Boys Clothing During the 1940s

Boys clothing in the 1940s changed significantly in America, but the changes were less noticeable in Europe. The disaster of the War left little time for fashion, either that of children or adults. Interestingly though several important fashion trends emerged from the War. Finally by the late 1940s new fashions began to appear
 

Figure 1.--This suit had a jacket with a half belt and patch pockets. The short pants are button-on style with two side pockets and are fully lined. The wool jacket came in blue cheviot or grey or tan tweed. It was available in sizes 3-9 years.

Background

The 1940s was of course dominated by World War II. The war of course consumed people's energy and the economy was devoted to war production. Fashion took a back seat. After the war in 1945, people could again think about fashion, although the devestation of the industrial economies of much of Europe signifiantlty reduced the onsumer's disposable income, except in the United States.

Trends


Garments

Major trends occured in boys wear during the 1940s. World War II of course had a najor impact on these changes. Fashions of all kinds were impaired by the World War which broke oit in Europe in September 1939 after Hitler ordered the invasion of Poland and Britain and France followed with a declaration of war. The War soon led to clothes rationing througout Europe. America was not forced into the War until the Japnese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Fashion developmens during the early 1940s were most pronounced in America which was least affect among the major combantant nations. The most obvious trend during the 1940s was the rapid disappearance of knickers. American boys in the 1930s till widely wore knickers. They were still quite common in 1940, but by 1945 had become a much less impoprtant style. They were still seen in the late 1940s, but had vecome a fashion of minor importance. Knickers persisted somewhat longer in Europe, but the trend was the same. Other important developments in the 1940s was the expanding popularity of jeans and "T"-shirts, two garments heavily influenced by the War.

Rationing

The War required such a gargantian national effort on the part of the principal combatents that it was necessary that everybody did what was in their power to support the war effort. The most prominent way most countries accomplished this was by rationing. Rationing was a method used by the government to ensure that everybody was able to receive equal amounts of raw materials. This way, enough material was used for the war effort, but the public could still have access to these items. To circumvent rationing and price controls, World War II black marketeers traded in clothing and liquor in Britain and meat, sugar, and gasoline in the United States.

Countries

There were najor fashion differences between counties in the 1940s. American and European fashions in particular were significantly different. American clothing, including children's clothing, once was significantly influenced by European fashion. This was not the case in the 1940s. Certainly World War II (1939-45) must have been a factor. World War II resulted in a marked austerity in dress, even in America. Europe did not have much time for fashion in the first half of the decade. But another factor is that American boys just didn't like some of the clothes that European boys were wearing--even if there mothers did. Clothes in many countries were also influenced by military styles. After the War in 1945 many countries like England continued foofd rationing. Other countries like Germany and Italy were so devestated that that there was little money for clothes. Many boys had to continue wearing clothes or wear hand-me-downs that might have been replaced in more prosperous time. While clothing styles differed, especially between America and Europe, some trends were begun in the 1940s although they were not significantly observable until the 1950s in many countries.


Figure 2.--The suit jacket had a self belt and three patch pockets. The short pants were lined with citton twill. The suit came in ages 3 to 10 years. Materials were wool cheviot (blue) and wool cassimere (brown and grey).

World War II (1939-45)

World War II had a tremendous influence on fashion, including boys' fashions. It was the beginning of the end of "traditional" styles for boys. The temper of the times was for casual clothes. It was time to roll-up one's sleve and get to work, not dress up in fancy formal clothes. Clothes even before the War were becoming more casual. As a result of the War that trend was intensified. After the War, boys were no longer just boys, but small men and the styles reflect this. Uniforms began to fade, probably do to the fact of The Hitler Youth and the image the organization represented. (One HBC contributor is certain that the Boy Scout movement felt the brunt of this.) Since boys were put more readily to work (for the war effort) and some actually serving in the military, they were then given more adult responsibilities. After the end of the war, short trousers began to fade, jeans and long trousers took control, as well as the increase in more casual styles.



Personal Accounts

Some personal accounts dealing with boys' clothes during the 1940s include:





 
 

Christopher Wagner






 
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Created: March 31, 1998
Last updated: January 26, 2001