a known archetype; the “gray flannel suit” being a style that came over to the UK due to its popularity amongst American men – specifically in the Ivy League colleges.
So a key piece of this trend which can be integrated into your current looks is the grey blazer, which is being featured heavily all over the catwalks, and looks set to steal the navy blazer crown in 2012. Grey is just as versatile as navy when anchoring against other neutrals or bold colours. In fact, the mid-grey blazer may be the most versatile of them all, as its ability to mix with black trumps navy.
To bring it up to date, look for textured finishes that will set you apart from the crowd – think mottled wool, herringbone or tweed for the autumn/winter months in particular.
Whilst on the subjects of suits and tailoring, another key item from fifties style was the double breasted cut. Many of the soldiers coming back from the war wanted something flashy and different from their typical uniforms, which led to a lot of men adopting the double breasted suit; wanting a ‘change’ or ‘something different’ is often a major influence behind any fashion trend, even now.
Throughout the 50s the double breasted suit was usually worn for ‘best’, and the double breasted suit or blazer is definitely something that has been featured heavily within the autumn/winter 2011 collections, as well as on the spring/summer 2012 runways (see Prada above). It looks set to become a piece which is going to take off within menswear over the next year, and we would bet on this new cut becoming an essential style in the very near future.
For those of you who like to be ahead of the game, why not pick up a double breasted suit or blazer and start integrating it into your current looks? It will definitely be a piece that gives you differential from the rest of the male population.
Pleated Pants & Wider Leg Trousers
By the end of the war there were limits on rations due to the effect the war had on production and trade. However, by 1949 the fabric restrictions had been lifted and this sparked a new found trend of excess fabric being used in fashion (just because they could); leading to wider silhouettes, a looser fit/cut, and generally altogether more comfortable to wear clothing.
The pleated trouser was a key style back in the fifties. Again due to an emphasis on comfort, pleated trousers are not as slim fitting as their flat-fronted counterparts, and they became an essential item; whether you wore pleated suit trousers to work or pleated khakis at the weekend. The key casual look for males was a pair of pleated khaki/chino trousers paired with a shirt, tie and blazer or sports coat. It is a look we have seen being re-worked a lot this year in men’s fashion – think about your chinos, polo and blazer combinations – and this introduction of the pleated trouser style could be exactly what we need in order to separate ourselves from the crowd and add some variety to our current wardrobes going forward.
Wider leg cuts are definitely something that designers are pushing this year (see Ben Jones’ article on it here), so look for a rise of loose fit styles, pleated pants and a clashing of a wide fit bottom half juxtaposed against a slim fitting top half.
Prints & Patterns
In the fifties fashion went wild for patterns. As the 50s progressed, people felt more and more secure after the tragedy of the war, so there was a need to experiment and even ‘rebel’ after so much conformity. One way they did this is through prints and patterns – making them one of the distinguishing marks of true 50s style. The patterns started off with checks, transformed into stripes, pastel shades, plaits and the ever present argyle pattern.
These prints and patterns were on everything from shirts and ties, to cardigans and knitwear – the argyle cardigan in particular is a key piece in achieving 50s style. You can bring these prints bang up to date by using new popular patterns such as Aztec or Fair Isle, or go the other way and integrate vintage looking 50s patterns into your fashion forward looks.
Often by clashing styles and utilising just one key 50s inspired piece, you can create a real statement and focal point to your outfit. Why not try a simple 50s print tie with your new skinny pastel coloured suit? Or a vintage print shirt with chinos, boots and a skinny blazer?
There are many accessories that can be associated with the 50s. First off, to complement the suit, was the hat. These hats were not just worn when the weather demanded, but at all times. They usually came in flat cap or trilby varieties, and were worn with suits on the way to and from work (think Mad Men) – but never indoors.
This is a look we can pull directly from the 50s and integrate into your work looks today. The hat can become a statement piece and even a ‘signature piece’ for you if you rock one on a daily basis – separating yourself from the crowd on the commute to and from work, as well as at the weekends in your casual outfits. Just remember to purchase one that suits your personal style and face shape.
In terms of business accessories, white shirts with cuff links were in vogue. The humble cuff link seems to have fallen by the wayside in modern male fashion. However, they can be a great finishing touch to a work or formal outfit, whilst also being an investment piece you will get continued wear out – if you invest in a classic style. Wide braces were also popular and the preference when keeping up those wider pleated trousers [see The Hour image above left] – again these are just quirky little touches you can integrate into your modern work outfits in order to make you stand out without looking unprofessional.
In terms of ties, skinny was definitely the preference and they were worn in both casual and formal outfits. Pocket squares were also often used towards the end of the 50s; a style which carried on into the sixties and the ‘Mad Men’ era.
How To Wear: Modernising The Look
Topman Trend – Be Bop
One high street store that has predicted this trend and is bringing it to us now is Topman in their latest promotional style, Be Bop. Driving their inspiration from the smoky clubs of the 1950s, they have put a key focus on the rockabilly movement that came into its own during the decade. The models, Sid Ellisdon & Josh McLellan, capture the trend with their slick back hair and stern looks:
To modernise this carefully arranged look they have utilised many of the key pieces, such as the grey blazer, pleated khakis and printed shirts but then given them a twist by integrating new modern patterns such as animal print and Navajo inspired pieces.
They have also focused on creating a clash of silhouettes, by pairing looser comfort fits with skinny tailoring – the perfect way to create a striking outfit which is still fashion forward and modern.
50s Modern Look Book
Our lookbookers above have incorporated some of the key pieces from the trend into their outfits and proven that wearing era specific trends is not at all like playing dress-up. Our first has made pulling off pleated trousers look easy, whilst our second has paired 50s double-breasted tailoring in a bright colour with skinny jeans and boat shoes to give it a modern feel.
But praise goes to our third lookbooker for making a classic 50s shirt with a roll down collar look good. Whether it’s the angle of the photo or not, when paired with simple slim jeans, it mutes the business of the shirt perfectly.
So what do you think to this new trend?
- Are the 50s going to be as popular as other eras that have come to the forefront recently?
- Which pieces would you integrate from 50s fashion into your looks today?
- Would you consider looser fit trousers or pleated styles this year?
- What is your favourite trend or piece to come out of the 50s?
- How would you take this look and make it more fashion forward?
Let us know in the comments below…