This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California. This blog is not supported by advertising, it's supported by the generosity of my patrons on Patreon. Thank you!

How people dressed in the 1940s, Phoenix, Arizona


I collect old photos of Phoenix, and while my interest is mostly in the architecture, I have to admit I'm tickled when I'm able to see the people, and see them really well. In the photo above is a group of people at the Westward Ho Hotel (Central Avenue and Fillmore) in the 1940s. Let's take a look at them.

First of all, I'll tell you right away that this photo wasn't taken in the summer. And the reason I know that is that this group, like everyone with any sense before the common use of modern air conditioning, wouldn't have come anywhere near Phoenix in the summer. I would say that it's somewhere between October and April. Anyway, let's look at their clothing.

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I'll start with the man on the far right, who is wearing a double-breasted suit. I've worn suits in my day, but never one like that, although men still wear them. They're practically a heavy coat, and instead of buttoning low in front, it buttons up high and way over. Not much of the tie shows, and showing a lot of tie didn't start to happen for decades. And, in case you're wondering, yes his suit is cut perfectly, with just the right amount of cuff showing, and a perfect break on the trousers.

Let's talk about hats. Yes, all of these men would have worn hats, but never indoors. A building like this would have hat racks around, and there would have been places to "check" your hat, which meant that someone would look after it (they were expensive!) along with your coat. The women, of course, didn't have to take off their hats in public, but their hats are much smaller than the hats that the previous generation of women wore, which were gigantic. Their hats, by the way, were held in place with hat pins, which were very long sharp pins that went through the hat, and their hair. That had to be dangerous!

Just like today, the women are holding bags. The men's suits, of course, have lots of pockets, but women's clothing really hasn't ever had a lot of pockets. Speaking of pockets, I'd be willing to bet that at least one of those guys has a flask in his suit pocket. I think maybe that guy in the back, who looks suspicious! Nah, there was nothing unusual about carrying a flask back then. Flasks, which are still made that way, have a gentle curve in them to fit in the inside pocket of a suit coat. The next time you're at Bevmo, take a look at them.

Since I'm interested in dating the photos that I find as precisely as possible, I'm glad to see women. Men's dress styles don't change all that much, but women's clothing changes a lot, especially shoes. Of course I know nothing about women's shoes, but I know that the shoes that they're wearing were probably in style and they wouldn't be "caught dead" wearing them just a couple of years later.

They seem a pleasant bunch of people, wouldn't you say?