Chronology of the Development of Boys' Clothing Styles: Time Line

The history of boys' fashions and changes over time, like other types of fashions, are intermingled with many other developments in publishing, photography, cloth and clothing manufacturing, war and social upheval, book and magazine publishing, and other developments. HBC though it might be useful to develop a time line to sketch out the chronology of these events over a long time period.


Clothing of course predates history. Archeologists have, however, provided us some esimates as to when human kind first began to make and wear clothing.

30,000 BC: Humans began using animal skins for warmth. This required the development and use of tools.

20,000 BC: Humans to fashion pins from thorns and bones. They also begin to fashion needles from bone and ivory to use in sewing garments. Also non-woven fabric, felt produced by compressing woll and hair is produced.

9,000 BC: Sheep domesticated in the Middle East providing a steady supply of wool. Dogs which helped control thesheep were domesticated even earlier.

8,000 BC: Goats domesticated in Persia.

7,000 BC: Hand spindles are developed to spin wool into yarn. Looms are developed in the Middle East.

6,000 BC: Cattle developed in the Middle East

3,400 BC: Egypyians are using plants to produce fabric. Mummies from this period have linnen cloth produced from flax.

3,200 BC: The Chinese domesticate the silk moth.

3,000 BC: The Greeks dvelop a saftey-pin lie closure called a "fibula". Indians begin using cotton and also begin to use buttons. Glass beads begin to be used for decoration in the Midle East and Egypt. The Egyptians also begin to make soap out of wood ash and animal fat.

2,700 BC: The Chinese begin to make silk cloth from silkworm webs.

2,500 BC: Cotton is first spun into thred and used in weaving.

2,000 BC: Oldest cotton fabrics noted in Peru by Archeologists.

1,000 BC: Egyptians begin using colored dyes made with beeswax.

700 BC: Knitting has begun in Arabia.

530s AD: Cathloic monks smuggle silkworms from China for Byzantine Emperess Theodora.

Medieval Era

1000: The spinning wheel is developed in China and India.

1097: Bayeaux Tapestry compeletd in France

1114: First international trade fair held in France

1225: Cotton manufacture begins in Spain

1279: Franciscn monks dvelop the first glass mirror

1286: Eyeglasses devloped in Venice

1300: Buttonhole developed

1300s: Lacemaking develops in France and the Low countries

1359: Workers in Bruges, Belgium protest and wear red hats to show their solidarity.


The 15th Century

1450: Closed-eye needle developed

1456: Johann Gutenberg printed a Bible in 1456 using movable type and a press. This may have well been the most important development in the Millennium. The aer of printing rapidly spreads throughout Europem although advertisement and fashion magazines did not appear until the 18th century.

1465: The first written account of knitting appears in England.

1467: Silk industry established in Lyon, Frnce withItalian workers.

The 16th Century

1500s: Shirts appear. Spnish Conquistadores introduce sheep to the Americas. European aristocrats scentballs to deal with body odors.

1503: The pocket hankerchief appear in Europe

1567: Genoese sailor's begin wearing trousers made of twill cloth.

1589: William Lee in England develops the first knitting mchine.

The 17th Century

1641: England begin to import coton from the Mediterranean and cotton fabric begins to be produced in Manchester

1657: Stockings are manufactured in France.

1698: Peter the Great begins taxing men with beards

The 18th Century

1717: John Lombe in England invents a machine or "throwing" silk which produces a strong twisted thread

1732: The English banned American made hats to protect domestic haberdashers.

1733: John Kay in England invents the flying shuttle which increases the sped at which cloth can be weaved.

1754: The first non-rolling mill developoed in England.

1758: Ribbing machine developed in England to make Jedediah Strutt stockings.

1764: James Hargreaves in England invents the spinning jenny which can prouce 8 threads at one time.

1769: Richard Arkwright develops the water-powered spinning frame

1770s: Early skeleton suits begin to appear in the 1770s which were the first specialized children's clothing. The earliest ones were still worn wih kne breaches, but by the 1780s they were wrn ith long trousers.

1771: Richard Arkwright in England build the first spinning mill

1777: Samuel Crompton in England invents the spinning "mule" capable of spinning cloth in great quantity.

1780: The Derby hat appears in England.

1784: Benjamin Franklin in America develops bifocal eyeglsses.

1785: Edmund Cartwright in England invents the steam-powered loom.

1789: The French Revolution sounded the death knoll toward elanorate and affected dress and hairdos. The powdered wig and towering women's hair styles passed from fashion. Simplier more practical clothes emerged. Boys wore the skeleton suit, often with a comfortable open collar, and by the end of the century with plebian long trousers. Claude Louis Berthollet in France develops chlorine beach.

1790: Sammul Slater opens the first U.S. cotton mill in Rhode Island. Thomas Saint in England invents the first cloth-stitching machine.

1793: Eli Whitney invents the cotton gin which efficently separates cotton fibers from the seeds, allowing one person to do a jon once done by 50 people. This profoundly changes the economics of raising cotton, revitalizing slavery in the American South.

1797: John Hetherington in London develops the top hat.

The 19th Century

1800William Young in Philadelphia offers shoes made for the left and the right foot.

1839: Frenchman Louis Daguerre announced the discovery of a partner in 1839 and named it the announced his discovery in 1839 and named it the Daguerreotype. The process involved developing exposed photographic plates by Mercury vapors. This greatly reduced the exposure time from 8 hours down to 1/2 an hour. This made it the first practical photographic process making photography of individuals commercially feasible for the first time. More information

1840: Queern Victoria begins dressing the princes in kilts and sailor suits. Prince Albert commisined Winterhalter in 1840 to paint a portrait of the future Edward VII in an enlisted sailor suit. This eventually leading to two major clothing styles for children.

1846: American Elias Howe patented a sewing machine in 1846. Another American inventor, Issac Merrit Singert, patented a similar machine. Although he lost a patent enfringement suit brought by Howe, Singer went on to lay the ground work for the mass production of the machines. These and other developments in the 1850s led to a revolution in clothing production, both at home and in mills. The result was rapidly falling cost of clothing to a point that families in the latter part of the 19th century have wardrobes that only the affluent could afford at the beginning of the century.

1870-71: Prussia defeats France in the Franco Prussian War. This leads to the abdication of Napoleon III and the rise of the Second Republic. The Republic proceeds with a series of reforms top democratize French society. Among the educational reforms is the introduction of schools smocks so that poor children with ragedy or unstylish clothing will not feel out of place. More information

1872: Levi Strauss had discovered rugged pants for miners made out of sturdy brown canvas. Once this resource was exhausted, he turned to denim, which he dyed blue to become what is known now as blue jeans. Then, in 1872 Jacob Davis, a taylor, offered Levi's half of a patent on a technique for strengthening the seams and rivets of the pants. The company was granted the patent and Levi's was on its way to making the "improved" jeans. They begin making copper riveted "waist overalls" from a sturdy material, denimin, in San Francisco. More information

Figure 1.--These brothers were photographed in Hannibal, Mossuri, yes Tom Sawyer's home town. Note the ruffled collar and kilt skirt the younger boy wears. Also notice their straw hats. The photograph was probably taken about 1880. Until 1900 most photographs were taken in studios. Before George Eastman;s Brownie, only the rich had the expensive equipment needed to take snap shots.

1878: English photographer Richard Bennett developed the first practical dry plates in 1878. Dry plates could be developed much more quickly than with any previous technique. Initially it was very insensitive, but it proved to be much faster than the wet collodian plates. The introduction of the dry-plate process marked a turning point. No longer did one need the cumbersome wet-plates, no longer was a darkroom tent needed. In addition, the increasing speed enanled the photographing of moving objects for the first time. More information

1878: Thomas Edison invents the phonograph. This combined with the incrasing popularity of sheet music lead to the formation by the turn of the century of a music industry. The increased affluence of America and Europe meant that for the first time a an expanding ortion of the population could afford music lessons for their children. More and more parents insist that their children take music lessons. More information

1885: Francis Hogdsen Burnett serializes Little Lord Fauntleroy in St. Nicholas Magazine and publishes it in book form the following year. The book causes a sensation in boys' clothing and hair styling, both in America and Europe. More information

1897: Rural Free Delivery (RFD) begins in America, significantly reducing the cost of delivering clothing and other merchandice to rural America.

1899-1902: The Boer War was fought from 1899-1902. It was closely followed in the British and European media. The British had adopted short pants uniforms worn with knee socks in India and employed those uniforms in South Africa. Drawings and photographs appeared in newspapers and magazines popularizing this new fashion--especially with boys who had the time were wearing kneepants and inpractica long stockings and hose supporters. More information

The 20th Century

1900: Eastman Kodak introduces the Bronie camera, at a cost that made amateur photography available to virtually anyone. Before 1900 most photogrphs are formal studio shots. After 1900 snap shots of virtually all social classes become available. More information

1900: Photographs begin to become increasingly common in newspapers and magazines, increasingly replacing drawings in advertisements. They had forst appeared in the late 1890s, but were still quite expensive. By 1900 the price had come down to where they were becoming much more common. More information

1906: The Boy Scout movement was founded in England. The short pants uniform adopted hjad a powerful influence in replacing kneepanrs and long stocking (rather impractical for scouting) with short pants and kneesocks. The English Scout uniform was adopted around the world, except in America where boys mostly wore knickers. More information

1914-18: World War I accelerated many fashion trends already in progress. Kneepants disappeared only a few years after the War as did Eton collars. Boys no longer were commonly outfitted in dresses after the War. Fauntleroy suits and other fancy styles became less common. Boys after the War wore increasingly simple, practical clothes. Short pants became particularly common, especially in Europe. More information

1939-45: World War II seemes to have had a great impacts on boy's clothing, as being the beginning of the end of "traditional" styles. After the War, it seems to me, that 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, "T"shirts, jeans, and long trousers took control, as well as the increase in more casual styles. The transition was at first most observable in America, but by the 1950s was evident in Europe as well. More information

Figure 2.--The Beatles had an enormous impact in popularizing long hair for boys. Looking back, however, they really didn't have very long hair.

1961: The Beatles visit America in 1961 and their hair styles were a major factor in the revolution in boys hair styling which was to come. More information

1962: The American public closely follows the hair styles and clothing of a young John F. Kennedy Jr. The bangs and shortalls worn by the todller become very popular for younger boys. More information

1965-73: The Viet Nam War and the youth movement of the 1960s had an enormous impact on boys' fashions. It spawned a rebellion of the young against all things related to the establishment, including the last vestages of formal clothing. Especially in America, with the cultural revolution, media everywhere, music and television taking its hold over the young, not to mention the Vietnam War. With the Women's Liberation movement, families suffered, and any vestiges of tradition were buried with the nuclear family of the 50's. For I think that mother's often bore the responsibility for tradition than the fathers, who took less time with their children due to the wars that drew them away. More information

1968: The Paris Student riots was a turning point for Frebch and European yiuth as well. After 1968, young Europeans increasingly exert their views on culture and fashion, demanding the casual styles that American boys have been wearing for two decades. More information

The 21st Century

Christopher Wagner

Navigate the Historic Boys' Clothing Web Site:
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Clothing styles] [Countries]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [Essays] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Satellites] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]

Created: December 30, 1999
Last updated: September 22, 2002