United States Boys' Trousers/Pants: Suspension


Figure 1.--These American boys look to have been photographed in the early-20th century, probably about 1905. One boy wears knee pants held up with suspenders. I'm not sure what the problem is with his suspenders. His little brother wears a tunic suit. The bloomer knickers probably had a bodice. They look to live in a rural area or small town.

An importan elment of pants was how to hold them up. Various types of pants had features specifically designed for suspension like belt loops. There were various ways for a boy to suspend his trousers. Younger boys had a range of options, depemnding on his age and the types of pants he was wearing. Younger boys might wear a bodice, such as those worn with bloomer knickers. Underwaistrs were also used to hold up pants as well as long stockings. Button on clothing was another option. There were also suspender pans--although this was not as popular in America as it was in Europe. Related options here were bib-front and h-bar pants. Shortalls were another option. Some pants had elasticised waiss which were referred to as boxers. There were pants such as camp shorts which often had partially elasticized waists. Comparable long-alls were not as popular. Older boys might wear suspenders or belts. The various options varied in popularity over time.

Features

An importan problem presented by pants/trousers was how to hold them up. There were a number of possible sollutions. Various types of pants had features specifically designed for suspension. The most common were buttons for suspenders, button holes for button-on tops, and belt loops. Suspender pants (with the straps permanently sewed on) were not as popular in America as in Europe. An exception was bib-front versions like overalls and bib-front pants for younger boys. Pants had buttons for suspenders, commonly on the inside of the waistband. Clasp were a mid-20th century innovation. Other had button holes that accomodated buttons on button-on jackets and shirts. We note jacket-like tops in the mid-19th century. Shiets and blouses were more common by the turn-of the century. The buttons then appeared on the outside of the pants at the waistband. We are not sure yet when belt loops were first introduced, but we begin to see them commonly after World War I in the 1920s.

Methods

There were various ways for a boy to suspend his trousers. Younger boys had a range of options, depending on his age and the types of pants he was wearing. Younger boys might wear a bodice, such as those worn with bloomer knickers. Underwaistrs were also used to hold up pants as well as long stockings. Button on clothing was another option. There were also suspender pans--although this was not as popular in America as it was in Europe. Related options here were bib-front and h-bar pants. Shortalls were another option. Some pants had elasticised waists which were referred to as boxers. There were pants such as camp shorts which often had partially elasticized waists. Comparable long-alls were not as popular. Older boys might wear suspenders or belts. Suspenders were common in the late-19th and early 20th century, but by the mid-20th century began to be seen as old fashioned. Since World War II, belts have become increasingly common. Here age was a factor. Suspenders or suspender pans were seen as some appropriate for younger boys.

Chronology

The various options of trouser suspension varied in popularity over time. We have some information for the 19th century. We notice button-on clothing very commonly in the early and mid-19th century. We also notice suspenders in the 19th century, but are not yet sure when they first appeared. Younger boys at the the turn of the 20th century wore bloomer knickers with bodices. We know much more about the 20th century. We note suspenders rather than belts in the early 20th century. Trousers in the early 20th century were still not made with belt loops. Belts became increasingly popular after Word War I in the 1920s. We note button-on styles being worn very commonly during the 1920s-40s. Suspenders continued to be worn through the mid-20th century. Suspender pants in various forms were worn in the mid-20th century, but were not as common as in Europe. Shortalls were quite popular for younger boys at mid-century. After World war II boys mostly wore belts, although wesee some pre-teen boys wearing suspenders. Suspenders have never disappeared, but belts are by far the dominant type of trouser suspension.

Age Conventions

Age significantlt affected the type of trouser suspension. This is basically anatomical. Younger boys do not have prominant waistlines. Thus belts are not very effective methods of trouser suspension. The youngest children for many years did not even wear trousers. Little boys in the 19th century wore dresses or other skirted garments like tunics, smocks, and pinakors that were supported from the shoulders. Somewhat older children might war button-on garments. Here garments like skirts and trousers mkight be supported by buttoning them on to garmenmts supported from the shoulders. This could be a blouse or a form of unbderwaist. American manufacturers offerd underwaists in a large range ofstles. They were also used to support long stockings. In the 19th and early-2oth century, a boy's first suspenders were a major step in growing up. It mean that he no longer had to wear button-on clothing. The age varied from family to family. Belts did not become common until after World war I. And even then, many boys fid not wear them until about 10 yeas of age.







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Created: 7:09 AM 8/9/2007
Last updated: 5:25 PM 8/15/2011