When you think of men's fashions in the 1950s, one of the first images that comes to mind is that of a rebel in a leather jacket, riding a motorcycle. In truth, most men dressed very conservatively and were quite button-down in the '50s. Men took on the responsibilities of career and family at an early age then. Many were settled down in their early 20s and their clothing mostly reflected that mature attitude.
The term "business casual" did not exist in the 1950s. Except for manual labourers, men wore suits to work. There wasn't much range in the style of the suits of the day, either. They were generally dark in colour and made from wool, flannel or silk. Later in the decade, man-made fibres like rayon and nylon came into vogue and suits became lighter weight and more breathable. With suits, men wore dark ties that were usually either solid in colour or striped. They wore cuff links and almost always wore a hat, such as a fedora, in public.
More colour and pattern options were available to men of the '50s in their leisure wear. While relaxing at home, they wore wide-legged trousers of a lighter colour and short-sleeved cotton shirts in solid colours, or in plaid or striped patterns. Cardigan sweaters were all the rage for the lounging man. When dressing for a casual social occasion, many men wore cardigans or sports jackets, which had the clean-cut look of a suit coat, but came in brighter colours and lighter materials, like cotton. They were cut to be looser and more comfortable for casual outings.
Men liked to look dapper in the '50s, even when playing sports. Golf was a favourite pastime for many men. On the course they wore wide-legged Chinos or trousers of a very bright colour or a wild pattern. Men often wore short-sleeved polo shirts for golf and tennis. Bowling was a popular sport with many men and they wore the iconic two-color bowling shirt with their name on the front and piping along the seams. Other men in the prosperous '50s enjoyed boating and wore dockside loafers and khakis or jeans while out on the water.
Even though men conformed at the office with dark and drab suits that all looked the same, or perhaps because they did, some rather outrageous trends took hold away from work. Hawaiian shirts became popular -- the louder, the better. The cowboy look also came into vogue and men emulated their favourite Western screen heroes with western-styled shirts and bolo ties. Mostly only teenage boys wore the leather jackets that typified the greaser look, but some grown men adopted the trend, while others wore the oversized silk jacket of the rock 'n' rollers of the day.
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