United States Boys' Headwear


Figure 1.--These Children photographed in New Orleans during 1901 show many of the popular cap styles of the time in America. There were quite a variety of popular cap styles. This changed uin the 1910s when the flat cap became the standard American styole and the peaked cap began to become associate with a higher social status and eventually a younger boy's style.

American boys in the 18th century wore three-corner hats just like their dads. Boys on the frontier may have worn coon-skin caps like Davy Crockett, but this was not a specialized boy's style. The first specialized children's hat was probably the wide-brimmed sailor hat made popular in England and worn by American boys through the early 20th century. Tams were popular for a while, but became seen as more of a girl's garments as did berets which for a while were worn by younger boys. The flat cap which appeard at the turn of the century became a universally popular style for boys after World War I (1914-18) in the 1920s. There were specialized winter styles with ear flaps and fur. Stocking caps became popular winter caps. Affluent boys might wear English-styled peaked caps with short pants suits. A few younger boys wore berets. Cowboy hats were popular wth boys, but more as a novely or play cap. Coon-skin caps made a brief appearance in the 1950s. The principal development after World War II (1939-45) was the declining popularity of caps and hats of all kinds. American boys who once never left home without a cap, now commonly did so. The emergence of the baseball cap, complete with the athletic team logo of choice, in the 1970s as the head covering of choice for the American boy was a fashion statement which has now spread around the world.

Chronology

American boys in the 18th century wore three-corner hats just like their dads. Boys on the frontier may have worn coon-skin caps like Davy Crockett, but this was not a specialized boy's style. The first specialized children's hat was probably the wide-brimmed sailor hat made popular in England and worn by American boys through the early 20th century. We note a number of fashionable headwear styles in the 19th century. A good example are the Glengary and sailot caps shown ina 1878 fashion magazine. Tams were popular for a while, but became seen as more of a girl's garments as did berets which for a while were worn by younger boys. The flat cap which appeard at the turn of the century became a universally popular style for boys after World War I (1914-18) in the 1920s. There were specialized winter styles with ear flaps and fur. Stocking caps became popular winter caps. The principal development after World War II (1939-45) was the declining popularity of caps and hats of all kinds. American boys who once never left home without a cap, now commonly did so. The emergence of the baseball cap, complete with the athletic team logo of choice, in the 1970s as the head covering of choice for the American boy was a fashion statement which has now spread around the world.

Social Class

Fashions often have social class connotations. This varies over time. Here the economic expansion of the United states was a factor. Ameriva's indutrial development created enormous wealth. Drawing large numbers of individuals from modest rural origins into the growing cities and prosperous middle class. In the 19th century, especially the early 19th century, class destinctions were primarily a matter of cost and materials. As the American economy develooed and the buying power of even humble Americn grew, the social class destinctiins wre more stylistic than cost. Boys from affluent families often wore destinctive hat or cap styles. There were a number of fashionable styles in the 19th century, especially during the second half of the century. Affluent boys in the first half of the 20th century boys might wear English-styled peaked caps with short pants suits. A few younger boys wore berets. These social class differences gradually disappeared in the second half of the century. In the post-World War II there was still come class destinctions, especially with the peaked cap. We see some boys weating fedoras when dressing up with suits. They seem primarily middle-class families. but we are mot sure about the social class conventions. Our initial assessment is that they were families with working-class origins that had recently entered the middlke-class. This wa the time when weaing headwear was declining, except for inclement weather. By the 1970s the primcipal headwear styles were casual ones like baseball caps. By this time there were no longer important social class differences.

Specialized Styles

We note some styles that seem uniquely American Cowboy hats were popular wth boys, but more as a novely or play cap. Coon-skin caps made a brief appearane in the 1950s. Of course the American cap that has had the greates impact around the world is the baseball cap. Some headwear had mixed usages. The aviator caps or hemets were novelty styles, but they were very warm winter caps as well.

Specific Styles

We note American boys wearing many different styles of caps and hats. Caps were more common for boys than hats, but we see boys wearing both. The basic difference is the bbrim. A hat has a full brim while a cap has only a partial brim. There were also a range of other headwear such as berets, hetmets, and knit caps. These items are commonly referred to as caps as well even though they did not have brims. We do not have much information on 18th century styles, but we have a good bit of information about 19th and 20th century styles. We notice boys wearing sailor hats, but no other hat style was especially common for boys, although seceral were worn. Hats seem some what more common for upper clas families, but this destinction does not seem as prominant as is the case for adults. we have not noted any new styles in the 21st century. Some cap styles like sailor caps, flat caps, anf baseball caps were particularly common for boys, but there are many other styles worn as well.

Associated Items

Both caps and hats may have a variety of asociated items. Sometimes they do not show up on the photographic record, but our archive is large enough that we have found examples. Three of the most important are chin straps, bands, and streamers. They are used in many different types and styles of headwear. These decorative items are especially associated with sailor headwear, in part because they actually were used with sailor uniforms. For the children they were decorative features. Streamers were very popular, esoecially with sailor headwear, but we also nitice them with Scottish headwear. Sailor styles were, however much more common. The problem with streamers is that they often are not observable in standard portraits which are usually frontal shots. Hat bands on sailor headear are called tallies and had the name of the ship that the sailor was serving on. These bands are most associated with hats, but sailor caps were also done with bands/tallies. They commonly ended in streamers. We also notice chin straps on sailor caps and hats. We believe chin staps were fairly common, at least in the 19th century, but rarely show up in the photographic record, this does not mean, however, that the hats and even caps did not have them. They probably were most common with broad-brimmed sailor hats. Less common were embroidered emblems on sailor caps. This may have been more common in Europe.

Conventions

Men and boys both wore caps and hats and there were a variety of conventions associated with their headwear. Age was an important factor. Formality was an important factor. Headwear was more common in the 19th than 20th century, but it was especially common for formal occassions. Thus we see headwear more commonly for church or other special occassions than for play. This of course varied over time. Children once dressed up to go to school which meant wearing headwear. As schoolwear became more casual, children less commonly wore headwear to school. Seasonality was another facor. There were also various styles of cold weather caps. There were also summer styles like sun hats and wide-brimmed sailor hats. Other caps were worn year round. We note peaked caps and flat caps in the early 20th century. Headwear was also worn for sports and casual occassions. became less common after World War II, but baseball caps eventually became fashion statements.

Age Trends

Boys wore headwear identical or similar to adult styles as well headwear especially for boys. The conventions and the headwear styles have changed over time, including the modern tendency not to commonly wear headwear. Until the 1960s, headwear was very common for both boys and men. As far as we can tell, the headwear worn in the 18th century was the sanme for men and boys. The tri-corner hat was the standard. There may have been some scattered exceptions such as destinctive headwear at a few schools. This mirrired other garments because until the appearance of the skeleton suit late in the late-18th century, there were no dedicated boys' styles. This changed in the 19th century when many decicated style appeared for chikdren, especially boys. We see boys in the early-19th century wearing military-styled caps, sometime called Oliver Twist caps. We also see many boys wearing rounded-crown caps for much of the 19th century. This was a style much less common for adults, although we do ee clerics wearing this sttle. A variety of cap and hat style appered in the late-19th century for boys. Both sailor hats ad caps were popular styles. Curiously we some times see bots wearing adult style such as bowler hats. This sometime was seen in welthy families. This change general pattern continued in the 20th century. we see a variety of caps in the 1900s including peaked caps and sailor styles, but by the 1910s it was tge fkat cap that predominated, The flat cap was popular in America. It was a style also worn by men, but not as commonly and had social-class connotations that were not the case for boys. Major adult style were bowler, hombergs, and fedora. We see some boys wearing these hats, but not nearly as commonly as with adults.

Gender Trends

There have been destinctive gender trends in headwear over time. Girls in the 19th centuyry mostly wore binners and hats. Sailor-styled hats became popular at mid-century. We occassionaly see girls wearing Scottish cpas, but this was not very commpn. Tams and berets began to become popular in the late 19th century. Only in the late-20th century do we see some girls wearing caps to any extent mostly baseball caos. We see Brownies (junior girl Scouts) wearing beanies in the mid-mid-20th centuty. Boys on the other hand wore both hats and caps. We note military-styled caps in the early-20th century. Rounded-crown hats were popular during the mid- and late-19th century. We notice boys after mid-century wearing both sailor hats and caps. Wide-brimmed sailor hats were worn by both boys and girls. At the turn-of-the 20th century we see boys wearing quite a range of different caps styles including the peaked-cap, and flat cap. The flat cap like corduroy knickers became a standard style by the 1910s. In the inter-War era in addition to flat caps we see beanies and boys from more affluent families wearing peaked caps. During the War boys might wear swabie caps. At the mid-20th centrury we see some boys wearing fedora hats when dressing up. After mid-century headwear tended to go out of style, except the baseball cap and of course cold weather togs for winter.






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Created: December 15, 2003
Last updated: 12:15 AM 7/25/2013