Boys' Play Clothes: Country Trends

Figure 1.--This image from "Die Berliner Kinderspiele" (Berlin, 1955) shows one of the many street games played by children in Berlin. These games were played all over the city (East and West zones) as the East Germand had not yet built the Berlin Wall. The images show Berlin boys commonly wearing short pants and Lederhosen.

There are many similarities betwen games played in diffrent Europen countries and America. Children played many of the same games, although they often dressed differently when playig them. Images of these games are pertinent to HBC because they provide intresting glimses of normal every day children's clothing. This is of course true for candid photographs and not the available commercial post cards. Besides the many games played throught Europe and America, there were also many dectinctive games and activities. Concors were very much a British school boy activity. As far as we know, only in America did boys play mumeledepeg. In some cases we are not sure what game the children are actually playing, especially in the case of some European images. This is the case of the German image seen here. A HBC reader reports that the game was of a "geopolitics" character. Hopefully our European readers will provide us some guidance here.

America

There are many similarities betwen games played in diffrent Europen countries and America. Children played many of the same games, although they often dressed differently when playig them. As far as we know, only in America did boys play mumeledepeg. Mumeldepeg was a game playd with pocket knives. I am not sure about the spelling. As I recall it the idea was to throw the knife just o the sise of your feet. Then you had to streach out your leg until your foot was next to the knife. You did this on alternate iudes. The game ended when your opponent could not streach out far enough to reach the knife with his foot. Boys until after World War II, commonly carried pocket knives, even to school. This game with pocket knives was very popular in America through the 1940s. It began to decline after World war II when suburban mothers were less willing to allow boys to play with knives. As far as we know it was an American game. There must have been knive games in Europe as well as knives were common items fo boys in Germany, Norway, and other countries. American girls loved jacks and hopscotch. The game I remember playing in the late 1940s-early 50s was Cowboys and Indians or even more commonly a comparable Wlorld war II game. I remember the real World War II helmet II helmet. I do not know to what extent they wwere played in Europe.

Belgium

We have very little information about the games Belgian children played. We suspect that the games that children played were similar throughout Westrn Europe. We assume that the games in Belgium were very similar to those in France and the Netherlands. There were presumably some destinctive Belgan games are local twists to more common games. We also do not yet know if there were diferences among Waloon and Flemish children. Hopefully our Belgian readers will be able to provide some insights.

Canada

We know very little about the games Canadian children played. We suspect that they were very similar to those played in England as well as Ireland and Scotland. We do not know if French Canadian children played any different games or were influenced by France. We note that French Canadian children were plating tag in 1912. This seems to have been a popular game throughout Europe and North america, if not the world.

England

Iona Opie and her husband did some work on British school childrens lore and play and wrote some very interesting books on the subject. Our information is still very limited here. We believe a variety of different games like the ones reported by Opie were still quite common before World War II. We believe that children's play has changed significantly after the war, especially after he 1950s. We are not possitive why this is. There seem t be differences among boys and girls with girls holding on more to some oif the traditional games. Our visits to British schools in the 1980s found the children playing very few of these games. Most of the play was sport, often football (soccer) and cricket. At least one traditin survives. Concors were very much a British school boy activity. Virtually every British schoolboy once participated in this annual Fall ritual, conker fights with his mates. I'm not sure just when this tradition bgan. Many traditions have built up about how to prepare and harden your concor. A hole is drilled in it and a string attached. Then the conker fights can begin. With the modern popularity of computer games, however, concors appears to have declined in popularity. It has not,however, disappered. Hoefully our English readers will provide us some nsights here.

France

One of the first depicrions of French children's play is a painting by Simeon Chardin probably from the 1730s. A Governess is admonishing a boy about his studies. The boy would clearly prefer to be playing. On the ground in front of him are his racquet, shuttlecock, and cards or blocks--all symbolizing play but illustrating what boys in the 18th century played with.

Germany

In some cases we are not sure what game the children are actually plying, especially in the case of some European images. This is the case of the German image seen here. A HBC reader reports that the game was of a "geopolitics" character. A German reader tells us, "I don't know what kind of game these boys are playing but there's something drawn on the pavement."

Italy

We know very little about the games Italian children played. We know that many of the same games played in other Western European countries were played in Italy. We do not have any information yet about destinctive Italian games. An Italian reader tells us about a popular tossing game with bottle caps. The children try to bounce the bottle caps as close possible to a wall. It is a traditional game of the Italian children. I remember the same game in America. We used pennies or baseball cards. I forget now what it was called.

Japan

We notice Japanese children playing a game that looks soewhat like hop-scotch.

(The) Philippines

Children in the Philippines play a number of interesting games. Some of the games include Bahay Kubo (the Hut), Ober-Ober (Strike the Slippers Game), Tatsing (Bottle Caps in a Square), Karera Ng Bankang Tsinelas (Slipper Boat Race), Kadang-Kadang (Bamboo Stilts Race), and a game that will be familar withAmerican gorls--Piko (Hopscotch). Three or more players can play Bahay Kubo, a game similar to tumbang preso. Ober-Ober (Strike the Slippers Game) is mostly played by boys, this is a game of slippers. It is an outdoor game, it needs a wide space as playing area which can be a wide street or the front lawn. Tatsing (Bottle Caps in a Square) is usually played by two or more boys, ages 9-12 or older. Each player should have a good supply of bottle caps (tansan). Karera Ng Bankang Tsinelas (Slipper Boat Race) is particularly suited to the Philippines. The Philippines is an archipelago and, as a result, rivers and lakes are common sights. It stands to reason that the slipper boat race is a common activity in many towns and even the metropolis of Manila. Kadang-Kadang (Bamboo Stilts Race) is played by two or more boys and girls, each playershould have a pair of kadang-kadang (bamboo stilts). Piko (Hopscotch) is usually played by two to eight girls, from 7-10 years old. Boys play this when they are young, but older boys rarely play.

Russia


Sources

Iona Opie

Die Berliner Kinderspiele (Berlin, 1955).

The Winners in the Oil Category, website accessed August 10, 2003.








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Created: March 3, 2003
Last updated: 2:51 PM 10/17/2005