Even though we have gone a long way since the invention of the essential pieces found in this list, they’re still at the core of how men build up their wardrobe. And that for a good reason as these pieces have stood the test of time, the harshest of trials. One that can be trusted with full confidence. Basically, menswear comes down to very simple roots, a big portion of it derives from either military, sport or workwear background. Everything what we today would describe as classical and couldn’t imagine living without (T-shirts, jeans, sneakers, leather jackets, parkas etc) have been invented for practical reasons. And practicality is one of those things that will never lose its purpose.
Sneakers are probably the youngest member of the footwear family as they came around at the beginning of the 20th century. Talk about being young. Luckily there was a guy named Charles Goodyear who invented a way to vulcanize the rubber in 1839 so it could be attached to different types of fabrics, that opened up a huge door for the clothing industry. But it wasn’t until 30 years later that somebody finally had a great idea to use the material for shoe soles. Fast forward to 1917, that was the year when Converse came out with their legendary All-Star basketball sneaker which featured a high canvas neck to support the ankles during the game. The sneakers were noticed by basketball star Chuck Taylor who quickly fell in love with them and thus becoming their brand ambassador. That collaboration allowed sneakers to become wide-spread around the globe, paving its way towards another big change which happened around 50s. You see, although sneakers became popular on the court, they were rarely worn on the streets before James Dean & Marlon Brando came around. These guys were up to no good, rebelling against the rules which were not up to date. Sneakers seemed to fit perfectly into the everyday life of the new generation as they were cheap and needed low maintenance. It was thanks to the same baby boomer generation that a shoe once invented for practical cause ended up being a fashion statement.
Jeans got their humble start as part of the workwear uniform. It was the fabric that made these trousers so desirable back then, denim. This tough cloth was invented by trial and error in the city of Nîmes, France. Thanks to various traders and sailors it happened to end up in the USA where a businessman named Levi Strauss started selling it to different customers in the West around 1853. One particular client who came up with the brilliant idea to use metal rivets for the trousers, to make them even stronger, proposed a partnership for Mr Levi and that’s when the real history of jeans began. For a long time, jeans were favoured by miners & cowboys alike but again, it was Hollywood which made them globally well-known at the beginning of the 50s. Movies like Rebel Without Cause and The Wild One were especially memorable for teens who needed a break from all the nonsense that their society forced on them. Suddenly jeans were not just part of workwear anymore, they had turned into the symbol of liberty. This meant higher demands for different companies which caused them to downshift on the quality and find faster ways of producing. But this didn’t stop jeans conquering the world, on the contrary, nowadays probably no one could imagine a life without a having a pair in their wardrobe. And thankfully the quality was never abandoned completely as smaller companies still strive to deliver you the best that is out there. When looking for your next pair of jeans, keep in mind the words selvedge and raw denim.
As strange as it sounds, just 100 years ago there was no such thing like a basic T-shirt. It all started when people finally understood that union suits (underwear that covered your whole body basically) were a bit of an overkill and not as comfortable to use as say two separate pieces. That’s how Cooper Underwear Co famously invented the crewneck T-shirt, a basic garment that was meant to give you warmth and keep your outer clothes clean. Going to the streets wearing only your T-shirt back then would equal you walking down the street in boxers today, something that is simply said not the most respected thing to do. It took around 5 decades before norms got more relaxed and T-shirt became cool to wear also on its own. Because of its simple form, it was easy to produce and companies started taking full advantage of it in the 60s when the rebellious teens became the major sales demographic. That was the turning point in fashion history as the T-shirt became an inseparable piece in everybody's wardrobe.
To understand the history of the modern leather jacket, one has to go back as far as the WWI. With the invention of the fighter planes, there was a bit of a problem keeping pilots warm as temperatures are tough up there. So military came up with the bomber jackets made of leather which featured warm lining and high collars. After the war, the same jackets were also used for riding motorcycles but as they were a bit too stiff and uncomfortable for that purpose, a new design was made by Irving Schott in 1928. Irving humbly called his masterpiece the Perfecto jacket, the story goes that it was named after his favourite cigars. It was the first leather jacket that featured the asymmetrical zipper instead of buttons, it was ideal in blocking wind out and besides that, double leather also protected the torso a bit more in case of an accident. Then came the WWII and due to its practicality, it was instantly taken to use by the military which boosted the awareness. And after that, again we end up in an era where James Dean and Marlon Brando made all our basics cool for everyday wear. Same story with the leather jacket, it was given the status “I can and I will” regardless of the social norms. That might be also the reason why so many musicians adapted it as their uniform in the coming decades, from the Beatles to the Ramones, the leather jacket just adds a certain cool that no other piece of clothing does.