Suits for men have changed significantly over the past 100 years. But the differences have been subtle enough that it’s hard to notice them happening. But, put a suit from 1950 next to one made in 2010, and you’ll see that in the details, they are different. That said, there is something alluring about the nostalgia afforded by a vintage suit, and several tips one can borrow from the business wear of the Great Generation.
One thing that you’ll see is that the suits from the early to mid-1950s tended to have narrow ties. This contrasts with the wide ties in the latter half of the 20th century, and was probably a backlash to wide ruffles worn around the neck in the 1800s. The necktie is probably the most customizable thing about a suit, and has undergone the most changes throughout the decades. There is also some variation from Europe to the North America.
Today, suits are often worn with less strict conventions as in past years. Because there is so much access to pictures and video from past centuries, it’s hard to avoid looking cliché. Because of this, men may make more effort to look distinctive, while still maintaining professionalism. For example, a man may wear a suit jacket with a pair of nice jeans, to create a relaxed, yet classy look. Also, because men tend to dress practically, a myriad of excuses and alternatives for ties have been devised. While tie is a great way to stand out, since it allows for wild colors that wouldn’t be appropriate else, many men have opted to omit the tie completely. A suit with no tie, and a collar unbuttoned at the top can provide a dressed-up look without being too stiff, and can be comfortable enough to wear all day.
Coat lapels have also changed a bit over the decades. Wide lapels were popular in the latter half of the 20th century, and went well with wider ties. Now that ties are narrower, lapels have followed. Shirts also have a bit of variation. The darts in back (to allow for wider shoulders than waist) have traditionally been about two inches apart, in the middle of the back between the shoulder blades. Later shirt designs moved the darts apart, so that they sit right on the shoulder blades. While this difference is subtle, it is noticeable for those who have an eye for detail.