Style Decades Revisited: The Fifties
It’s a commonly held belief that fashion moves in circles, and any keen observer of the industry will know that this statement rings true.
The style barometer in menswear has been leaning significantly towards the decades of yesteryear in recent seasons, with retro eras providing key sources of inspiration for designers.
In the wake of hit shows such as The Hour and Masters of Sex, the fifties have enjoyed a marked revival in popular culture.
Yet beyond the sharp suits, skinny ties and natty accessories we’re all familiar with, there’s also a lighter, more nonchalant side – leisure, sports and resort wear came into their own in this decade, alongside more relaxed deconstructed tailoring.
Today, we take a look at how a dash of reworked fifties flair can enhance your summer style…
The fifties saw an increase in travel, along with a renewed interest in sports and modern design, in the midst of a society emerging from the gloomy austerity of the war-tainted forties.
This change in lifestyle called for a more casual style of dress to suit a faster pace of life, warmer climes and athletic pursuits.
The polo shirt, now a staple item in the modern man’s wardrobe, epitomises the new relaxed approach to dressing that emerged in this decade.
Although the modern polo was first invented in the mid-1920s, it rose to fame in the fifties, with the middle classes aspiring to a Riviera lifestyle and opting for a more casual, athletic wardrobe.
Ideal for warm summer days, the simplicity of the polo has ensured the garment has stood the test of time and remains as popular today as ever.
For a contemporary fifties-inspired feel, opt for a texture-rich knitted/open-weave design or a micro-print number from brands like Reiss, Jet8, Ben Sherman, YMC or Brioni.
- Topman Cream Cable Short Sleeve Knitted Polo Shirt
- Ymc Knitted Short Sleeve Polo Shirt
- Asos Knitted Polo
- Reiss Larry Patterned Polo Shirt Navy
- Jet 8 Red Fine Knit Cotton Polo Shirt Sc84728
- Reiss Platinum Short Sleeve Knit Polo Blue
- Billy Reid Warner Striped Slub-cotton Polo Shirt
- Reiss Broadway Faded Open Collar Polo Mint
- Brioni Knitted Wool And Silk-blend Polo Shirt
- Ben Sherman Wave Stripe Johnny Collar
- Richard James Striped Cotton Polo Shirt 189100
- Ben Sherman Diamond Jacquard Polo
Any style-conscious gent will be able to tell you that shorts have been getting increasingly shorter for several seasons now.
Trending for SS14, short shorts, or micro-shorts, were a legacy of 1950s resort wear and films like Anthony Minghella’s The Talented Mr. Ripley show how to pull this look off with panache.
A summer essential, pastel, ice cream or light shades are ideal for a considered warm-weather nod to the 1950s.
J.Crew, American Apparel, Uniqlo, River Island and Topman are all great ports of call for retro shorts this season.
- American Apparel Cotton Seersucker Kennedy Short
- Asos Chino Shorts With Elasticated Waist
- Topman Lilac Chino Shorts
- River Island Pink Chino Shorts
- J.crew 9 Stanton Cotton-twill Shorts
- Uniqlo Men Cordlane Belted Shorts
- J.crew 9 Stanton Cotton-twill Shorts
- Ami Washed Cotton-twill Shorts
- Hentsch Man Regular-fit Striped Cotton-canvas Shorts
The fifties saw an increase in mass production and new manufacturing techniques that lowered the cost of consumer goods. Sunglasses, considered a luxury in previous decades, became more affordable and were popularised by key figures in the public eye.
Ray-Ban, now a household name, first earned its stripes in the fifties, with its iconic Wayfarer frames changing the face of sun opticals. This instantly recognisable shape was the first style of sunglasses not to employ metal in its specification, and spoke volumes of a new post-war age of design.
The Clubmaster also owes its origins to the decade. The ‘browline’ silhouette was the key style in the fifties for all types of optical eyewear for men and women, and the design has enjoyed a style renaissance in recent years.
Versatile and timeless, both the Wayfarer and Clubmaster will make a fine pairing with your retro summer attire. Brands such as Eye Respect, Garrett Leight and high street stalwarts Topman and ASOS offer stylish 1950s-inspired designs.
- Oliver Peoples Banks Acetate And Metal Sunglasses
- Eye Respect Alex Fire Tort Sunglasses
- Ray-ban Wayfarer Sunglasses
- Topman Tortoise Shell 50s Sunglasses
- Asos Clubmaster Sunglasses With Wood Finish
- Topman Gold And Brown Clubmaster Sunglasses
- Ray-ban Wayfarer Liteforce Acetate Sunglasses
- Ray-ban Clubmaster Sunglasses
- Persol Wayfarer Sunglasses
Before the 1950s, suiting had tended to be a somewhat stiff and starchy affair. With the increase in leisurely pursuits, a more relaxed form of tailoring emerged. The sports blazer, cut in a more comfortable shape from lightweight flannel or linen and designed with open patch pockets, was the new jacket of choice for everyday wear.
Deconstructed tailoring techniques saw the removal of excess padding and thick linings, and can largely be attributed to the tailors of fifties Florence and Rome. This nonchalant yet elegant style of tailoring epitomises the Italian concept of sprezzatura, a truly effortless sense of style – just take your cues from Gregory Peck in the 1953 classic, Roman Holiday.
Ideal for surviving the city heat, a deconstructed blazer or sports coat will smarten up everything from a neat chino and polo combination to tailored shorts.
- Asos Slim Fit Blazer In Washed Cotton
- Farah Vintage Blazer In Herringbone
- Asos Slim Fit Blazer In 100% Linen
- Gap Linen-cotton Brunson Blazer
- He By Mango Unstructured Cotton Linen-blend Blazer
- He By Mango Cotton Canvas Blazer
- Reiss Victory Textured Jersey Blazer Beige
- Corneliani Lightweight Linen Jacket
- Canali Siena Linen Blazer
A style of shoe that dates back to the fourteenth century, the espadrille became popular in the 1950s as the footwear choice of gents flocking to the Cote D’Azur and Italian Riviera.
Despite originating in the Pyrenees mountains, the silhouette has come to exemplify the timeless nautical look, due to its association with resort wear.
The simple and lightweight combination of canvas and jute is not only superbly comfortable, but enables the wearer’s feet to breathe, making them a smart choice during warmer spells.
Spain manufactures some of the finest espadrilles, and Catalonian brand Castañer produces designs of exceptional quality. More readily available alternatives can be found at Zara, H&M and ASOS.
- Castañer Pablo Canvas Espadrilles
- CastaÑer Pablo Leather Espadrilles
- Castañer Pablo Striped Canavs Espadrilles
- Toms Perf Suede Espadrilles
- Dune Fence Cotton Espadrilles Navy
- Rivieras Maltese Falcon Espadrilles
- Topman Bertie Franklyn Washed Canvas Espadrilles
- Rivieras Light Blue Jean Espadrilles
- He By Mango Jute Sole Suede Slip-on Shoes
The Hawaiian Shirt
The Hawaiian shirt has emerged as a key trend this summer, and this once much loathed garment is synonymous with the 1950s.
With the influx of tourists visiting Hawaii during the era, the Aloha shirt came to symbolise travels to exotic lands and a new bright and bold age following the trials of the Second World War.
Printed with tropical blooms in bold hues, these shirts seemed to challenge all traditional ideas of the masculine wardrobe and became extensively popular in the States.
Although made in 1961, Blue Hawaii, starring the legendary Elvis Presley, is a fine example of the 1950s obsession with the Aloha shirt and its effect on popular culture.
Due to the industry’s current obsession with floral motifs, there’s certainly no shortage of choice in this genre – from high street to high-end, the offering of Hawaiian shirts from brands such as River Island, AMI, Worland, Makahiki, Prada and Selected Homme is unsurpassed.
- Asos Shirt In Short Sleeve With Hawaiian Boat Print
- Worland Hawaiian Shirt In Red
- Worland Elsa Tropical Short Sleeve Shirt In Navy
- Topman Makahiki Hawaiian Short Sleeve Shirt
- River Island Black Hawaiian Print Short Sleeve Shirt
- River Island Blue Tropical Flower Print Short Sleeve Shirt
- Selected Homme Hawaiian Short Sleeve Shirt Blue Atoll/hawaiian
- Ami Botanical-print Linen And Cotton-blend Shirt
- Sandro Printed Short-sleeved Shirt
Looking at the past couple of years’ summer collections, it’s obvious that the numerous elements of timeless style that emerged in the fifties are still influencing the way we dress today.
From the classic polo to the ever-popular Wayfarer to the controversial Aloha shirt, the 1950s saw the casualisation of dress, with an increasingly international outlook and aptness for the modern world.
The more relaxed yet refined form of attire that came to the fore during this decade offers the perfect vintage-inspired components for the contemporary gent’s summer wardrobe.
What are you favourite 1950s-inspired summer pieces? As usual, we welcome your views in the comments section below…