1930's Summer Suits

Linen & Wool Summer Suit Fashions in the 1930’s

After we published our Gentlemen of Style ebook, we paused our coverage of vintage men’s fashion illustrations for a while, but now it is summer and there are a few ensembles I don’t want to keep from you any longer!

In 1937, the thirties suit style was fully established. It did not have any resemblance to the suit of the twenties, yet is was distinctly not 1940’s fashion either. Shoulders were natural, drape was omnipresent and trousers were full cut. Although the clothes shown are more than 75 years old, you could absolutely wear these combinations today!

Chalk Stripe Double Breasted Suit in Kent Fasson with Bow Tie, Straw Hat & Brown Suede Shoes

Chalk Stripe Double Breasted Suit in Kent Fasson with Bow Tie, Straw Hat & Brown Suede Shoes

For example, just look at the footwear – they are all wearing brown suede shoes with their outfits, which is a trend we have been seeing for the last two years. Suede is a fantastic material choice for the transition period between spring and summer or summer, and fall but its casual character works just as well if you are tired of white buckskin leather, canvas sneakers or spectators during the hot months of the year. But let’s look at the outfits in more detail.

Double Breasted Grey Chalk Stripe Flannel Suit

First up is a double breasted chalk stripe summer suit. Although buttoned in a 4×1 Kent Fasson, it can also be buttoned on the upper button, and hence it is quite versatile. Note how the low buttoning point elongates the torso optically. If you are short, that’s definitely something to avoid otherwise you will look oddly disproportional. Obviously, the trousers are cut rather wide with cuffs, as was the standard during those years. However, the two inch spacing (5cm) of the stripe is rather wide and more fashionable. For my taste it is a little too flashy, although the colors themselves are perfectly fine.

Flannel is a material most often associated with winter and generally only cream white summer trousers come to mind when thinking about flannel. However, there are also lightweight summer versions available in 8oz or less. Personally, I think a fresco suit works better in summer all around but then again, I am someone who is rather warm in general.  The color combination of light grey, blue and white is classic, understated and hence perfect for summer business outfits.

In this ensemble, the suit is accompanied with a foulard bow tie in blue – at the time, the Duke of Windsor was an active proponent of this lightweight, printed form of neckwear, and so it became popular with the general public. As mentioned above, reverse-calf leather shoes in brown, a.k.a. suede, shoes were quite fashionable at the time, just as they are today. This season, Brooks Brothers has reintroduced the  straw boater hats but other than that, they have not really celebrated a comeback on the street – maybe that will change, who knows? Would you wear a boater?

Double Breasted Off White Suit

Double Breasted Off White Suit

Off White Summer Suit with Patch Pockets and Peaked Lapels

Off White Summer Suit with Patch Pockets and Peaked Lapels

The Cream / Off -White Suit

Unfortunately, cream-white suits have not been very popular – with the exception of  Tom Wolfe – because they are rather impractical. They stain easily and are likely to end up at the dry cleaner more frequently than you’d like, which is not just bothersome but also costly. Nevertheless, I would argue that for some the investment pays off !

A white suit is great for summer days because it reflects most of the light and heat rather than absorbing it. Also, it goes well with bright or pastel colors which are favored in summer.

The double breasted suit pictured here with patch pockets was tailored from silk, just like Mark Seitelman’s suits. Interestingly, it also features white mother of pearl buttons, which have become popular on navy blazers lately. Alternatively, open weave linen would be a great material for this kind of suit because it wrinkles so gracefully and is simply the epitome of summer elegance.

Instead of a shirt, this gentleman wears a yellow crewneck shirt and a white silk square tied around his neck – how very Fred Astaire! On his feet, he wears white buck skin monk shoes.

The white straw hat has a folded, wide blue band which makes it so much more interesting than just plain black.

Overall, certainly not a practical suit, but all the more elegant!

Single breasted, unlined suits in a slightly darker shade of cream that are made out of tropical worsted wool will guarantee you more wear than this example.  This suit features three patch pockets with peaked lapels; traditionally, peaked lapels were reserved for formal suits but as you can see, designs and styles had started to be combined by 1937.

Most straw hats available are white or off white but a brown straw hats can look better, especially when your shoes are brown as well.

Mid Blue Single Breasted Shirt with Yellow Shirt, Red Boutonniere and Straw Hat

Mid Blue Single Breasted Shirt with Yellow Shirt, Red Boutonniere and Straw Hat

The Blue Summer Suit

I wrote about the blue summer suit before, and most of the things mentioned then apply here as well. The clear standout feature of this suit if the shade of blue. It is neither navy nor light blue, but more of a Prussian blue and it very much appeals to me. I think it would be a great color for a fresco suit.

Apart from that, the shirt deserves a mention because of its yellow color. Although white and light blue are the golden standard, I always suggest looking into other pastel colors the next time you buy a shirt or have one made, because they are very versatile, subtle, and yet different. Often times they look better than just white or blue.

Some people say, one should either wear a pocket square or a boutonniere, but not both together. While this may be a useful rule for men with a less refined sense of style, I think the picture on the left is evidence that both can work together splendidly, don’t you think? So next time, you are playing around with a boutonniere on your lapel, forget about “rules” and use your taste instead to determine whether the pocket square and the flower are in order or not.

Conclusion

In terms of suits, try to think outside the box and contemplate if a white suit would be something you would enjoy wearing. In regard to accessories, a brown straw hat could be a great alternative and if you do not already own a pair of brown suede shoes, you should seriously consider buying a pair because they go so well with everything ranging from tropical summer fabrics to winter weight flannels.

Also, don’t be afraid to wear a boutonniere with a pocket square! Just make sure that the overall look is balanced and not overloaded.

For more information about summer suits in general, you should check out this summer suit guide.

What suits do you wear in summer? In case you like this article you should definitely get our ebook if you haven’t done so already.

24 replies
  1. Ahmed Sajeel
    Ahmed Sajeel says:

    An article after my heart. You know I’m always game for pastel colored shirts … and my magnolia white linen suit is about to get its first wear.

  2. Gernot_Freiherr_von_Donnerbalken
    Gernot_Freiherr_von_Donnerbalken says:

    The off white suit has something to it, before all as the cut is astonishingly elegant and yet casual because of the patch pockets. If made of blue fresco, it would be a mere dream.

  3. Federico
    Federico says:

    I wore my boater hat yesterday for the last time this year – in London the season is definitely over and I was a bit nostalgic.. and at the same time excited. Time for felt!

  4. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    U agree about the cream off white suits i own 2. One is white white heavier weight linen, the other is lighter weight off white linen, i wear them quite often. I would love to own each of these suits.

  5. Park Jacob Weatheby
    Park Jacob Weatheby says:

    I would simply like to first of all start out by saying that I have just only recently become a member of your newsletter and I truly and sincerely enjoy every article I have had the opportunity to read.
    I find them most enlightening and imformative it’s wonderful to see that there are “Gentlemen” still in this world that greatly appreciate the fine art of dressing.
    To both you and your staff keep up the great work and may you continue to provide your readers with pertinent and truly valuable fashion information.

    Regards,

    Park Jacob Weatherby

  6. James
    James says:

    Wonderful article. I was impressed with these pieces these gentlemen had on. I love the patch pocket suit…It’s a classic, very rich and clean. It reminds me of Fred Astaire Drum Crazy.. So amazing.
    Best Regards:
    James Massey

  7. Alexey Petukhov
    Alexey Petukhov says:

    Many thanks for the article!
    Coincidentally, I own an off-white 1930s American suit that just resembles the one you pictured here – double-breasted with patch pockets, made of light linen, with mother-of-pearl buttons. And I’m carefully wearing it from time to time during the summer months.
    Thank you for more inspiration!

  8. R. Scott Purdy
    R. Scott Purdy says:

    I wore one of my off-white silk suits yesterday, with a pastel green shirt (with contrasting white collar and cuffs). Accessorized with a tie-dye diamond-point bow tie & matching pocket square. (This is one of the few occasions where I would match tie and pocket square.). Tan and green vertically striped socks and tan tassel loafers completed the ensemble.
    Yes, I have a boater. Have had it ~30 years. It is from Brooks Brothers. I wear it a few times each summer.

  9. Sergej
    Sergej says:

    Great article, as usual.

    I don’t have much use for a suit in summer, so I usually go with an odd jacket and trousers. Often an unstructerd blue jacket in Linen with tan herringbone linen trousers. Dark brown saddle shoes, a light blue shirt and a medium brown tie. If the mood takes me I add a straw fedora. I don’t think I could pull off a boater.

    I really dig these 30’s fashion illustrations. Probably the golden age of menswear!

  10. Keith McKee
    Keith McKee says:

    I like the light blue suit the best. I have one and wear it often in the summer. I also have a tan suit by Brooks Brothers and a seersucker I’ve had for ten years from Haspel. I do own a cream colour linen/cotton suit. I love it.

  11. Mark Seitelman
    Mark Seitelman says:

    Silk is cool, comfortable, and dressy. Alan Flusser and Mark Rykken are both fans of silk.

    I also like mohair and wool.

    I prefer a tropical wool over fresco. I think that fresco has been a little overrated. Fresco is good for a less formal, less “rich” look. It is good for everyday meetings and business.

    I also like linen, but linen is a more “casual” cloth.

    I am not a fan of cotton suitng, especially seersucker. I did not find it particularly cooling. Indeed, I found it hot.

  12. R. Scott Purdy
    R. Scott Purdy says:

    Silk’s warmth/coolness is a function of weight & weave. Generally I find silk to be warmer than either cotton of linen of like weight & weave. I generally prefer silk’s drape and hand to either cotton or linen. There are some excellent blends becoming more widely available which employ silk &/or wool to partially temper linen’s notorious tendency to wrinkle.

  13. Rishi Chullani
    Rishi Chullani says:

    Great article. The blue summer suit, especially in that shade of blue, looks fantastic. And I completely agree, why should we men always opt for white or a light blue? Especially in the summer, pastel colors can look wonderful!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] to get more out of your existing wardrobe. For more about summer outfits in the 1930s, take a look here, there and most importantly, get our ebook Gentlemen of Style which is full of top notch fashion […]

  2. […] actually deserve this name. In regard to summer jackets, I have a broad range of fresco, tropical wool and blended blazers and jackets, but not a pure linen jacket. Personally, I rather enjoy linen’s wrinkly […]

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