1940-1950s working class mans wardrobe

Discussion in 'General Attire & Accoutrements' started by -Stephen, Oct 16, 2020.

  1. -Stephen

    -Stephen New in Town

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    Hello everyone my name is Stephen and I hope you'll forgive me if this is in the wrong section. I am trying to round out my wardrobe and I would like to make in the style or at least the "feeling" of a working class mans wardrobe from around 1940-1950. I am rather broke being college age so I do not own anything actually vintage. I have a few questions that I just cannot find answers to through my own research so after lurking I just had to make an account and join the flock so to speak.

    Currently I wear a brooks brothers sports shirt or rarely a white dress shirt (both tucked) grey or brown slacks (flat front, high rise around 13 inches) and black wingtip dress shoes or black work boots (both polished). I'll wear a short waist length brown zip up work jacket or if its really cold a peacoat

    What i'm looking for are examples of what a blue collar mans closet might look like. How many shirts and slacks. Would he own a suit or two? Any sport coats? Or did blue collar men as a whole dress even more casual then that? Any example of real blue collar men you know or knew would also be super helpful.

    if thats a little too vague please let me know so I can clarify
    Thank you
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2020
  2. Flanderian

    Flanderian A-List Customer

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    This is a world with which I have some personal experience.

    While your questions are reasonable and appropriate, unfortunately the literal possible answers to each question are many possible answers, depending upon region, location (City, country?) vocation, priorities, preferences and income. And there is no one answer to any of your very specific questions that will pertain to all possible examples. In many ways, the U.S. with which I am most familiar, and the rest of the world was far more heterogenous than it seems to have become.

    If they could possibly afford it, most men would have a suit or two. It would routinely be worn for religious services, and also significant social events. Sport jackets were very popular in the '50's, and a man who could afford it would likely also have one or two of those, which in some instances might be worn for business in lieu of a suit. How many of each item would often be an issue of personal preference. My father was a working man and had at least a half dozen suits, some rather venerable, but still in service when the occasion called.

    Most working men had two broad categories of clothing; work wear, and dress wear. The entire concept of sports (casual) wear didn't really gain much impetus before the 40's, and only really became normative in the '50's. And sportwear would often be an older pair of dress slacks, or suit slacks worn with an open collared shirt. Trousers, by the way, were universally full cut and pleated.

    Workwear would depend upon a man's job. A mechanic wore coveralls. A supervisor in a factory would likely wear a shirt and tie, though usually without a jacket. Work pants were often cotton drill in colors of khaki or olive, and usually available with shirt to match. Shoes would typically be older derby/bluchers that no longer did for dress up, unless the job called for specialized footwear such as boots of shoes with steel toes. Obviously, men in the deep South would be dressed in lighter versions, cowboys wore boots and blue jeans, other workman jut wore dungarees, and I did too! ;)

    The link below is to a blog that offers photos from a broad range of social settings from the eras that interest you, I think it might be helpful.

    https://goldenerasuits.tumblr.com/archive

    Edit: Some films and TV from the period that didn't get too heavy a Hollywood treatment also offers a wealth of information. One series I remember from Childhood that always rung fairly true to life was the East Side Kids films, featuring young kids from a working class milieu.

     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2020
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  3. -Stephen

    -Stephen New in Town

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    Were white dress shirts commonly worn without neckties? I always feel a little weird about wearing them without neckties. what would be an everyday outfit on a day off from work? were work clothes ever worn outside of work in lie of dress clothes?
     
  4. Flanderian

    Flanderian A-List Customer

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    1. No, white dress shirts were worn with ties and jackets. If a man wore them to a religious service, or for any other occasion, afterward, he might remove his tie and jacket, but not change his shirt before retiring for the evening, but there would be few other exceptions.

    2. Could and would vary substantially depending upon locale, individual preferences and resources. If the individual normally engaged in heavy labor, it might well be a cleaner and newer set of what he wore for work, or an older version of dressier clothing like part of a suit and an older non-white dress shirt, or if resources permitted and he had an interest, tailored trousers and nice sport shirt, up to a sport jacket and tailored trousers if he were going out.

    3. Actual work clothes were commonly worn and soiled, most men wished to shed them ASAP. If so inclined, the fellow might even don a tie with an older dress shirt for casual wear, if not, he might sit around his house in a T-shirt and drink beer. These were men, not stereotypes, there was really no typical.
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2020
  5. Peacoat

    Peacoat Bartender Bartender

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    Hello, Stephen. I take it that when you say, "working class," you are referring to men who worked with their hands rather than men who worked in an office?

    Welcome to the Lounge. PC
     
  6. Metatron

    Metatron One Too Many

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    I would add to the sports coats and suits a short zip casual leather wool or lighter windbreaker jacket for casual wear, and post world war two it was also common among the less well to do to wear an army surplus coat of which there were was of course... a surplus of. As worn by Henry Fonda in the long night.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
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  7. Fastuni

    Fastuni Call Me a Cab

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    @Metatron

    Saw a documentary recently about Bavarian farmers from the 1950's, and one fellow was wearing a surplus US M1941 jacket with his Alpine hat.
     
  8. Flanderian

    Flanderian A-List Customer

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    Some great looking jackets!

    And your observation sparks a memory; in my childhood, and earlier, leather was typically thought of quite differently than it is contemporaneously. Whereas now most leather garments are thought of as luxury goods, and priced accordingly, in the early '50's, and before, it was largely considered men's workwear, and treated and worn accordingly when worn in casual situations. My father had a windbreaker of authentic antelope chamois that he considered not worthy of wear even as casual sportswear, and that he reserved only for grimy chores! :eek:
     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2020
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  9. Flanderian

    Flanderian A-List Customer

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    Here are couple ads extracted from the June 1943 issue of Esquire magazine that I think may directly address the OP's interests. I think it's worth emphasizing that during the era specified, "working class" was an extremely broad category. The vast majority of men were working class, and their occupations might range from unskilled labor such as a migrant picker or ditch digger, to the foreman of a factory department, each with quite different resources and expectations, and opinions regarding their individual social status, all of which influenced the clothing choices they would make.

    As I was posting Esquire's June 1943 illustrations on another thread, I realized that two particularly address the nature and range of formality that an American "working class" man might elect as casual (sports) wear. The McGregor ad in particular most reminds me of my early boyhood.


    Esq064301b.jpg


    Esq064303b.jpg
     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2020
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  10. belfastboy

    belfastboy I'll Lock Up

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    Here is a picture of my father circa 1945. He started out working the killing floor of an abattoir then trained as a butcher through mail order school. This was his Sunday best sans jacket. He had a nice suit, one hat, nice pair of shoes and a few ties. When he passed I was able to wear one of his suits.....a tweed two piece department store suit. He was definitely a working class man.....but he knew how to look sharp. CIMG2041.JPG
     
  11. belfastboy

    belfastboy I'll Lock Up

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    Oh, and he had a nice overcoat/raincoat as well.
     
  12. Seb Lucas

    Seb Lucas I'll Lock Up

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    As stated, depends on the job, the location and country. Lots of second hand clothing was worn. Old suits worn to some roles, sometimes with overalls on top. Often men wore Sunday clothing as work clothes once they were too worn looking to wear to church. Carpenters, storemen and railway workers often wore tweed jackets over bib and braces.
     
  13. -Stephen

    -Stephen New in Town

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    Yes, no specific job in mind.


    What kind of shirt is that man on the far right in the first picture wearing?
     
  14. Flanderian

    Flanderian A-List Customer

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    If this particular type of shirt has a specific name, I don't know it. But I don't believe it does. Shirts of this variety were once common sports shirts. Specific design elements included a button front without a placket (In the U.S. often referred to as a French front.) a square, full, blousy cut and two symmetrical flapped chest pockets, and a soft, fold-down spread collar, usually with a loop if to be worn buttoned. The shirt in the photo employs a tab button closure for the pocket flaps, but flaps without, or concealed, buttons were more common. Such shirts were commonly made from lightweight, fine wool gabardine, but also cotton gabardine, or rayon.

    Below is a photo of a wool gabardine shirt from the American retailer Maus and Hoffman. These front chest pockets happen to be angled, but were more commonly straight across. Because of the roomy, square cut, such shirts were often worn as an overshirt too, over a T-shirt or other shirt.


    gabardineshirt.jpg
     
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2020
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  15. MichaelRhB

    MichaelRhB Familiar Face

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    I hate a shirt collar that doesn't stand up. The Air Force's Combo 4 included a shirt with a lay flat collar. I always wore the Combo 4a with a shirt that had a stand up collar.
     
  16. Nobert

    Nobert Practically Family

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    "Loop collar," is the common Ebaysian term for shirts like this.
     
  17. Michael A

    Michael A I'll Lock Up

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    I think that collar is called a Camp Collar. i think they came into style in the later 40s and through the 50s, mostly for sportswear. Also common on Aloha or Hawaiian shirts.

    Michael
     
  18. Flanderian

    Flanderian A-List Customer

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    You're right! Thanks for the reminder.
     
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