The Golden Age of Hollywood Style

Mar 23, 2013

The classic saying goes: “They don’t make them like they used to”. Whilst this is usually applied to films and old Hollywood movies themselves, this adage could equally be applied to the stars who appeared in them. From the rugged charisma of Humphrey Bogart, through to the sophisticated elegance of Cary Grant and the earnest boy-next-door charm of James Stewart, movie stars in The Golden Age of Hollywood all seemed larger than life and, aside from screen presence, the one major factor that tied them all together was just how well groomed and exquisitely dressed each of them appeared to be at all times.

In many ways The Golden Age of Hollywood also coincided with The Golden Age of Men’s Fashion – it was a period in which many of the more enduring staples of menswear became established and also, sadly, some of the more aesthetically pleasing trends hit the height of their appeal before slowly making way for less becoming contemporary styles.

One of the things that rarely get mentioned when discussing the dapper styles of the great actors of early Hollywood, from Cagney to Keaton, is that men of this era were not afraid to accessorise to bring distinctive flourishes to their sartorial ensembles. Whilst such a way of dressing has fallen out of trend in recent years, subtleties having been replaced in many approaches to style with large and brash logos, there are few discerning gentlemen who would disagree with the fact that, through utilising embellishments, the actors of The Golden Age of Hollywood never looked short of immaculate. Complementing suits with cuff-links, pocket squares and stylish hats allowed these actors to look masculine and stately with composed elegance in terms of their outfits.

Those who do not boast a keen eye for fashion may be under the mistaken impression that a lot of men’s wear is bland or boring – the general consensus has agreed, for a little over a century, that the height of men’s sophisticated dressing can be found in a tailored suit and little has changed in terms of the overall design of the three-piece during this period. Yet, it is easy to see by studying how the average man wears a suit today, in comparison with Hollywood of little under one hundred years ago, that the full potential of the design is not being maximised in the modern day and that fashion can be a lot more fun, colourful and expressive if we cast our minds back a small while.

Many of the problems with today’s fashion comes from men going for a “off the hook” approach to fashion rather than looking to bring their own personality to their style compositions and, through avoiding the use of accessories due to misplaced prejudice, playing it safe. Yet, a quick glance at some of the biggest movie stars of all time can be the perfect place to look for a touch of fashion inspiration – swapping in a bow tie for standard skinny-fit neckwear can make all the difference to a suits tone and the aforementioned pocket square can provide a neat take on the modern colour blocking trend. Early Hollywood made films, some of which including Casablanca, Citizen Kane and Make Way For Tomorrow, are amongst the best ever committed to celluloid and which provide artistic inspiration we can return to time and again. Similarly, the stars of these films all provide sartorial inspiration we should look to again and again. The Golden Age of Hollywood could also be easily described as the Golden age of men’s style.

Kieron Casey


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