Japanese Boys' Clothes: Garments


Figure 1.--Here two Japanese children are conducting the teaa cremony in 1905. Most children sat the te wore traditional clothes, especuially at home. This is a colorized image. We are not sure how realistic the colors here would have been.

Japanese boys wore traditional in the 19th century. The Menji Resoration (1868) began a process of modernization in Japan, but boys for the most part wore traditional clothing in the late 19th and early 20 centuries. Girls were even slower to change. Japanese boys in the 20th century, especially after World War I (1914-18) have generally wore Western clothes. The transition to modern or Wstern garments was slower in rural areas than in the cities. Boys have, however, worn suits much less than American and European boys. Headwear has been different. Few Japanese boys have worn smocks, except for schoolwear. Boys wore a wide range of shirts. Casual "T"-shirts or other casual styles were very popular. Boys commonly wore short pants. Initially long baggy ones, but after Japan's defeat in World War II the European fashion of briefly cut shorts became very popular. Leather shoes have been worn much less than in Europe. Boys generally wore sneakers after World War II, except for very formal occasions.

Traditional Garments

We have note some Japanese children wearing folk or traditional costumes. Our information on folk costumes is very limited. Japanese Folk costumes were everyday dress in Japan through the mid-19h century. This changed with the Menji Restoration, at least for men. Women continued wearing traditional dress as did the children at first. A good example is an unidentified family during the 1880s. We also note a Christian family about 1900. Before World War II some children still wore traditional clothes as part of their ordinary dress (figure 1). This was especially common in rural areas. This disappeared after World War II. Women continued wearing traditional dressed, but gradually shifted toward Western dress like men. Some yonger children now still still do wear traditional clothing for special occassions. This appears to be more common for boys than girls but we also see little boys in traditional outfits. We note family portaits with the children dressed up in traditional outfits. A good examole is an affluent family in 2005. Some children in the West occasionally dressed up in Japanese costumes. We note, for example, a New York family in the early 20th century.

Western Garments

Japanese boys in the 20th century, especially after World War I (1914-18) have generally wore Western clothes. Boys have, however, worn suits much less than American and European boys. Headwear has been different. Few Japanese boys have worn smocks, except for schoolwear. Boys wore a wide range of shirts. Casual "T"-shirts or other casual styles were very popular. Boys commonly wore short pants. Initially long baggy ones, but after Japan's defeat in World War II the European fashion of briefly cut shorts became very popular. Leather shoes have been worn much less than in Europe. Boys generally wore sneakers after World War II, except for very formal occasions. The clothing styles worn by Japanese boys would seem to HBC to reflect a number of trends in Japan's modern history and their "pick and choose" attitude towards the West. Prussian styled school uniforms were enthusiastically adopted by Japan's militarized elite for boys, showing the admiration for the Imperial German Army. (Sailor suits were adopted for girls because of the Japanese admiration for the British Navy.) We wonder though why these uniform styles preserved long after they fell out of fashion in the West. While adapting many Western fashions and customs, there has always been an ambivalence among the Japanese towards Western influence. Many Japanese school uniforms today are distinctively Japanese; even though they were originally adopted on Prussian models. Germans tiday would be horrified at children wearing school clothing with such military styling. This style has survived so long unchanged that they have now become an element of "Japaneseness". There is an underlying admiration for hierarchy and recogmition of authority obvious in Japanese uniforms. The extreme shortness of uniformed boy's shorts during the post-World War II era with no concession to cold weather being only the most obvious example. What other explanation for the fact that the Japanese went so quickly so early for the shortshorts style that originated in france and Belgium but then hung on to it long after it had died out elsewhere? American school uniforms are recognizebly part of the same generation as contemporary boyfashions; not so in Japan where they appear to come out of a different world. Here we hope that Japanese readers will help us understand the different styles of Western clothing adopted for Japanese children and why certain styles were adopted and proved popular.








HBC





Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Cloth and textiles] [Clothing styles] [Countries] [Topics]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]



Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Japanese pages:
[Return to the Main Japanese page]
[Return to the Main country page]
[School uniforms] [Monarchy] [Youth groups] [Department store catalogs] [Music recitals] [Japanese choirs]



Created: 12:40 AM 4/17/2008
Last updated: 12:40 AM 4/17/2008