The 1930s were a dismal time, as it was the decade of the Great Depression. Even though 8 million men were out of work by 1931, according to Jim Callan's book "America in the 1930s," men's clothing was evolving. The decade saw a change in suits' silhouettes and fabrications, as well as undergarments and accessories. This was partly due to the glamorising of Hollywood actors, British royalty and real-life gangsters.
Before the 1930s, men's suiting was made of woollen material, which was worn all year, even in the summer. By the mid-1930s, tailors introduced lighter summer fabrics that included lightweight wool, rayon and silk. Seersucker suits became popular for resort wear, as the lighter-coloured cotton was more suitable for the seaside than light wool, as cited in the book "The 1930s," by William Young and Nancy Young. However, for winter fabrics dark herringbone patterns, subdued stripes and diagonal prints were still very popular. One significant trend was plaids, and the "Glen plaid check," used in various wool and tweed blends, was particularly in demand.
The 1930s "drape-cut," also known as the "London Drape," was the attempt to make the tailored suit more relaxed. The style was born in London and Frederick Scholte, the tailor to the Prince of Wales, popularised it. The suit's construction was a bit more liberal with the fabric, especially in the shoulder and the armhole region. The broadening of the shoulders was an aesthetic of the time that affected both men's and women's wear. As the decade went on, manufacturers included wider and thicker shoulder pads in double breasted suits, which also gave the chest a larger appearance. Longer jacket styles were also fashionable, and padded to widen the chest.
In the 1920s a wide pant, called the Oxford Pant, was common. And though this pant was popular in the beginning of the 1930s, as the decade went on trousers began to slim down and become more tapered. Even the broad cuffs of the '20s became narrower to almost nonexistent by the end of the 1930s. Furthermore, by the mid-1930s, men's trousers were higher, covering more of the torso area. This style of pant was especially prevalent with younger men, as the higher waistband was non-traditional. In fact, this pant style was so high that some men opted for suspenders rather than belts.
One change in 1930s men's apparel was underwear, as underwear manufacturer Jockey introduced the brief. Before then undergarments were a bulky suit, like "long johns," covering the torso, legs and arms. But soft cotton briefs contrasted its woollen predecessors, helping to provide more movement. When it came to accessories, hats were a common staple. New additions included wide-brimmed hats, soft snap-brims and Panamas, which was a brimmed straw hat worn in summer. Another addition to the male wardrobe was a shoe called the "Weejun," which was a slip-on moccasin type shoe. This form of footwear was consistent with the more relaxed style of dress popular in the 1930s.
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