What would a Janitor wear in the 1950s

Discussion in 'General Attire & Accoutrements' started by APP Adrian, Jul 13, 2016.

  1. APP Adrian

    APP Adrian A-List Customer

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    And before that time.
     
  2. emigran

    emigran Practically Family

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    Green or navy shirt and matching pants perhaps with embroidered name... black lace oxford shoes.
     
  3. Seb Lucas

    Seb Lucas I'll Lock Up

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    Yep and a whipcord utility jacket with two chest pockets.

    Often working men's uniforms were whipcord but many janitors of that period also wore basic woollen trousers grey or brow and a lighter business shirt and utility jacket.
     
  4. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    It wasn't uncommon in the postwar era for janitors, road workers, garage workers and the like to wear Army surplus. "Ike jackets," stripped of insignia, were very commonly worn by such workers, to the point where there were complaints that so many decommissioned uniforms were being worn by ditch diggers that the public was thinking that the Army was digging the ditches.

    Bib overalls were also commonly worn by custodial staff, along with a baseball-style cap worn indoors or out.
     
  5. ChiTownScion

    ChiTownScion One Too Many

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    The M-43 field jacket as well. The Ike was more of a prized item: it was only given to those who had served in the ETO. It was considered fashionable and comfortable. My dad loved his, more than any other item in his wardrobe, and that was over 20 years after the war.
     
  6. JackieMatra

    JackieMatra A-List Customer

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    Very dark green or very dark blue,
    and all of the rest is precisely what I recall my maternal grandfather wearing when he came home from work late Friday afternoon when I was dropped off at my grandparents' for the weekend in the latter 1950s, although I don't quite absolutely recall whether his name and position was embroidered on his shirt or if he wore a name tag. I rather think that it was the latter. Black leather belt as well.

    Curiously, I don't ever recall him wearing a hat, except in the winter, when he came home from work.
    Curiously, because he absolutely never went out without wearing one otherwise.
    Perhaps there just wasn't a safe or convenient place to keep it at his place of employment.
     
  7. JackieMatra

    JackieMatra A-List Customer

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    Judging from photographs and films from the time,
    leather jackets were the preferred workday outerwear for blue collar workers, particularly those who worked in less heated environments.
    Ease of movement, durability, resistance to staining, and ease of cleanup would have been the reasons, I would imagine.
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2016
  8. tropicalbob

    tropicalbob My Mail is Forwarded Here

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    There were stores that catered to blue-collar workers: remember, we're talking pre-Walmart days. The clothes a janitor wore weren't any different from what most factory workers wore, and were made specifically for work: the only brand I can think of off the top of my head is "Big Yank," but I'm sure other Loungers will suggest others. The curious thing is that those stores were where your mom brought you to get your jeans, which I distinctly remember costing about $4.00 (for Levi's). I've seen industrial clothing from that time pop up on Ebay fairly often.
     
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  9. Big Man

    Big Man My Mail is Forwarded Here

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    We had two janitors at our school in the 1950s and into the 1960s. Both men, Mr. Caroway and Mr. Saulman, wore bib overalls. Mr. Caroway always wore a ball cap and Mr. Saulman always wore an old, well-worn, fedora style hat.
     
  10. emigran

    emigran Practically Family

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    'Zactly...And all the clothing was on "tables" with drawers underneath out in the middle of the store. The Jeans (dungarees) were hard as a rock, scratchy and took forever to fade and break in. When my mom would take me they'd Never have any cool shirts that I wanted. Just bargain store style... that was traumatic for a little kid to have to go in and keep trying things on...!!!
     
  11. tropicalbob

    tropicalbob My Mail is Forwarded Here

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    Exactly. One time my mom came home form Finckelstein's (in Baltimore) with a pair of industrial jeans and the minute I put them on my legs started to sweat. I could never understand how anyone could wear such things.
     
  12. BlueTrain

    BlueTrain Call Me a Cab

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    My uncles who work for the railroad wore matching work outfits that came from J.C. Penney, Sears or Wards. The one uncle I saw most often, because he lived across the street, almost wore nothing else. For shoes, he wore those elastic-sided slip-on Romeos. He always wore some kind of cap, never a hat, at least from when I remember him. Typically he wore gray work clothes that he called his "car yard specials." When actually at work, he wore overalls over them. Oddly enough, I barely remember what my father wore that far back but later, in the 1960s and 1970s, he wore very non-descript clothes, plain short-sleeve shirts most of the year and plaid flannel shirts in the winter. It had to be pretty cold for him to wear a jacket.

    My father also had an Ike jacket, presumably that he had been issued in the army, but it had been dyed a bottle green. Supposedly because lots of men were wearing army surplus clothing, meaning the ODs, the army came out with a new uniform, the Army Green uniform, in the late 1950s, which has only recently been replaced by blues. The fatigue uniforms that had been worn since before WWII were never considered to be distinctive army uniforms, which of course was not the opinion of any first sergeant. Anyway, I don't remember him ever wearing that particular jacket.
     
  13. Atticus Finch

    Atticus Finch Call Me a Cab

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    Janitors in my area often wore rental uniforms made by Red Kap or Dickies. Usually they were khaki or blue. Essentially the same work wear as service station attendants wore.

    AF
     
  14. emigran

    emigran Practically Family

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    And besides the dark green and navy we didn't mention that GRAY... it was a heavier, thicker fabric... My next door neighbor... whom I addressed as Uncle Mike"... was never to be seen without that gray... except when he and "Aunt May" went to church... Haven't thought of them since 1958...!!!
     
  15. Metatron

    Metatron One Too Many

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    Very fascinating and obscure info, thanks for sharing.
    Here is Henry Fonda playing a working man in The Long Night in an M-41
    [​IMG]
    You can also find photos of James Dean wearing an A-2 flight jacket, and Paul Newman wearing an N-1. People often think of military surplus worn by civilians as a post-Vietnam thing, so it's interesting to find that it was done much earlier, especially at a time when suit+tie was the requisite look.
     
  16. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    Random workers schlepping around in GI surplus was so common in the early fifties that it prompted an annoyed article in an Army journal by a major in the Quartermaster Corps complaining that something needed to be done. One recommendation he had was requiring all decommissioned military clothing to be dyed a distinctive non-military color before releasing it to the public, but that recommendation was evidently never followed.

    Note also that wearing discarded Army clothing was often considered the symbol of the local "badboy." According to the article one out of every eight "thugs" picked up by police around Washington was wearing some piece of a discarded Army uniform.

    As for leather jackets, the experience of 1936 U. S. Olympic team track star Mack Robinson -- older brother of baseball legend Jackie Robinson -- is interesting. When he got home from Berlin, the only job he was offered was as a street sweeper in Pasadena. To show his contempt, he made a point of wearing his Olympic team leather jacket as he wheeled his pushcan around the streets.
     
  17. Seb Lucas

    Seb Lucas I'll Lock Up

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    Interesting Lizzie my dad remembers wearing ex-army gear in the 1940's all dyed dark blue.
     
  18. BlueTrain

    BlueTrain Call Me a Cab

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    There was one old movie, made in 1949, "Dynamite," in which a couple of characters appear in army field jackets, one an M-43, the other in the original field jacket, which was never officially called the M41. In fact, the M-43 and all the latter ones were officially called field jackets (they were field coats) but that's what everyone called them. The characters were all "powder men," who did demolition work with dynamite. One of the players was Richard Crane, who went on to play "Rocky Jones, Space Ranger."

    Another interesting thing from the movie was a scene with a gang of men, all construction workers, having Christmas dinner at a boarding house. They're all dressed up in suits, too. Later, the woman who owned the boarding house was seen vacuuming. How often do you see someone vacuuming in a movie?
     
  19. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    Early television hero Captain Video took full advantage of Army surplus -- the uniforms he and his teenage sidekick the Video Ranger wore were thinly-disguised GI wear, with the addition of a bit of dark braid to the jacket collars. Much of his equipment was made of random bits of Army surplus junk as well. That and painted cardboard.

    [​IMG]
     
  20. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    The legend I've read in too many books to name is that chinos - probably the most popular American mens pants for the past five or so decades - got their start as American GIs wore their military khaki pants as civilians post WWII. Also, the combination of that and the GI bill led to them gaining popularity on college campuses which, back in the 50s, were trend setting focal points for men's fashion (hard as that is to believe today). As the clothing stores saw this trend, they jumped on it and started manufacturing their own khakis and chinos - with all sorts of variations (belted back, different colors, textures, pleats / no pleats, etc. ) and the rest, as the cliche' goes, is history.
     

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