Popularity Leather Jackets
The Roaring 20s
The end of World War I brought a new sense of freedom and independence to women in the United States. It was during this decade that the “flapper” emerged, a new type of young American woman whose clothing screamed modernity. Prior to the 1920s, American women aimed to look older than their actual age, but with the implementation of the 19th Amendment in 1919, guaranteeing women’s suffrage, women began to strive to look younger and younger. Women began to wear looser fitting garments while hemlines rose to an unprecedented knee-length level, abandoning the more restricting and uncomfortable fashions of the preceding decades. American women of the 1920s often “bobbed”, or cut, their hair short to fit under the iconic cloche, a snug-fit hat made of felt that was worn tilted in order to cover the forehead and, at times, the ears. The flapper style dress and cloche hat were often worn together, particularly during the latter half of the decade.
American men of the 1920s began to dress less formally than ever before. During the decade, men abandoned suit lapels of the 1910s, opting instead for cuffed trousers, flannel jackets, and two-toned shoes for casual wear. In addition, both men and young boys began wearing short knee pants, known in the U.S. as knickers, topped with lightweight sweaters and casual button-down shirts. Men’s shirts in the 1920s were often made of stripes in a mixture of colors, mainly pastel greens, blues, and yellows, contrasted with a white collar. Bow ties also rose to popularity during this era.
1950s: Post War Era
Between the stock market crash of 1929 and the end of World War II in 1945, fashion trends were forced to take the backseat to more dire international concerns. But by the start of the 1950s, the fashion scene was yet again at the forefront of American culture, perhaps more so than ever before. The decade was marked by economic boom and a giant push towards consumerism, a trend that continues today. Once WWII came to an end, rationing became a thing of the past, as the availability and accessibility of several different types of fabrics became the norm. It was during this decade that department stores gained popularity across the country, providing Americans with access to a wide range of consumer goods.
Women of the 1950s were expected to look and dress a certain way and many, for the most part, conformed to this newly established standard of beauty, unlike the fashion-forward, independent flappers of the Roaring 20s. As their husbands returned from war, the American women of the 1950s were expected to focus on their role as homemakers. Conformity among women was highly encouraged, eliminating the need for dramatically different styles. During this decade, hemlines dropped significantly, reaching mid-calf or even ankle length while the popularity of the hourglass silhouette rose. Dresses with flowing, bright colored skirts became the standard for suburban housewives. For working women, the much more form-fitting knee-length pencil skirt was often worn, requiring a tight girdle in order to emphasize the hourglass figure.
For men, 1950s fashion was not very different from that of previous decades. Men often wore suits, sweaters, casual button-downs, and slacks, all made of similar fabrics. Unlike in the 1920s, men avoided patterns, opting instead for solid colors.
1960s: The Age of Counterculture
In the U.S., the 1960s was defined by the rise of counterculture movements that revolutionized social norms across the country. Youth culture during the 1960s rejected the emphasis on conformity that the preceding decade ingrained in society. Replacing distinct separations between the styles of clothing worn by men and women, the 1960’s introduced a new phenomena: unisex clothing such as denim jeans and leather jackets that could be worn by everyone.
Originating in London, Mod fashion quickly reached the U.S. by the mid-1960s. Defined by bright colors and bold geometric shapes, Mod fashion became prominent amongst the affluent youth in the United States. Rejecting the popularity of the Mod look, “Greasers” emerged across the country, challenging the colorful fashions established by Mods. Greasers, whose name derived as a result of their greased-back hairstyle, were a working class subgroup of youth that originated in the 1950s but gained popularity in the following decade. Greasers are known for popularizing the leather jacket as casual, which was previously worn by military pilots. In addition, they often wore tight fitting T-shirts and distressed jeans.
The Hippie counterculture movement emerged in California during the late 1960’s, spreading quickly to the East Coast, particularly to Greenwich Village in New York City. The Hippie revolution was kicked off following the Summer of Love in 1967, a socio-political phenomenon when nearly 100, 000 people gathered in San Francisco, inspiring social change and the acceptance of different lifestyles. Rebelling against consumerism, most hippies wore handmade clothing and accessories. Long maxi skirts and bell-bottomed jeans gained popularity along with floral patterns, bright tie-dyes, and paisley patterns. Women rejected the girdles and padded brassieres that were encouraged in the 1950s, replacing them with unconventional practices such as avoiding make-up and sporting long, unkempt hair.
1970s: The “Me” Decade
Setting the precedence for change and modernity, the youth counterculture movements of the 1960s allowed for fashion trends to flourish in the 1970’s. But unlike the in the 1960s, Americans in the 1970s took a step back from political movements, choosing instead to focus on themselves. Many have referred to this shift as a “return to normalcy”, giving the 1970s its nickname as the “Me” Decade.
Having been introduced in the previous decade, unisex clothing became the norm by the early 1970s. With women entering the workforce more than ever before, pantsuits and daywear with a masculine edge were popularized among youth. Women also wore skirts in a variety of lengths, often opting for tight-fitting mini skirts for everyday wear. Popularized in the late 1960s, hot pants, tight-fitting shorts with an inseam length of 2-3 inches, became a fashion go-to for young women during the first half of the 1970s.
Tight tops and loose-fitting bottoms defined fashion for both men and women during the latter half of the decade. Becoming a wardrobe staple in the 1970s, blue jeans were worn by men, women, and children across the country, coming in a variety of different styles. The popularity of bell-bottoms continued and today, the style has become representative of the decade. Women often opted for ankle-length maxi skirts and dresses with long slits on the sides that reached the thigh. Bold patterns were popular among both genders along with sports jackets, chunky sweaters, and pleated pants.