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Saturday, June 15, 2024

REVIVE YOUR STYLE: The Evolution of Men’s Fashion: From Battlefields to Runways

Photo created by Fantasia for RVE

Men’s fashion has a rich and diverse history that reflects broader societal changes, including technological advances, cultural shifts and even military conflicts. This journey from the rugged utility of military uniforms to the sleek elegance of contemporary styles is a testament to how men’s fashion continues to evolve while honoring its past.

The Military Influence

Throughout history, military uniforms have profoundly impacted men’s fashion, dictating not only trends but also the very fabric and construction of civilian clothing. This influence is most apparent during times of conflict when practicality and function take precedence.

Photo by Fantasia Strickland, 05/2024.

The 18th and 19th Centuries

In the 18th century, the uniforms of European armies were elaborate and ornate, featuring bright colors, intricate braiding and a distinct silhouette that included fitted jackets and breeches. The British Redcoat and the French Napoleonic uniforms are prime examples. These uniforms influenced civilian fashion by introducing fitted jackets and trousers, a move away from the flowing garments of previous eras.

As we moved into the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution brought about changes in manufacturing, making clothing more accessible. The introduction of the sack suit in the mid-1800s was a direct result of the need for more practical, less labor-intensive clothing. This suit, characterized by its loose fit and lack of padding, can be seen as a precursor to the modern business suit.

World Wars and the Birth of Modern Menswear

The two World Wars in the 20th century were pivotal in shaping modern menswear. During World War I, soldiers wore uniforms that were designed for both comfort and function. The trench coat, originally a military garment, became a civilian staple. Its waterproof fabric and durable design were practical for everyday wear, and it remains a classic piece in men’s wardrobes today.

World War II further cemented the influence of military styles in civilian clothing. The bomber jacket, originally designed for pilots, became a popular item due to its practicality and rugged appeal. Military-issued items like the white tee shirt and chinos found their way into everyday fashion, emphasizing simplicity and function.

Post-War to Modern Day

The post-war period saw a dramatic shift in men’s fashion. The 1950s brought about a sense of formality and conformity, epitomized by the slim, tailored suits made famous by Hollywood icons such as Cary Grant and James Dean. This era valued a clean, polished look that conveyed both respectability and elegance.

Photo by Fantasia Strickland.

The 1960s and 70s introduced more diversity and rebellion in men’s fashion. The counterculture movement embraced more relaxed and eclectic styles, with influences ranging from the military surplus stores (think green army jackets and cargo pants) to the psychedelic patterns of the hippie movement. This period also saw the rise of denim as a fashion staple, moving from workwear to a symbol of youthful rebellion.

Contemporary Men’s Fashion

Today’s men’s fashion continues to draw from these historical influences while pushing the boundaries of style and innovation. The modern man’s wardrobe often includes elements from various eras, seamlessly blending form and function.

The tailored suit remains a cornerstone of men’s fashion, but contemporary designs favor slimmer cuts and innovative fabrics that provide comfort and flexibility. Brands like Thom Browne and Tom Ford have redefined the classic suit, incorporating elements of streetwear and high fashion.

Casual wear has also evolved, with athleisure becoming a dominant trend. This style, which combines athletic and leisurewear, reflects the modern emphasis on comfort and versatility. Hoodies, joggers and sneakers from brands like Nike and Adidas are now acceptable in a variety of settings, from casual outings to more relaxed office environments.

Military-inspired clothing continues to be popular, with modern interpretations of the bomber jacket, field jacket and cargo pants appearing in collections from both luxury designers and fast fashion brands. These items retain their utilitarian roots while being updated with contemporary fits and materials.

The history of men’s fashion is a testament to the dynamic interplay between practicality and style. From the battlefield to the runway, military influences have consistently shaped men’s clothing, driving innovations that reflect the changing needs and tastes of society. Today, men’s fashion honors its past while embracing the future, offering a rich tapestry of styles that cater to every aspect of modern life.

Photo by Fantasia Strickland, 05/2024.
Fantasia Strickland
Fantasia Strickland, Contributing Writer

Fantasia is a passionate fashion stylist with personalized wardrobe solutions. As a native of New York City, the stylist has extensive experience in the fashion industry and always stays up-to-date with the latest trends.

From her experience and interactions with industry experts, she has learned the importance of being organized and flexible in the fashion field. She believes fashion is not just about clothes but also about reflecting one’s personality.

She helps clients create a unique look that enhances their individuality. By taking the time to understand each person's specific needs and preferences, she provides a personalized wardrobe solution that goes beyond the closet. She specializes in designing versatile and functional looks that make clients feel good about themselves.

Ultimately, she aims to empower clients with the confidence to be comfortable in their own skin.