German Boys' Clothes: Garments


Figure 1.--The sailor suit was one of the most popular outfits worn by German boys. Virtually every German boy in the late 19th and early 20th century had a sailor suit. This image is undated, but HBC would estimate that it was taken in the late 1920s. Note the rather impressive hair bow the one girl sports.

Some basic information is available on the garments worn by German boys. HBC has at this time very limited information on 19th century bGerman boys' clothes. German boys do not seem to have worn Fauntleroy suits as much as boys in Frace and other neighboring countries. The garment most widely associated with German boys is lederhosen, but they are no longer commonly worn. Perhaps no other garment was more commonly worn by German boys as sailor suits. Like English boys, German boys never wore smocks to any great extent as was th case in France, Italy, and several other European countries. German boys commonly wore short pants in the early and mid-20th century like many other European boys. Kneesocks were common and boys wore white knee socks on dress occasions. Many boys wore shorts year round. Long stockings were worn with shorts during the winter months.

Headwear

HBC has just begun to collect information on German boys' headwear. Unlike the French and English, there is no boys' headwear style especially associated ith German boys. We do note that sailor hats and caps were especially popular in Germany, as were sailor suits. We have also noted rather English-looking boaters. Various styles of flat caps were also popular. Dyring the NAZI era boys wore their Hitler Youth cpas with their uniforms.

Skirted Garments

We note German boys like boys in other European countries wore a variety of skirted garments. We do not notice a great deal of difference between Germany and the rest of Europe in the early 19th century, although there may have been variations among the different states that made up Germany at the time. We do notice some differences in the late 19th century. We seem to note fewer German boys wearing dresses than in other European countries. Kilts do not seem to have been commonly worn. We do note German boys wearing tunics at the turn of the 20th century. Our information is still limited. We have begun to collect information on the different kinds of skirted garments.

Decorative Items

While most clothes are decorative to some extent, most garments have primarily practical purposes. A few items are basically decorative items without any real practical purpose. Some of the few purely decorative items are neckwear and sashes. Neckwear was of opurse much more common than sashes. And we see several different types of neckwear from flamboyant floppy bows to modest string ties. Bows were primarily neckwear, but also employed for other decorative purposes. Sashes were much less common., but we do see boys wearing them. Another decoraive item of some importance in Germany was tassles. Other itemd include belt buckles, belts, feathers, poms, and a number of other items. None of these items are exclusively German items, but belts and tassels were particularly popular in Germany. Belts are of course practical items, but we see quite a number of Germany boys wearing them as purely decorative items.

Juvenile Suits

We note German boys wearing a wide variety of juvenile suits. The most common by far was the sailor suit, but there were many other styles of suits we see Germany boys wearing. Here we are just considering the styles for younger boys once the boys were breeched. Unlike America, the Fauntleroy suit was not very popular in America, but we see a few boys wearing them. We do see a variety of velvet suits. Here we are just beginning to assess the different styles worn by younger boys.


Figure 2.-- This 1938 photo shows two little German boys, probably about 4 or 5 years old, being taken on a shopping spree by their mother and her friends. The boys are probably brothers. Perhaps they are being taken to buy new clothes. The photo was probably taken in Breslau, a city in Silesia that used to be part of Prussia but is now located in Poland. The city was part of the Third Reich when this photo was taken. The boys are quite dressed up for their adventure. One reader suggests that they both wear dressy belted overcoats with what look like large white collars. Another reader suggests that they may be wearing smocks. Underneath they wear short pants and grey or tan long stockings. They also wear low cut shoes. Notice that they are both hatless although the weather, judging by the adult outerwear, is probably chilly. Charles

Suits

HBC is just beginning to archive inforamtion on the suits worn by German boys. Unlike American suits where we have some early catalogs, we do not yet have any information on German suits, other than available images. German boys at the turn of the 20th century commonly wore kneepants suits. After World War I (1914-18), short pants suits became increasingly common, although older noys might wear knicker suits. By the 1960s, boys were increasingly wearing long pants suits. We have little information on the style of suits, but we have noted souble breasted suits at the turn of the century. Single breasted suits, however were more common. More specific details on jacket styles are not yet available.

Suit Coats

German boys have worn many of the same styles of suit jackets as worn by other European boys. Some styles like the Eton jacket seem less popular than in England or even America. Other styles like the Norfolk jackets wereexceedinging popular. We also notice the standard single and double breasdted jacket. German boys also woe blazers, but we notice than more after World war II. One very destinctive German style was the Bavarian jackdet. They were often worn with lederhosen, but not always. A HBC reader asks us, "My question has to do with this subject. Is HBC familiar with a German jacket style called "tergense", and I am not sure I have spelled this correctly. I believe this is a jacket style named after a particular geographic area in Germany, though I am not sure. I did a couple different searches on the internet, varying the spelling of the word "tergense", such as "turgense", "tuergense", "turgency", etc. and I even though it might be spelled with a "d", so I tried "durgense", or a few variations of that word. I had worn this style of jacket with my brothers when I was very young, even though we are fully "Americans", but my mother had a flair and style in clothing us when we were young. Now I am trying to find out how this word is spelled. Can you offer any help?"

Vests

The vest was normally worn as part of a suit. They were very common as part of the 19th century. We do notice other types of vests. There were sweater vests, but they were not very common. We also notice in the late 20th century boys wearing vests separately and not as pat of a suit.

Russian Blouses

The Russian blouse style was popular in Germany at the turn of the 20th century. While HBC jas only limited information, the style with the open square collar appears to have been the most popular. It was used for a variety of different outfits, but seems to have been primarily a style used in informal play outfits. They were often worn with short pants. HBC begins to notice these garments at about the turn of the 20th century. The tunic or Buster Brown suit style worn by American boys appears to have been less popular in Germany.

Play Suits

We note German boys wearing a variety of play suits in the early 20th century. They were especially popular in the 1920s. They were worn by both pre-school as well as boys in the first few year of school. They were not, however, worn to school. They were worn for ploy, especially during the warm summer months. They are quite a wide range of different play suits. They included both one- and two-piece suits. We notice a varirty of different styles including rompers and Russian blouse styles. Many of these playsuit outfits become less common in the 1930s, especially after the NAZIs seized power in 1933.

Rompers

HBC has noted some photographs of German boys wearing rompers. HBC has, however, virtually no information on German rompers. We have no writen sources converning German rompers. We have noted photographs of German boys wearing rompers hich is our primary source of information. We are also not sure just in which country they originally appeared. We note American boys wearing them in he early 20th century. Most of our German images come from snapshots taken in the 20s and 30s. Rompers were worn by younger boys up to about 4-5 years of age, perhaps even 6 years of age. As far as I know it was always a style for pre-school children. HBC is unclear as to the chronology of rompers in Germany. They seem to first appear in the 1920s and were worn through the 1960s. We noted a NAZI propaganda film made by Goebels at the Lake Wanderssee resort near Berlin in 1944 to try to prove how undisturned life in Berlin was by the war. One boy about 4 years old wears yellowish-colored rompers. This shows that rompers were worn in the 1940s. We still see them in the 1960s, although by the 1960s the age range probably decined to 3-4 years. Rompers appear to have been more popular in France and Italy, but some German boys did wear them. The colors and material involved have varied widely. They seem to have been primarily a play garment, but some dressier versions have also been noted alhough they are relatively rare. HBC has noted some photographs of German boys wearing rompers. HBC has, however, virtually no information on German rompers. They were worn by younger boys up to about 5-6 years of age. HBC is unclear as to the chronology of rompers in Germany. They seem to first appear in the 1920s and were worn through the 1960s. We are also not sure just in which country they originally appeared.

Sweaters

Sweaters are widely worn by German boys. The northern European climate makes the sweater a pratical garmen. We notice quite a few styles of complicated. This was made somewhat complicated by te fact that these garments were often hand knitted at home. Many European boys during the 1920s began wearing sweaters, which tended to to be made longer than now, over their pants--usuallly short pants. We have observed this convention in Belgium, France, Germany, and the Netherlands as well as other countries. We do not know why this convention developed. We also notice boys tucking their sweaters into their pants. An example is an unidentified schoolboy in 1943. Later the swearters became shorter and were cut at the waist and often tucked inside the pants. We also notice boys wearing belts over their sweaters which meant the belts served no real purpose other than adornment.

Shirts

We note German boys wearing te same basic shirt styles as worn by boys in other European countries. We do not know of any destinctive German shirt styles. The main variation is that some styles were more or less popular in Germany than other styles. Sailor middy blouses were especially popular for German boys. Eton collars were not very popular. Colorfu shirts suc as checks became popular for school after World War II. We have not noticed German boys extensively wearing button-down shirts. "T" shirts also became very popular after World War II.

Pants

German boys like other European boys have worn a wide variety of pants or trousers. German boys have worn knee breeches, knee pants, sort pants, knickers, and long pants. Leather lederhosen are strongly associated with Bavaria and Alpine areas of neighboring countries. The types of pants worn have varied chronologically with knee breeches perdominate in the 18th century. By the 19th centurty a wider variety of styles were worn. By the late 19th century the boys' age began to increasingly affect the style of pants worn. Kneepants were widely worn by the turn of the 20th century. Afterwards short pants became increasingly common with knickers worn by older boys. Throughout the 19th and 20 centuty long pants were also worn, but became increasingly common by the 1960s.

Uniforms

We see quite a few German boys wearin uniforms in the first hlf of the 20th century. Most of the militry unifirms are Germsn army uniforms. This includes essentially costumes younger boys wore. This was most common with military families, but it was not just popular with military familes. We do not entirely understsnd the conventions here. They may have been worn for a photograph or for various family occassions. We do bot see them being worn to school and this is confirmed by our extensive archive of German school portraits. The exception of course was the cadet uniforms worn at German military schools. We see eve more boyds weraing sailor suits, but yhis was not a uniform. With very few exceptions, sailor suits were simply an accepted style for boys and girls. We also see children wearing youth group uniforms. These groups were popular in the early-20th century, but Scouting was not as dominant as it was in other countries. During the NAZI era (1933-45), Scouting was banned anbd participstion in the Hitler Youth was mandatory.

Schoolwear

German schools have never required school uniforms as in Britain and other European countries. Even during the height of the military's popularity in Imperial Germany or the NAZI years, there was no great interest in uniforms for school children--a fact some observers find curious. A specific school uniform seems to be more an Anglo-Saxon/Brtitish Empire institution. As a result, there is no traditional German schoolboy dress as is the case of British schoolboy caps and blazers or Italian and French schoolboy smocks. Post war Germans have been especially ill-disposed toward school uniforms. Some parents, faced with rising school discipline problems are beginning to reevaluate their long-held opinions on school uniform.

Inclemate Weather Clothing

We note German boys wearing a wide range of inclemate weather gear. Located in northern Europe, the weather can be quite cold in the Winter. Thus we note boys wearing a range of warm clothing. We do not know of many destinctive German styles. We notice coats and jackets as well as a range of sweaters worn by German boys. We also notice snow suits as well as ski outfits. I'm not sure how common raincoats were. We have not noticed boys commonly wearing raincoats, but this may reflect our limited archive.

Hosiery

German boys commonly wore long stockings at the turn of the 20th century. As in other countries, black was the most common color for long stockings. Three-quarter socks wer worn, but not as commonly as in France. These were generally repalaced with kneesocks in the 1910s. Younger boys continued to wear long stockings during the colder winter months, often with short pants. Germany can be quite cold in the winter and tus those boys that wore shorts all year round might wear long over-the-knee stockings when it was cold. Kneesocks were more popular with older boys, buth they might wear knickers rather than shorts during the winter. After World War II, long stockings began to disappear, but some younger boys beginning in the late 1950s began wearing tights during the winter instead of long stockings. Tights are still worn by younger children. Older boys also wear tights, but usually for winter sports.

Stocking Supporters

Long stockings were commony worn in Germany. Even after World War I when long stockings became less commn in many other countries, they remained widely worn in Germany, especially during the Winter. We have, however, very limited informaion on stocking supporters. One German reader tells us that the kind of elaborate stocking supporters common in America were not widely worn in Germany. More common were make informal, shift devices such as elastic bands or pins. Many children wore Leibchen, a kind of bodice suit. We have no 19th century accounts, but we do have some information on the 20th century. There were two principal types of garters.

Footwear

Many German boys in the 19th century and well into the 20th century wore boot-like heavy shoes. Closed-toe sandals were worn in the early 20th century. Strap shoes might be worn by boys from afflient families. Sandals were laregely shunned under the NAZIs, although younger boys might still wear them. Adter World War II, boys began wearing open-toe sandals. Boys from working-class families in the 19th and early 20th century might wear wooden shoes, especially in northwestern Germany near the Netherlands.

Underwear

We have very limited information on German boys' underwear at this time. A French reader writes, " I didn't know what exactly the German boys were wearing before World War II. After the War, the underwear worn by German boys was like that worn by rural boys in France. We called calešon court. French city boys rediculed this garment. When I was teanager all my German and Austrian friends wore underwear almost alike the French ones." German boys wore long stockings more than French children. Thus stocking supportetrs were a more important aspect of underwear in German than in France. Here the Leibchen was particularly important. A French reader tells us, "'Ein Leibchen' is a Austrian word and in the 1950s many boys were wearing a Leibchen which were similar to those being born in worn in France. It is a sort of untershirt with a large open collar without sleeves and quite long, made in white coton, very offten ribbed. After 1930, most French boys were wearing this sort of underwear It was named " un maillot de corps ". Now we said 'un maillot de corps Marcel'. In Germany one says, 'Ein Unterhemd and not a ein Leibchen'."

Sleepwear

Our information on German sleepwear is still quite limited. Nightshirts were worn by boys and girls in the 19th century. Pajamas rapidly replace nightshirts during the early 20th centry in America and Britain. This does not seem to be nearly as common on the Continent. We see German boys wearing nightshorts commonly in the 1930s. Before World War II, we believe that nightshirts were more common than pajamas. After the War by the 1950s, pajamas had becone more common, but nightsirts were still worn. We note a 1953 German catalog with a page on sleepwear tat offered nightshirts. We note a advertisemnt for a bathrobe in the 1950s and the boy does not appear to be wearing pajamas. A British reader tells us that the boy in a family he stayed with during the 1960s wore nightshirts.

Unknown Garments

HBC has obtained some images of German boys wearing garments that we can not identify. This is because the photograph often does not show the entire garment. Hopefully we will eventually learn something about these images.

Costumes

We have noted German boys wearing a variety of costumes. We do not know much asbout this subject yet, but we hve begun to collect some basic information. Folk dress or tracht appears to have been especially popular in the late 19th abd early 20th century. We suspect that these costumes may have been more popular with the parents than the children. We notice quite a number of German children outfitted in elaborate folk outfits for formal portraits. We are unsure to what extent the children wore these outfits other than for the portraits. Did they attend church or go to parties in these outfits. We notice various other costumes such as clowns or harelequins. One costume we do not notice is that of Red Indians, yet we know that German children loved to play Indian. We do nogtice German children by the 1920s with a few items of Indian costume. This appears to have been plasy costume items rather than the more elaborate costumes in which the children were costumed.

Jewelry

We do not see many German boys wearing jrewlry. It is not always clear in the photographic record, but we have begun to collect information. e see younger boys wearing lockets. A good example is Paul Clemens in 1935..






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Created: March 10, 1999
Last updated: 11:29 PM 6/7/2018