United States Boys' Clothes Chronology: The 1910s--Garments


Figure 1.--

We note a variety of trends involving the various garments worn by American boys during the 1910s. The fashion of outfitting boys in dresses continued to be quite common at the turn of the century, but by the 1910s it was becoming less common. Little boys more commonly wore the newer fashions like rompers, tunic suits, and short pants. The custom of little boys wearing dresses did not disappear entirely. The style of the dresses increassingly were plainer frocks and not the more fancy girlish styles with elaborate lace and ruffle trim. Rompers were widely worn by boys after the turn of the century. They may have appeared before 1900, but they were not widely worn in the 1890s. I am not sure preciselt when rompers first appeared. I'm also not sure how they varied in the 1900s and 1910s. (Any insights HBC visitors might have would be most appreciated. They were a style for generally younger boys. Many of the boys outfitted in rompers might have worn dresses before the turn of the century. They were an informal style in the early 20th Century, but some dressier styles appeared in the 1920s and later period. One of the most characteristic styles of the early 20th Century in America was the tunic suit. This style was most popular in the 1900s, but still widely worn at the beginning of the 1910s. By the end of the decade, however, it had passed from the fashion scene. Many mothers who might have dressed their boys in dresses, instead appear to have chosen the related tunic style. To many boys, tunics were preferable to dresses as they good wear knicker-like bloomers that showed they were no longer wearing girlish dresses. A variety of outfits appeared for younger boys not yet deemed old enough for more mature looking suits. These outfits usually were made with short pants, usually cut rather long at knee-length. Shorter short pants did not begin to appear until the 1920s. These suits were often worn with white socks, but long stockings were still worn. Some still had the belted-styling of the tunic suit. Both colored and stripped material were common. The outfits varied greatly. American boys mostly wore knee pants at the turn of the century. As the decade progressed knickers became increasingly popular, but during the 1910s kneepants were still very common. younger boys still wore knee pants and by the end of the decade some boys were wearing the new short pants that had become popular in England. Younger boys also wore a kind of above the knee bloomer pants that were worn under tunic suits. Older boys as the decade progressed increasingly were wearing knickers, but there are many images showing older boys wearing knee pants during the decade. Knickers were not new. They had been worn in England for decades. The were also worn in America during the 19th Century, but were much less common than knee pants. The short pants that were increasingly worn in Europe at this time never proved as popular in America. Younger boys still wore wide-brimmed hats. The extremely wide-brimmed straw hats worn by very little boys in the 1900s were now less common. Some sailor hats had the brims turned down. Boys also wore sailor caps with rhe still popular sailor suit. Older boys might wear straw boaters. The most common style had by the 1910s, however, become the flat cap. Younger boys might wear strap shoes for dressy occasions. High top shoes continued to be commonly worn. They were mostly lace up shoes because button shoes were increasingly less worn. The low-cut oxford shoe began to increase in importance. We see knee socks, but they were not yet very common, children continued wering three-quter ocks nd long stockings.

Headwear

Younger boys still wore wide-brimmed hats. The extremely wide-brimmed straw hats worn by very little boys in the 1900s were now less common. Some sailor hats had the brims turned down. Boys also wore sailor caps with rhe still popular sailor suit. Older boys might wear straw boaters. The most common style had by the 1910s, however, become the flat cap.

Skirted Garments


Dresses

The fashion of outfitting boys in dresses continued to be quite common at the turn of the century, but by the 1910s it was becoming less common. Little boys more commonly wore the newer fashions like rompers, tunic suits, and short pants. The custom of little boys wearing dresses did not disappear entirely. The style of the dresses increassingly were plainer frocks and not the more fancy girlish styles with elaborate lace and ruffle trim. The age of the boys wearing dresses had declined signifantlty. While the practice of outfitting boys in dresses, continued in the 1910s, it was becoming much less common and by the end of the decade after the War it was no longer a common practice except for infants.

Tunics

One of the most characteristic styles of the early 20th Century in America was the tunic suit. This style was most popular in the 1900s, but still widely worn at the beginning of the 1910s. By the end of the decade, however, it had passed from the fashion scene. Many mothers who might have dressed their boys in dresses, instead appear to have chosen the related tunic style. To many boys, tunics were preferable to dresses as they good wear knicker-like bloomers that showed they were no longer wearing girlish dresses. There were several types of tunics, Russian tunics and Buster Brown tunics were some of the most popular. The sailor style was also very common. One characteristic feature of all these styles was a decorative belt that had no real use. It could be the same color as the tunic or a contrasting color. Tunics by the 1910s were mostly worn with short hair cuts. Ringlet curls, especially as te decade progressed, became increasingly less common. Many boys still wore Buster Brown bangs with their tunics, but increasingly common were short hair cuts.

Rompers

Rompers were widely worn by boys after the turn of the century. They may have appeared before 1900, but they were not widely worn in the 1890s. I am not sure preciselt when rompers first appeared. I'm also not sure how they varied in the 1900s and 1910s. (Any insights HBC visitors might have would be most appreciated. They were a style for generally younger boys. Many of the boys outfitted in rompers might have worn dresses before the turn of the century. They were an informal style in the early 20th Century, but some dressier styles appeared in the 1920s and later period.


Figure 3.--Outfits for little boys began appearing in the 1910s. Some were dressy, others were designed as play suits.

Little Boy Outfits

A variety of outfits appeared for younger boys not yet deemed old enough for more mature looking suits. These outfits usually were made with short pants, usually cut rather long at knee-length. Shorter short pants did not begin to appear until the 1920s. These suits were often worn with white socks, but long stockings were still worn. Some still had the belted-styling of the tunic suit. Both colored and stripped material were common. The outfits varied greatly. Most were functional, plain suits much more practical than the fussy Fauntleroy suits once worn by little boys. Some were made for dressy occasions while increasingly more were made as play suits--a harbinger of the casual styles to come.


Figure 4.--Boys in the 1910s began to wear knickers with socks rather than long stockings. Notice the younger boy has not yet outfitted with a Norfolk jacket like his older brothers.

Pants

American boys mostly wore kneepants at the turn of the century. As the decade progressed knickers became increasingly popular, but during the 1910s kneepants were still very common. younger boys still wore kneepants and by the end of the decade some boys were wearing the new short pants that had become popular in England. Younger boys also wore a kind of above the knee bloomer pants that were worn under tunic suits. Older boys as the decade progressed increasingly were wearing knickers, but there are many images showing older boys wearing knee pants during the decade. Knickers were not new. They had been worn in England for decades. The were also worn in America during the 19th Century, but were much less common than kneepants. The short pants that were increasingly worn in Europe at this time never proved as popular in America. Younger boys wore shorts, but not older boys. Even American Boy Scouts during the 1910s mostly wore knickers--the only group of Scouts in the world not to wear shorts. American boys wore knickers various lengths. The knickers most popular in the 1910s buckled above the knee. Boys much preferred the style that buckled below the knee. Some arguments ensued with mothers who insisted that their sons buckle their knickers above the knee. Many boys would rebuckle them below the knee as soon as they left the house. Knickers were worn by a large cross section of American boys, including older teenagers. It was not unusual to see high-school aged boys, even the upperclassmen wearing knickers. Long pants for American boys were not unusual, althogh kneepants and by the 1910s, knickers, were much more common. Rural boys, however, did commonly wear long pants--usually blue jeand which were then called overalls. Bib front overalls were the most common style. They were not much worn in the cities. Boys might wear white knickers during the summer. This was the only decade in which white knickers were commonly worn. Younger boys might wear white short pants. Adults also wore white pants during the summer--usually flannels. Boys in Europe during the 1910s began wearing suits with short pants. The knicker fashion was much less common. American boys did not, however, begin wearing short pants suits. Youngervboys did begin wearing various short pants outfits, but not suits. Almost all American boys in this era wore knicker suits.

Suits

Boys by the age of about 8 years wore suits, with jackets often styled like thiose worn by adults. Younger boys might have casual looking open collars. One of the most popular style was the Norfolk suit with all kinfs of pockets and belts. Other more modern looking single and double breasted styles were also worn. Older boys would usually wear ties--the first decade in which modern ties appeared. Almost all of thee suits were worn with knickers. Even older boys commonly wore knicker suits.

Hosiery

American boys continued wearing shortened-length pants in the 1910s. There was, however, a major departure from European trends. American boys generally shifted from the knee pants worn in the 1900s to the knickers worn in the 1910s. Baden Powell's Boy Scouts began to popularize kneesocks in the 1910s, but this does not seem to have had a major impact on the hosiery boys wore. We do not see knickers nearly as commonly in Europe. This was the first major departure for fashions between American and Europe. At about the same time another major difference occurred, overalls became commonly worn in rural areas. I am not sure what kind of hosiery these boys wore. Many came to school barefoot during the warmer months. Most American boys continued wearing long stockings. We see some boys wearing knee socks with above-the-knee knicklers showing their knees, but this was not very common. The exception here was boys in rural areas who cane to school in overalls that became popular in the 1900s. Black long stockings were still very popular and widely worn by boys and girls. Most school photographs show boys coming to school in knickers and long stockings. We see younger boys wearing knee pants with three-quarter socks, mostly during the summer.

Long Stockings

American boys in the 1910s still commonly wore long stockings with knickers. Yonger boys commonly wore white stockings which was considred a rather dressy look. Long white stockings were very fashionable for youngr boys and girls early in the decade, but were not commonly worn by boys by the end of the decade. Yonger boys might go barefoot or wear socks, but until the 1910s it was not common to see older boys in socks. This was most common in the summer. The uncomfortable long stockings were increasingly replaced with socks, often three-quarter length socks. Rompers became very popular for younger boys. Increasingly as the decade progressed, some boys began wearing their knickers with socks--usually three-quarter length socks.

Knee Socks

Knee socks were introduced in the 1910s. At first they seem to be just rolled down long stockings. They were not commonly worn until the 1920s. Long stockings were still much more common. It is a little diffucult to assess because boys wore knee pants covering the knee. Thus it is difficult to tell the length of hosiery. This only becomes easy to se when boys begn wearing short pants.

Footwear

Younger boys might wear strap shoes for dressy occasions. High top shoes continued to be commonly worn. They were mostly lace up shoes because button shoes were increasingly less worn. The low-cut oxford shoe began to increase in importance.









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Created: 4:09 PM 8/20/2017
Last updated: 4:09 PM 8/20/2017