American Boys' Garments: Collars

floppy bows Eton collars Peter Pan collars
Figure 1.--This boy from Perth Amboy, New Jersey looks to have had his portrait taken in the early 1900s, probably anout 1910. He is probably wearing a new suit. Given the prayer book it may have been a confirmation portrait. He looks to be wearing a detachable Eton collar (presumably with a shirt waist) with a large white floppy bow, Click on the image to see an earlier portrait of the same boy in his First Communion suit.

Collars are one of the most prevalent shirt features. We do not much have much information on the early 19th century. Collars on boys' shirts tended to be very small in the mid-19th century. A good example is the Wallis brothers in 1852. Collars increased in size by the late 19th century. There were different types of collars, most prominantly attached and detachable collars. There were also various collar styles. Younger boys in the late-19th century might wear lace collars. We also note plainer Eton and Peter Pan collars, although that term was not yet used. By the turn of the 20th century, ruffled collars becamme more common. A good example here is a boy in Washington, Pennsylvania about 1905. Many school age boys in the late 19th and early 20th century wore Eton collars when dressing up. By the 1950s preppy styles were popular, Many boys wore shirts with button-down collars. Collarless "T" shirts became increasing popular in the latter patof the 20th century. One reader writes in 2006, "I have great difficulty getting my son who is in 5th grade to dress up. He doesn't even like collared shirts and insists on wearing T-shirts to school because of peer presure. He tells me, 'Mom the other guys don't wear those shirts."

Shirt/Blouse Element

Collars are one of the most prevalent shirt features. Often in the 19th century they were the oinly part of the blouse or shirt that could be seen. Some fancy styles, especially Fauntleroy blouses had matching collars and cuffs. Often the name of collar was how the whole shirt or blouse was reffered to as.

Chronology

We do not much have much information on the early 19th century. Collars on boys' shirts tended to be very small in the mid-19th century. A good example is the Wallis brothers in 1852. Collars increased in size by the late 19th century in some cases becoming huge. We note a range of collar styles for boys in the late 19th century. The governing rule seems to have been that the younger the boys the larger the collar. Younger boys in the late-19th century might wear lace collars and slightly later ruffled collars. Some were quite large and often worn with floppy bows. We also note plainer Eton and Peter Pan collars. These could be quite large as well, but not as large as the lace and ruffled collars By the turn of the 20th century, ruffled collars becamme more common. Many school age boys in the late 19th and early 20th century wore Eton collars when dressing up. Gradually a standard pointed collar became the nost common collar worn. The size of the collar varied. The collar button was often worn buttoned, but in the 1920s soorts collars became popular. By the 1950s preppy styles were popular, Many boys wore shirts with button-down collars. Collarless "T" shirts became increasing popular in the latter part of the 20th century. This was part of the increasing popularity of informal dress. By the turn of the 21st century, many boys had come to see a collared shirt as a dressy shirt style.

Types

There were different types of collars, most prominantly attached and detachable collars. This was influebced by the different types of shirt garments. Here terminology varied slightly. Blouses had attached collars, but not shirt tails. Blouses were very common for boys at the turn f the century. Even younger teenagers wore them. Many had huge collars. Shirts had attached collars and shirt tails. Shirt waists had tail, but no collars. They were made to be worn with detachable collars. At atime when laundry was a daunting undertaken for beleagered houswives, the detachavle shirt collar was a very efficent labor saving device. The shirt waist itself could be worn several days if not all week and all the boy or man had to do to look smart was to change the collar. Usually it was the collar that was the part of the shirt that got the dirtiest. There was a wide range of different collar types. Eton and wing collars are probably the best known, but there were many other stytles. Many different styles appeard in period catalogs, but often they were not identified by destinctive names. The Eton collar was especially popular for boys.

Buttoning Collars

We have nored boys waring both open and closed collars. We note fashionavle boys ad men with open collars during the early 19h century. The general convention during the 19th century, however, was to button the collar and add neckwear, at the end of the century very elaborate neckwear like floppy bows. Closed or butoned collars were still standard during the early-20th century. A relevation and one of many trends toward more casual clothing was the open sports collar. (The spors collar was called the Schiller collar in Germany.) We see even boys with suits wearing these sports collars. This became a popular style in the 1920s. Some mothers did not understand it and tried to add a tie even though the collar on these shirts could not be buttoned. Buttoned collars continued to be the main style. Some boys even buttoned their collars at school. Gradually leaving them open became more popular. We notice even in the 50s and 60s in school portraits that quite a number of boys still buttoned their collsrs. Open collars with suits became pipular again in the 1940s abd early 50s. By the 1960s most American boys were no longer buttoning their collars. They did button their collars and wear ties with suits. Suits were, however, becoming much less common.

Styles

There were also various collar styles. Some collar styles were very prominant. Others more modest. Younger boys in the late-19th century might wear lace collars. We also note plainer Eton and Peter Pan collars, although that term was not yet used. By the turn of the 20th century, ruffled collars becamme more common. A good example here is a boy in Washington, Pennsylvania about 1905. Many school age boys in the late 19th and early 20th century wore Eton collars when dressing up. By the 1950s preppy styles were popular, Many boys wore shirts with button-down collars. Collarless "T" shirts became increasing popular in the latter part of the 20th century. One reader writes in 2006, "I have great difficulty getting my son who is in 5th grade to dress up. He doesn't even like collared shirts and insists on wearing T-shirts to school because of peer presure. He tells me, 'Mom the other guys don't wear those shirts."







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Created: 3:02 AM 2/4/2007
Last updated: 12:44 AM 4/3/2009