Men's Suits in the Roaring Twenties

Written by b. maté
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Men's Suits in the Roaring Twenties
In the 1920s, tuxedos were always worn with a black tie. (Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

During the 1920s, interests in men's suiting peaked, as advertisements, magazines and tailors catered to a more fashion-conscious male customer, according to Barbara Burman's book "Material Strategies: Dress and Gender in Historical Perspective." Men started to invest more time in their suits and appearance---a trait that was no longer considered effeminate. Swallow tails, tuxedos and business suits were the most common ensembles in a mature man's wardrobe.

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Tailoring to Men

The number of tailors increased during the affluent roaring '20s, due to the demand of bespoke, or made-to-order suits. These shops changed their selling techniques, as they informed men on the newest styles and persuaded them to buy the latest cuts. The inspiration for many men's suits came from a group of prestigious British tailors that occupied London's Bond Street and Saville Row. These tastemakers were the men's wear equivalent of Parisian haute couture designers, according to the book "The 1920s," by Kathleen Morgan Drowne and Patrick Huber, dictating the new silhouettes in men's suits.

Swallow Tails

Swallow tails, or simply called "tails," were the suits wealthy gentlemen wore for the most important occasions, such as formal balls, opening ceremonies, diplomatic dinners and weddings. This expensive worsted wool suit consisted of a black or midnight blue short jacket, cut with longer with panels in the back. Lined in satin, the jacket was usually matched with a pair of trousers that featured a wide satin band or braid sewn down its sides. Underneath the jacket, a waist-length vest was worn, made of starched white linen or pique. Tails were paired with a starched white shirt, with a detachable collar that had buttonholes on both sides, instead of buttons. These holes were fastened together with studs, removable buttons that were threaded through both holes. An obligatory silk white bow tie finished the ensemble.


A semi-formal suit, the tuxedo was the uniform of choice for many evening occasions in the 1920s, from dinner engagements to a night at the theatre. Though the material was similar to the swallow tail suit, the black or dark blue worsted wool jacket fell to around hip level and didn't have any tail panels. The tuxedo's matching trousers were also less ornate, without any trim. The waist-length vest was worn in either black or white, and the same formal dress shirt worn with tails helped to finish off the tuxedo suit. However, unlike the swallow tails, a tuxedo was normally accentuated with a black bow tie.

Daytime Suits

For the mature man, business suits could be worn for most daytime activities, including work, church, luncheons and theatre matinees. The dark-coloured suit was normally made out of woollen materials, often available in sober colours, such as black, blue, tan, grey and dark green. In the beginning of the 1920s, suit jackets were tailored to fit close to the body, but by the decade's end jackets were looser and more relaxed. Trousers were cut straight, had a prominent crease down the centre and were often cuffed. The daytime suit was also worn with a vest, which was often cut from the same fabric. Dress shirts with detachable collars were replaced by attached collar shirts, by the middle of the decade. And, an ascot and a long slipknot tie, called the "four-in-hand," were the neck wear that finished the daytime outfit.

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