United States Boys' Clothes: The Late 20th Century

Figure 1.--American boys of all ages in the 1970s and 80s were commonly wearing short pants for the first time.

America basically followed European fashions in through the early 20th century, although two classic styles Fautleroy suits and Buster Brown suits did originate in America. After World War I, American and European fashions diverged. Short pants were never as popular in America as in Europe. American boys more commonly wore knickers. It was after World War II, however, that American styles began to dominate childhood fashions around the world. The smart, wealthy set in America still looked for Europe to set fashions. But American boys knew what they wanted and it wasn't Italian strap sandals and English short pants suits. It was "T" shirts and blue jeans. By the 1950s this was a virtual uniform of American boyhood. In the next decade these styles spread to Europe and eventually around the world. Even the Iron Curtain and the KGB was powerless against the relentless onslaught of American fashion. Today virtually any where you go you see baseball caps, "T" shirts, and jeans.

The 1970s

The 1960s was the decade of the Hippies in America. In the 1970s the hippies put polyester. Major changed occurred in boys clothing in the 1970s. Probably more bizzare chldren's and teen fashions emerged during the 1970s than in any other decade. Bell-bottom jeans were thein thing. While polyester ruled, jeans began to move into the cuktural mainstream and became fashionable. The move since the 1920s had been to casual clothing. Casual clothing by the 1970s finally became increasingly acceptable in a variety of social occasions that one required more formal dress. All kinds of jeans were worn and they emerged as fashion statements. Children eventually demanded designer jeans. Other insisted on buying jeans that looked worn or even torn. The "T" shirt emerged as a major fashion, especially ones with statesments, logos, or athletic or music group images. Boys in the 1970s, no longer dressed up in short pants and kneesocks, except for the very youngest and even younger boys wanted longs by the 1980s. While boys didn't want to dress up in short pants, they increasingly wanted to wear shorts for casual wear. Many differnt kinds of shorts appeared, cutoffs, runnng shorts, OPs, camp shorts and others. Many boys wore cutoffs that would notwear any other type of shorts. Not only were more boys wearing shorts, but the Bermudas of the 1960s gave way to a popular shorter length.

The 1980s

Many of the fashion trends of the 1970s continued. The trend toward leisure wear was the major trend. Some of the more bizzare fashion trends of the 1970s disappeared. Boys' hair became shorter. Even little boys no longer dressed up in short pants and kneesocks. While boys didn't want to dress up in short pants, virtually all boys wore shorts for casual wear. They even became acceptable for school wear in elementary school. Secondary sudents mostly wore longs, jrans were now allowed. California boys, however, comminly wore shorts to high school. A single ear ring began to appear on teenage ears.

The 1990s

The style of shorts changed dramatically in the 1990s to longer, baggier styles to match the oversized hiphop jeans that had become popular. Increasingly fashion in America was being set by the black getto rather than the elite 5th Avenue elite. Not only did boys wear baggy shorts, but they wanted pants several sizes too large. Many wanted their underwear band to show. Earings were everywhere. Even elementary boys wanted them, esecially after seeing Michael Jordon wearing them.

Personal Accounts and Articles

The 1970s: Jeans-A Minority View
The 1970s: The Disco Era
The 1970s-80s: Hated styles
The 1980s: Smart Clothes/Mother's efforts
The 1990s: A Girl's view


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Created: January 22, 1999
Last updated: 4:29 AM 11/30/2007