If you were asked to list a few classics in men’s fashion that have truly stood the test of time – what would your answer be? The plain black tux, Levi’s 501s, the black leather biker jacket, a three-button lounge suit, classic trainers, or Aviator shades perhaps? There are just some things in men’s fashion that are always going to look great – no matter what fashion crimes the wider world may be perpetrating at any given time.
But most of what we know as men’s fashion classics are actually relatively recent phenomena. Go back to the 19th century and many of these items would have been regarded as abominations by our Victorian forefathers. However, if you wind back to the Georgian or Elizabethan eras you’ll find out that the fashions of the 20th and 21st centuries look positively staid.
So what we really mean by classics are smart and stylish clothes and accessories which make sense to us in the modern age. And it’s interesting, from a historical perspective, to note that we’re coming up to the 90-year anniversary of when the chic modern look was basically “invented” by Coco Chanel.
Yes, it’s almost a century since Chanel wowed the world with her LBD – the “little black dress” that has, in many ways, set the tone for both men’s and women’s fashion ever since. At least, this is the premise of an article by Voucherbox, which looks at the fashion trends that have stood the test of time.
And ignoring the ladies if we may, the article explains, for example, the advent of Ray-Ban’s Aviator Classic sunglasses during the 1930s as the age of aviation really began to take off in a big way. The same decade witnessed the introduction of the Louis Vuitton classic lightweight bag, the Keepall Bandoulière 55, along with the rather more affordable Chuck Taylor All Star Classic sneakers. These really were the original sneakers and the look remains an absolute design classic around the world today.
What’s particularly interesting is the way fashion clearly follows and reflects the culture and backdrop of each age. For instance, the 1930s are both associated with the Great Depression and the age of flight, which was reflected in the birth of the sneaker as a response to economic hardship and the aforementioned Aviators. In much the same way, the original Punk Rock look of the 70s reflected harder times.
Popular and film culture also had a great impact on fashion classics since the time when Hollywood and its celebrities became ubiquitous. In the 1950s, the black leather “Perfecto” biker jacket made its first appearance, conjuring up images of Marlon Brando in the 1953 movie The Wild One. The next decade welcomed the classic black polo neck sweater and the Chelsea boot, whilst the 70s really saw the James Bond tuxedo look honed to perfection.
Modern-day versions of the classics abound and each season comes with new twists on classic staples. If you want to look stylish this autumn-winter, the polo shirt is making a huge comeback on the catwalk. Get it knitted with block colours and a trim fit and you’ll get a casual and versatile piece which will last years in your wardrobe.