A Century of Style: 1950s

Similar to the 1920s, which we recently covered in our series, the 1950s were a triumphant time for men’s fashion. With the Second World War over and only good times ahead, gentlemen from both sides of the Atlantic deployed a more relaxed dress sense, compared to the restrained formality of yet another Great War. It’s the carefree attitude to dressing that we’re going to focus on in this article, as it’s not only visually interesting, but it also paved the way for the smart casual style of today.

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A stylish film in more ways than one, The Talented Mr Ripley is a two hour-long lesson in how to dress with continental flair. Jude Law’s character, Dickie Greenleaf, actually made our most ‘best dressed movie characters‘ list, and there’s no prizes for guessing why. His Riviera style polo shirts, tailored trousers and loafer combinations are golden and provide a great contrast against the stuffier, but equally stylish outfits of Matt Damon’s title character.

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Mr James Dean holds an iconic status as both an actor and a stylish gent. He boasted the rare quality of being able to look good in whatever he wore and while this is something that not all men can emulate, it is possible to adopt aspects of the late star’s wardrobe. Simplicity was a key to James Dean’s looks, but he wasn’t afraid to add a statement piece or two in the form of leather jackets and long overcoats.

1950s men’s style was all about nonchalance, attitude and a causal confidence. Shirts were worn with an open neck, jean cuffs were rolled high, and traditional menswear rules were starting to be ignored. As the era that conceived youth subculture, the 50s paved the way for a revolution in attitudes to menswear.

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A look that would have been adopted by well-to-do gents fleeing to the Mediterranean on their summer holidays, this outfit screams retro glamour. A staple of Italian style, the knitted polo is smart-casual at its best and when paired with these pleated burgundy Paul Smith trousers, it forms the perfect summer ensemble. 1950s dressing was all about the details, and these keyhole sunglasses and iconic Rolex Day-Date finish it off perfectly.

Maison Martin Margiela Knit Polo Shirt, £280 from Matches Fashion // Paul Smith Mohair-Blend Trousers, £103 from Paul Smith // Loake Temple, £209 from Loake // Cutler and Cross Sunglasses, £310 from Liberty // Rolex Oyster Perpetual Day-Date Yellow Gold, £POA from Rolex // Marwood Mohair-Blend Socks, £40 from Mr Porter

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For this outfit we have taken inspiration from James Dean’s film, ‘Rebel Without a Cause’. Many casual outfits of the 50s revolved around a jacket/t-shirt/jean combination and Dean’s famous ensemble was no different. We’ve toned down the striking red of his Harrington jacket and gone with a softer burgundy, which is infinitely more wearable. The penny loafers lend the outfit a preppy/mod undertones and when paired with a pair of Levi’s 501 jeans, as favoured by Mr. Dean, they make for a killer combination. Just don’t forget to turn up those cuffs.

Baracuta G9 Original, £279 from Baracuta // Sunspel Sea Island Crew Neck T-Shirt, £160 from Sunspel // Levi’s Vintage 501 Selvedge Denim Jeans, £215 from Mr Porter // G.H. Bass & Co Weejuns Larson, £105 from Stuarts London // Murdock London Double Tooth Horn Comb, £20 from https://www.murdocklondon.com/

Further Reading