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 Polo

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.

Lookbook Inspiration

Men's 1950s-inspired Polo Shirts Outfit Inspiration

Esquire Magazinezara 2014massimo dutti ss13he by mango summer 2014reiss ss14topman summer suiting 2012tommy hilfiger ss14calibre ss14tommy hilfiger tailored ss14next ss14massimo dutti june 2013next ss13
Key Pieces
  • Topman Cream Cable Short Sleeve Knitted Polo ShirtTopman Cream Cable Short Sleeve Knitted Polo Shirt
  • Ymc Knitted Short Sleeve Polo ShirtYmc Knitted Short Sleeve Polo Shirt
  • Asos Knitted PoloAsos Knitted Polo
  • Reiss Larry Patterned Polo Shirt NavyReiss Larry Patterned Polo Shirt Navy
  • Jet 8 Red Fine Knit Cotton Polo Shirt Sc84728Jet 8 Red Fine Knit Cotton Polo Shirt Sc84728
  • Reiss Platinum Short Sleeve Knit Polo BlueReiss Platinum Short Sleeve Knit Polo Blue
  • Billy Reid Warner Striped Slub-cotton Polo ShirtBilly Reid Warner Striped Slub-cotton Polo Shirt
  • Reiss Broadway Faded Open Collar Polo MintReiss Broadway Faded Open Collar Polo Mint
  • Brioni Knitted Wool And Silk-blend Polo ShirtBrioni Knitted Wool And Silk-blend Polo Shirt
  • Ben Sherman Wave Stripe Johnny CollarBen Sherman Wave Stripe Johnny Collar
  • Richard James Striped Cotton Polo Shirt 189100Richard James Striped Cotton Polo Shirt 189100
  • Ben Sherman Diamond Jacquard PoloBen Sherman Diamond Jacquard Polo
Short Shorts

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.

Lookbook Inspiration

Men's Fifties-Inspired Short Shorts Outfit Inspiration Lookbook

The Talented Mr Ripleyh&m summer 2014el burgues ss13unknownzara 2014avva ss13Gieves & Hawkes ss14lacostehe by mango ss13massimo dutti may 2014gant rugger ss14
Key Pieces
  • American Apparel Cotton Seersucker Kennedy ShortAmerican Apparel Cotton Seersucker Kennedy Short
  • Asos Chino Shorts With Elasticated WaistAsos Chino Shorts With Elasticated Waist
  • Topman Lilac Chino ShortsTopman Lilac Chino Shorts
  • River Island Pink Chino ShortsRiver Island Pink Chino Shorts
  • J.crew 9 Stanton Cotton-twill ShortsJ.crew 9 Stanton Cotton-twill Shorts
  • Uniqlo Men Cordlane Belted ShortsUniqlo Men Cordlane Belted Shorts
  • J.crew 9 Stanton Cotton-twill ShortsJ.crew 9 Stanton Cotton-twill Shorts
  • Ami Washed Cotton-twill ShortsAmi Washed Cotton-twill Shorts
  • Hentsch Man Regular-fit Striped Cotton-canvas ShortsHentsch 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.

Lookbook Inspiration

Men's 1950s-Inspired Clubmaster & Wayfarer Sunglasses Lookbook

James Deannext ss13scotch & soda Amsterdams Blauw denim 2013he by mango ss14reiss 1971 ss13henry cottons ss13next ss14he by mango ss14reiss 2013
Key Pieces
  • Oliver Peoples Banks Acetate And Metal SunglassesOliver Peoples Banks Acetate And Metal Sunglasses
  • Eye Respect Alex Fire Tort SunglassesEye Respect Alex Fire Tort Sunglasses
  • Ray-ban Wayfarer SunglassesRay-ban Wayfarer Sunglasses
  • Topman Tortoise Shell 50s SunglassesTopman Tortoise Shell 50s Sunglasses
  • Asos Clubmaster Sunglasses With Wood FinishAsos Clubmaster Sunglasses With Wood Finish
  • Topman Gold And Brown Clubmaster SunglassesTopman Gold And Brown Clubmaster Sunglasses
  • Ray-ban Wayfarer Liteforce Acetate SunglassesRay-ban Wayfarer Liteforce Acetate Sunglasses
  • Ray-ban Clubmaster SunglassesRay-ban Clubmaster Sunglasses
  • Persol Wayfarer SunglassesPersol Wayfarer Sunglasses
Deconstructed Tailoring

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.

Lookbook Inspiration

Men's Fifties-Inspired Unstructured/Deconstructed Tailoring and Suiting Outfit Inspiration Lookbook

Gregory Peck In Roman Holidaymassimo dutti 2013strellson s14he by mango summer 2014massimo dutti june 2013zara man spring 2013UNKNOWNhe by mango ss14tommy hilfiger ss14avva 2013jigsaw ss14gap spring 20123
Key Pieces
  • Asos Slim Fit Blazer In Washed CottonAsos Slim Fit Blazer In Washed Cotton
  • Farah Vintage Blazer In HerringboneFarah Vintage Blazer In Herringbone
  • Asos Slim Fit Blazer In 100% LinenAsos Slim Fit Blazer In 100% Linen
  • Gap Linen-cotton Brunson BlazerGap Linen-cotton Brunson Blazer
  • He By Mango Unstructured Cotton Linen-blend BlazerHe By Mango Unstructured Cotton Linen-blend Blazer
  • He By Mango Cotton Canvas BlazerHe By Mango Cotton Canvas Blazer
  • Reiss Victory Textured Jersey Blazer BeigeReiss Victory Textured Jersey Blazer Beige
  • Corneliani Lightweight Linen JacketCorneliani Lightweight Linen Jacket
  • Canali Siena Linen BlazerCanali 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.

Lookbook Inspiration

Men's 1950s-Inspired Espadrilles - Outfit Inspiration Lookbook

Retro Riviera Street Style Imageovadia & sons ss13he by mango spring 2013ramsey ss12he by mango spring 2013el burgues ss13ovadia & sons ss13Gieves & Hawkes ss14scotch & soda ss12lbm 1911 ss13next ss14next ss12
Key Pieces
  • Castañer Pablo Canvas EspadrillesCastañer Pablo Canvas Espadrilles
  • CastaÑer Pablo Leather EspadrillesCastaÑer Pablo Leather Espadrilles
  • Castañer Pablo Striped Canavs EspadrillesCastañer Pablo Striped Canavs Espadrilles
  • Toms Perf Suede EspadrillesToms Perf Suede Espadrilles
  • Dune Fence Cotton Espadrilles NavyDune Fence Cotton Espadrilles Navy
  • Rivieras Maltese Falcon EspadrillesRivieras Maltese Falcon Espadrilles
  • Topman Bertie Franklyn Washed Canvas Espadrilles Topman Bertie Franklyn Washed Canvas Espadrilles
  • Rivieras Light Blue Jean EspadrillesRivieras Light Blue Jean Espadrilles
  • He By Mango Jute Sole Suede Slip-on ShoesHe 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.

Lookbook Inspiration

Men's 1950s-Inspired Hawaiian Shirts Outfit Inspiration Lookbook

Elvis Presley in Blue Hawaiih&m ss12zara 2014topman ss12topman ss14next ss14scotch & soda ss14paul & joe ss13next ss14
Key Pieces
  • Asos Shirt In Short Sleeve With Hawaiian Boat PrintAsos Shirt In Short Sleeve With Hawaiian Boat Print
  • Worland Hawaiian Shirt In RedWorland Hawaiian Shirt In Red
  • Worland Elsa Tropical Short Sleeve Shirt In NavyWorland Elsa Tropical Short Sleeve Shirt In Navy
  • Topman Makahiki Hawaiian Short Sleeve Shirt Topman Makahiki Hawaiian Short Sleeve Shirt
  • River Island Black Hawaiian Print Short Sleeve ShirtRiver Island Black Hawaiian Print Short Sleeve Shirt
  • River Island Blue Tropical Flower Print Short Sleeve ShirtRiver Island Blue Tropical Flower Print Short Sleeve Shirt
  • Selected Homme Hawaiian Short Sleeve Shirt Blue Atoll/hawaiianSelected Homme Hawaiian Short Sleeve Shirt Blue Atoll/hawaiian
  • Ami Botanical-print Linen And Cotton-blend ShirtAmi Botanical-print Linen And Cotton-blend Shirt
  • Sandro Printed Short-sleeved ShirtSandro Printed Short-sleeved Shirt
Final Word

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…