So you’ve got that classic 1940s look. The double-breasted suit that looks the part, your shirt is sharper than an arrowhead and you’ve brylcreemed your hair to perfection. You look great! But are you finished? Because without the finishing touches you’ll go from dapper to dull. Here’s how a few simple accessories can take your 1940s menswear look to the next level.
Accessories are any item of clothing that can be added to an outfit to lift or complete the ensemble. Like the icing on a cake. Ties, scarves, cufflinks, cravats and watches all count as accessories, and can be worn in so many different ways to make an outfit truly yours.
Shoes are generally not counted as an accessory as they are essential and of course always worn as part of an outfit. However, it’s still worth mentioning a few basic rules if you want them to fit in with 1940s mens fashion trends. Black goes with everything. No matter what you are wearing, a pair of black brogues or oxford shoes will go very well. If you want to add a splash of colour into your outfit a pair of brown or tan shoes are a safe bet. You’re spoiled for choice in terms of the shade you choose, but you should always check if it will go well with the outfit you plan to wear.
Oxford or Derby shoes of any kind are very versatile, and it’s up to you whether you want to jazz it up with any variant on the classic design. Toecap shoes are very smart, and can be worn with suits and formal wear alike. Even if you’re stepping out on a hot day in a shirt and trousers these will look great! If you’re looking for something to wear with a casual look, a pair of brogues are always a brilliant choice and can make you look that little bit more presentable, even if you’re just pottering around for the day.
Ties are the easiest way to show your own unique style when paired with an otherwise quite simple outfit. They can range from the simple knitted ties tied in a Winsor knot, to an art deco pattern tied in a four in hand knot. In the 1940s men ties were often themed around the wearer’s hobbies and interests like painting, fishing or hunting. Choose something bright and bold to really stand out against a plain suit. A crisp white or pale blue shirt should happily accompany almost all designs, but try to make sure it will fit at least one complete outfit.
Wearing a cravat is the perfect way to get the Errol Flynn look. Always associated with the suave and sophisticated, a good cravat looks extremely striking and paired with a light tweed jacket and comfortable dark trousers always manages to turn heads. Tootal is a brand that has been around since 1799 and is most probably best known for their cravats. Their 100% silk cravats have always been a popular choice and came in lot's of colours and patterns.
More than just a way to keep your neck warm on a chilly day, scarves are very eye catching. Matching your scarf with seasonal colours can also bring one of your standard outfits up to date. Wearing a brown, red or green scarf in the autumn could bring out the colour in a seemingly plain coat you wear all year round.
Trouser braces, known as suspenders across the pond, have been used to hold up men’s trousers for over a century before the belt became more fashionable. In the 1940s trouser braces had leather loops and buttoned on to the trousers. Braces with metal clips might be easy to use but leather loop braces are considered to be an essential item for the authentic forties look. Braces were another item that could be used to brighten up an outfit with bold colours, wide stripes or geometric patterns.
Far from just keeping your cuffs together, cufflinks are one of the finishing touches that can really make you stand out from the crowd. There are all kinds of retro cufflinks to choose from including ones that can reflect your hobbies, show your patriotism or simply complement your choice of shirt. Cufflinks also make fantastic gifts and can be the perfect present without breaking the bank.
Watches are a timeless classic (forgive the pun)! They never go out of fashion and can be found anywhere, from antique shops to town markets. It can be worth trawling through the charity shops just to find that hidden gem. Generally, the colour of a wristwatch should match the colour of your cufflinks and can sometimes come as a complete set. If you’re wearing a waistcoat you may want to consider wearing a pocket watch. A watch and chain often add a touch of glamour to your outfit, making you look that little bit sharper.
If you can’t quite get your hair to sit the way you want, a vintage style hat can work wonders for you. Your hat should reflect on your plans for the day and what you are wearing. If you’re heading to the local 40s weekend, perhaps opt for a fedora or a trilby when wearing with a suit. If you’re donning a more country or casual attire like a tweed jacket with an open neck shirt maybe a traditional tweed newsboy hat could be worn? It all depends on the look you’re aiming for.
Tie Bars & Collar Clips
Although they're quite simplistic, tie bars and collar bars are extremely functional. Often you may find your tie coming further and further out of your blazer the further the day goes on. It’s an annoyance that most of us face regularly and one that could be entirely avoided with a tie bar. Collar bars and clips are designed to sit behind the tie knot. Collar clips as you'd imagine clip to each side of the collar and draw it in. A collar bar works in a similar way but it relies on the collar having holes on each side for the bar to slide through. Both of these accessories make great gifts and can often come in sets with matching cufflinks.
Possibly the most expressive of all the accessories mentioned, lapel pins are a common sight and come in all sorts of weird and wonderful forms. They are a very affordable accessory that can give an insight into the wearer’s interests and hobbies at first glance.
Expanding sleeve holders, also known as St George armbands, are a must-have accessory for any forties look. Armbands are used to position your shirt sleeves at just the right length and keep your cuffs out of mischief. They are worn over a shirt around the narrow part of your arm, just above the elbow. The internal elastic stops you from overstretching them, ensuring a perfect fit and comfort at all times.
We hope that this blog post has given you an idea of how to use accessories to spruce up your favourite outfit and give it a new lease on life. If you take anything from this article, it’s that the smallest touches can make the biggest difference!