The onset of war and disruptions to the importation of cloth introduced the need for clothes rationing (at least this was the case in Britain) and so the '40's look can be seen as a miss-match of older styles from the 1930s mixed in with newer items produced by "Controlled Commodity" utility brand clothing bearing the board of trace's CC41 label. The spreading conflict in mainland Europe effectively halted any progression of style there until after the war ended in 1945 (and beyond) so the iconic style prevalent in the '40s is of the British and American man (not counting the servicemen of course).
Many working men continued to wear the '30s style spear-point fixed collar shirts, but the utility branded clothing brought about a return to the detachable collars of the '20s, albeit this time with a pair of matching cloth collars in any style, including spear-point. These limitations of available cloth also lead to many more styles of 'harder-working' fabrics introduced such as the semi-synthetic rayon or the brushed cotton and chambray used in service uniforms.
Whilst the British man kept a sense of austerity with their plain, subtle-patterned or school-striped ties, our American cousins continued to be more and more flamboyant with their tie fabrics and patterns including a fashion for hand-painted designs on increasingly wider neckties.
Whilst early CC41 suits continued to be double-breasted, later reform called for more limitation on cloth, meaning single-breasted notch-lapel became the norm for men's suits. Men were also encouraged to lose the turn-ups on their trousers. Over in the U.S. men saw the introduction of more 'sports' styles of jacket, often nicknamed the 'Hollywood', as well as mix-and-match suits meaning you could wear the trousers of one suit with the jacket of the other.
Another style re-emerging from the past to become almost a mainstay was knitwear, especially the tank top and knitted waistcoat. Many of these were hand knitted as the 'Knit for Victory' drives produced warm clothing for many men in service. Fair-isle style were particularly prevalent as it meant you could use up lots of old bits of wool left over from other projects.
Where worn, the fedora and trilby still remained kings of the hat kingdom, but many men now didn't bother with hats at all and only really wore them in adverse weather.
The classic British look of the '40s was the single-breasted suit, teamed with a plain or fair-isle tank top. Wear this with a spear-point shirt and stripped tie or a collarless shirt and no jacket for a more relaxed workingman’s look.
For a classic 1940s American look, team a pair of dark 'slacks' with a two-tone sports jacket over a crisp white shirt and hand-painted wide ended tie. Finish the look with some two-tone apron-fronted gibson shoes.
1920s Style Guide - click here
1930s Style Guide - click here
1940s Style Guide - click here
Goodwood Revival Style Guide - click here