Danish Boys' Clothes


Figure 1.--Little Danish boys, like other European boys, often wore dresses. I have no details on this photograph, but the child's hair looks much to short for a girl. (While girls generally wore their hair long, short hair was not unknown. The extremely short hair here, however, surely must have been a boy.) The image looks to have been taken in the late 1880s or early 1890s.

We have little information on destinctive Danish boys clothes. Small countries like Denmark in our modern age are less able to set fashion trends. This was not always the case. Before the advent of modern mass media, small communities often had destinctive dress. This is reflected in the folk costumes worn for special occasions throughout Europe. Generally speaking, however, boys' folk costumes, after breeching, were simply scaled down versions of their fathers' costumes. Danish boys in our modern era have generally followed trends sent in Germany and other Scandinavian countries. Denmark may have also have some impact on boys' clothing in other countries in tht the Princess Alexandra (1844-1925) married the English Prince of Wales and yheway their two sons were dressed had some imact on English fashions which in turn were very influential in other countries, especially America. Photographs of the royal family at the turn of the century show the young prince wearing dresses. In one photograph he wears a sailor dress--a demonstration of the popularity of sailor suits in Denmark. Social and economic factors influenced a boys clothing. Boys from families of modest income would begin wearing adult clothing sooner than boys from families with more modest incomes. This was in part because they had to enter the work plave sooner. One Danish reader reports that a relative in the 1910s at age 14 was wearing adult clothing.

Information Needed

A HBC reader writes, "I'm sorry you forget about Denmark. It's not an unimportant country on world basis. It's one of the Scandinavian countries, and I wonder why people mistake us for Swedes. We have had many wars against that country." Our reader is certainly correct that Americans are not well informed about geography. Here at HBC, we have not forgotten about Denmark. We would indeed like to add more information about Denmark. The problem is that we rely primarily on readers in each country to supply us information and few Danes have made contributions to HBC. We have been able to collect very little information on Danish boys clothes to date. Any information HBC visitors may have would be most appreciated. HBC is especially hopeful that Danish readers will provide some information about the clothes they wore as boys.

Influences

Small countries like Denmark in our modern age are less able to set fashion trends. This was not always the case. Before the advent of modern mass media, small communities often had destinctive dress. This is reflected in the folk costumes worn for special occasions throughout Europe. Generally speaking, however, boys' folk costumes, after breeching, were simply scaled down versions of their fathers' costumes. Danish boys in our modern era have generally followed trends sent in Germany and other Scandinavian countries. Denmark may have also have some impact on boys' clothing in other countries in tht the Princess Alexandra (1844-1925) married the English Prince of Wales and yheway their two sons were dressed had some imact on English fashions hich in turn were very influential in other countries, especially America.

History

Denmark is the smallest and most southerly of the Scandinavian nations. Denmark controls the Skagerrak and Kattegat which separate the North Sea from the Baltic, a very strategic location which has played a major role in its history. Scandinavia was occupied by the northern Germanic tribes, largely unknown to the Romans. They thus appear in written histories later than the Western and Eastern tribes. The northern tribes first enter history with the Anglo-Saxon invasions of Britain. The Angles, Saxons, and Jutes came from the Jutland Peninsula and the area ar the south of the Peninsula. The tribes again enter history with the Viking raids that began on northern England and eventually enveloped much of Europe. The great paradox of Danish history is that this democratic and peaceful country was once the terror of Europe. During the 9th century the name Denmark (Danmark: "border district of the Danes") was first used. The Vikings pillaged large coastal areas of England, Scotland, Ireland, and France. Soon their focus shifted from raiding to settlement. The Danes succeed in conquerung England. They also conqured large areas of the Baltic litoral. Denmark eventually ruled over much of Scandinavia as well as Iceland. Danish rule and their common Germanic origins means that Scandinvia has developed a common Nordic culture. Denmark located next to Germany was exposed to encroachment from the south. And ultimtely the country was unable to compete with its much larger southern nation. Denmark's last major role in European history was the support to the Protestant princes of Germany during the Reformation and the Thirty Years War. The shape of modern Denmark was formed at the Congress of Vienna. As Denmark had sided with Napoleon, Norway was given to Sweden and Pomerania to Prussia. Major contitutional reforms in the 19th century converted Demark into a parlimentary democracy. The country remained neutral in World War I (1914-18) and after the War began to build the modern welfare system (1933). The country attempted to remaun neutral in World war II, but was invaded and occupied by NAZI Germany (1940). It was liberated by the British at the end of tthe War (1945).

Chronology

We have very little chronolgical information on Danish boys clothes at this time. Photographs of the royal family at the turn of the century show the young prince wearing dresses. In one photograph he wears a sailor dress--a demonstration of the popularity of sailor suits in Denmark. We note a painting of a boy who we believe may be a Danish boy in the early 20th century, but we are not sure.

Social Factors

Social and economic factors influenced a boys clothing. Boys from families of modest income would begin wearing adult clothing sooner than boys from families with more modest incomes. This was in part because they had to enter the work plave sooner. One Danish reader reports that a relative in the 1910s at age 14 was wearing adult clothing.

Garments

Only limited information is available at this time on the garments worn by Danish boys. Younger Danish boys as in the rest of Europe wore dresses. Play suits became more common by the 1920s. Younger boys wore dresses and other skirted garments as in the rest of Europe. Smocks were not very common, but were worn--mostly by boys from affluent families. We know that sailor suits were very popular in Denmark. The Danish princes were commonly photographed wearing sailor suits. The styles we have seen were very traditionally styled. Boys mostly wore kneepants in the late 19th century, but gradually changged to short pants after the turn of the century. Older boys might wear knickers. Sweaters were a very popular garment given Denmark's northern location and often chilly weather. Younger boys after breeching might wear a play suit. These suits often had Russian square collars. These suits appeared in the 1900s and were commonly worn in the 1910s. They declined in popularity after the 1920s.


Figure 2.--Sailor suits were very popular in Denmark by the 1870s or 1880s. These brothers were photographed at the turn of the century. The younger brother wore a rather plain suit, large collar, and large bow. The older boy wears a traditional knepamts sailor suit. Note the hair parts on different sides.

Styles

HBC still has only limited information on the clothing styles worn by Danish boys. We do believe, however, that sailor suits were especially popular until the 1940s.

Sailor Suits

Sailor suits have been one of the most popular styles worn by Danish boys. I'm not sure when the style became popular, but it was a favorite with parents by the 1880s and popular with boys as well. They were mostly worn with knepants and long stockings until the 1910s when short pants became more popular. Some mothers dressed through the 1920s might dressed all of the children in sailor suits, until the boys were well into their teens.

Activities

An interesting section of our website is the activities section. Here we archive the various activitities in which boys pursued in different countries and the clothes they wore for those pursuits. We have some limited information on childhood activities in Denmark. Our assessment is somewhat impaired by the fact that Denmark is such a small country and as a result the photographic record is relatively small. School of course is the primary activty pusued by children. We do have a school section. We do not yet have a complete holiday section, but we do have a Christmas page. We do not have much information on play and games. As far as we know the games played were largely the same as Germany. We do not know of any destinctive Danish games. The primary sport is soccer, as is the case in most of Europe. We notice Danish boys enjoying summer camping. We do not know a lot asbout summer camping in Denmark, but it probably developed in the inter-War period. Religion was an important activity in Denmark. The country became Protestant early in the Reformation. Like much of Europe, religion today has much less importance than ikn the past. The principal youth group is the Scouts. Hopefully our Danish readers will provide information about boyhood activities in Denmark.

Families

Available images of Danish families provide interesting insights on how Danish boys were dressed as well as how other members of the family were dressed. Often boys of similar age were dressed similarly. The sailor suit was one of the most popular garmenmenrs, but by the 1930s was beginning to be worn less.

Hair Styles

HBC has little information on the hair styles worn by Danish boys. Most appear to be quite short hair cuts. In fact, many school-age children in the early 20th century had their hair cropped. I do not know if this was a school requirement or rather just a popular style. HBC has seen boys in several European countries (Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, and others) in the early 20th century wearing similar styles. Long hair began to become very popular in the 1960s.

Gender

We do not yer hve much information in Dnish fashions gender trends. Our Sanish archive is very limited making it impossible to go very deeply into the topic. Denmark is a very small country and thus will not have a photographic record like the larger countriesfor wjoch we have substatial archives. Denmark borders Germany to the south. As best we can tell, German children's clothing for both boys and girls were similar to German styles, at least popular styles in northern Germany. We do not see soutern/Alpine styles like Kederhosen. We do noy ter know much about girls' styles. We are not sure, for exmple, about the dirndl. Hopefully as we acquire more images, we can begin to assess gender trends.

Regional Differences

We do not yet have any information on regional differences in Denmark. While a small country, there are often destinct regional differences even within small European countries. These differences have declined markedly since World War II (1939-45), but were often of some signicance before the War. In addition, two territories are associated with the Danish crown, the Faeroes Island and Greenland. Iceland was also once assiciated with Denmark. HBC has noted that a Faeroes reader is a frequent visitor to our site. We haope that this visitor will at some point provides some information on the Faeroes.

Minorities

The largest minority group in Denmark is Germans. Denmark was once a major European power. The border between Denmark and Germany has thus varied over time. It was largely settled with the Danish War (1864) engineeerd by Chancellor Otto von Bismarck. One of the results of the War that the Danish Princess who married the Prince of Wales became an influential anti-German voice in a Britain that still saw France as their great enemy. Another consequence was that there ws aerman minority in Denmark and a German minority in Denmak. There was also a small Jewish minority which the courageous Danish people managed to save during World war II. Since World War II Muslims from various Middle-Eastern countries have immigrated to Denmark, attracted by the traditionally tolerant Danish society.

Photography

Much of Denmark's early photographer comes from individuals trained in Germany. One important early photographer was Georg Emil Hansen (1833-91). He was born in Naestved in southern Sealand. He learned the art of daguerreotyping while workingb in his father's studio. C.C. Hansenwho had begun taking daguerreotypes portraits (1849). He sent his son to study photography in Germany. Father nd son set up a studi near Kongens Nytorv in the centre of Copenhagen (1854). George opened a studio of his own (1856). It was located in Bredgade and later in Ostergade. He developed a solis reputation and was appointed court photographer to the Danish monarchy. Perhaps because of family connections, he also photographed the English, Russian, and Greek royal families. Once albumen prints using negative appeared, Hnsen becanme sucessful selling CDV portraits of the royal family. A Danish reader makes a valuable comment in assessing historical photographs. He writes, "I am descendant of lower middleclass, and only few photographs exist from our family exist from the 19th century. There was no money for such a luxury as photography’s in my family. In fact I only know two photos from that time." This is an imprtant point and HBC readers should realize that there the available photographic record is biased in the direction of affluent families with disposable income. This is especially true of the early years when it a photographic portrait was very expensivem especilly in real terms (adjusted to income levels). By the late 19th centurty, however, photographic portraits had become less expensive, within the buying power of all but the poorest families.

Art

HBC has so far acquired only limited information on Danish art or artists from Denmark who have painted interesting works illustrating boys' fashions. At this point, while we can noy yet comment on Danish art, we can list Danish artists who come to our attention. Hopefully our Danish readers will provide more information on their country's art. We have noted the work of four Danish artists: Aigens, Meyer, Schith-Jensen, and Seligmann. Unfortunately we have been able to find relatively little information about these artists.

Movies

HBC know litttle about Danish films at this time. The country does have a film industry, but is limted by the small population and the limited market for Danishp-language films outside Denmark. The only fim we currently know of is "You Are Not Alone" (1980/82). Some foreign films have been set in Denmark. Hopefully Danish readers can suggest some important films which could be added to our list. The historical accuracy is a factor which must be considered in considering these films.

Hans Christian Anderson

The Danny Kaye movie in 1952 was a big budget Hollywood production detailing the life of the famed Danish story teller. I'm not sure about the accuracy of the costuming nor do I recall at this time the context of the boy with the shaved head.

Individual Accounts

HBC has not yet received any accounts from Danish readers describing their boyhood experiences. One of the most famous Danes is Neils Bohr. Information about him and his family provide insisights into how boys from a prosperous family dressed for a considerable time in Denmark. We have noted a fascinating book by Kaare Westergaard. The author relates his own adventures in the city of Copenhagen. Jan himself liked the things all boys favoured. He went cycling, camping, swimming and played football with his friends. Above all, he enjoyed life and what it had to offer. His school life was filled with adventure and honest work.







HBC






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Created: September 18, 1998
Last updated: 3:12 PM 2/10/2017