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03 Oct 2012:

Where to Buy Stuff page updated


















































































































































































































As for women, clothing was rationed. In the first half of the 20th century, clothes were made to last.



Men traditionally wore suits of plain dark colours, maybe with a stripe. The material was so much thicker than suits made today. Suits also tended to be handed down from father to son, and style changed very little.

Although double breasted suits had appeared in the mid-1930s, wartime rationing dictated that these used too much material in their manufacture, so only more traditional single breasted jackets were allowed to be made during the war years. Those who had double breasted jackets had purchased them before wartime rationing started. When going out anywhere in public, for example, on a train or even just shopping, men would wear their suit or best clothes.

In the late 1930s, men generally wore three-piece suits for work or formal occasions only. Two-piece suits (without a waistcoat) and casual day wear were becoming increasingly common, including knitted cardigans, tank-tops, and soft collared or open necked shirts. For the first time it was not obligatory to wear a tie.

Trousers were very wide, with turned up hems and sharp creases down the leg (although the hems would disappear once rationing was introduced). Trousers were belted high at the abdomen if braces were not being worn.

Another point to remember is that until the late 1920s men’s braces were rarely seen on middle/upper class gentlemen except in their own house as they were classed as "underwear" – this is why waistcoats and sleeveless pullovers had been invented! Working class men, however, were less concerned with social etiquette and did wear them without waistcoats – usually if they were particularly busy doing manual work in warm weather. It was the war itself, and everyone just getting on with the job that resulted in what many regarded as a “slip in standards” being becoming acceptable.

Important point: clip-on braces did not appear in Britain until the eraly 1950s – so you can only use those which buttoned to your trousers. There is nothing more annoying at re-enactment events seeing the effort people have gone to in order to get clothing that looks like 1940s, only to go and ruin the effect with "modern" clip-ons!  Find out more about braces and why you shouldn't wear clip-ons at 1940s re-enactment events in the UK.



Shirts with fixed collars had appeared in the previous decade – particularly for use on less formal occasions, so you don’t always have to wear shirts without collars. Plain colours, occasionally striped.



Ties were made of silk in either sombre colours, or occasionally bright and brash if imported from America - but definitely no cartoon characters and pictures!



As with women, when going outside of the home, a hat was regarded as a mark of status - particularly for men. Working class men invariably wore cloth caps, whilst the middle classes wore trilbys or fedoras. Businessmen wore bowlers.


Facial hair

Younger men were usually clean-shaven, rebelling against the traditional beards grown by men in the previous century to show age, experience and authority.



Don't forget small things like shirt sleeve holders, and pocket watches. Wristwatches never contained batteries, nor had digital number faces!


Mark Anthony Craig in an original 1940s/50s dark pin stripe suit



Martin Littlejohn showing detail of the Trilby, and the fact he is not wearing a digital watch!


Although most male civilian re-enactors dress to impress (when taking rides on the trains or visiting the town), some re-enactors dress for work, including as farm workers.



  classic men's haircuts