Homoginiztion of Boys Fashions


Figure 1.--Large lace or ruffled collars were poular for boys in many countries during the late 19th century. American mothers loved to add large floppy bows.

There were once significant differences between the clothes worn by boys in many different countries, especially the larger more populace countrirs. While their were similarities in the 19th century and early 20th century, the differences could be striking. Since the 1960s, however, there has been a significant homominizxation of boys fashions around the world. The inintial impetus for this was the popularity of American fashions from "T"-shirts to blue jeans. A subsequent trend was the Europeanization of fashion--creating a nearly indistinguishable pan-European fashion for boys. The clothes boys wear are today virtually indistinguisable among European countries.

Factors Affecting Fashions

Factors promoting destinctive fashions

The absence of the mass media, was a major factor explaining why so many countries, or even regions within countries had destinctive fashions. There were no televisin or radio and even magazines were scarece, especially in the first half of the century. Newspapers were important, but the techhnology of printing images only deverloped during the cerntury and it was not until the end of the century that it became feasible to print photographic images. The absence of the mass medua and the tendency of people, except for the rich, to lead their lives without traveling beyond their immediate home were powerful factors in developing destinctive ethnic and natiional styles.

Factors promoting similar fashions

Fashions in the 19th century and early 20th century were powerfully influenced by the important royal families of Europe. These families consorted wwith each other and inter mairred. Queen Victoria was in effect the Grandmother of Europe. Thus styles adopted by the royals were often, but not always, pan-European fashions. Thus the sailor suit Queen Elizabeth chose for the young Edward VII was eventually adopted by virtually every royal family in Europe, eventually spreading to their subjects. The kilts Queen Victoria also chose was not quite so popular.

Destinctive 19th Century Fashions

Fashions

There were many similar fashions worn throughout Europe and America in the 19th century and early 20th century. Even with similar fashions, there were often destinctive national variations or in some cases more subtle ones. Information on national differences in Victorian and Edwardian boys' fashions include:
Sailor suits: It was in England in the first quarter of the 19th century when someone had the inspiration that boys should wear sailors trousers. English seamen had been dressing in pantaloons since the 17th Century. The style receive enormous popularity after Queen Victoria during the 1840s, after breeching, began dressing the young princes in sailor suits children in sailor suits. This fashion was triggered by Winterhalter's portrait of Prince Edward (later Edward VII) in a white sailor suit and straw hat at the age of 5. It was from this beginning that ther boy's sailor suit spread around the world. Where ever it was worn, however, it developed its own distinctive natiional style.
Fauntleroy suits: Francis Hodgson Burnett, an English-born American, helped popularize a style of dress for boys that proved exceedingly popular among romantically inclined, doting mothers. She was English and grew up in America. She lived for a time in France. It is thus difficult to identify the Little Lord Fauntleroy suit with any specific country. It was most widely worn in America, but boys throught Europe were not imune from the Fauntleroy craze following the publication of the book in many languages and countless stage productions. There were destinct stylistic differences among the Fauntleroy suits worn in various countries.
Kilts: The kilt as we know it today has ancient origins. It is generally associated today with Scotland or the Gaelic peoples of the British Isles and Normandy. The kilts use as a style of boys' clothing is much more recent in origin. The kilt has been worn in different socities anf through different periods of history. It is the Gaelic, especially Scottish kilt that is best known to us, but it is not the only kilt worn in modern times. The kilt was traditional wear in several countries and regions. After it was opularized as boys' wear by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in the 1840s, the kilt spread to many other countries, especially thecUnited States, but it was also worn by boys in affluent European families--including France and Germany.
Tunic: do not yet have full details on tunic styles in different countries. They appear to have been widely worn by American and European boys in the early 19th Century. The tunic suits that appeared at the 20th Century appear to have been very popular in America, France and Italy. I am less clear about the popularity in other countries.
Short pants: The styles and conventions for wearing short pants have varied greatly from country to country. In some countries quite old boys might wear short pants suits, although often boys began to commonly wear long pants suits by 12-14 years of age. Short pants suits were widely worn in Europe by the 1920s and continued to be popular through the 1950s. They were often worn with kneesocks. Short pants suits began to decline in popularity during the 1960s. Difference have been particularly sharp between Europe and America and latter between Japan and the West. By the 1990s boys around the world were increasingly wear similar styles.
Ethnic outfits: Some clothing styles are strongly associated with ethnic groups. In most cases these are folk costumes no longer widely worn in the various countrues. They do appear in folk festivals are may even be be incorportated into dress wear for formal occasions
School uniforms: The most well known school uniforms are British and British styles continue to dominate school uniform styles. Other notable school uniform styles are the French smock and Irish kilt. American children have generally not worn uniforms. Uniforms are used by some schools. Exclusive private schools generally adopted British uniform styles, even short pants for elementary children in some cases.
Scout uniforms: Some of the most destinctive natial styles were Scout uniforms. Scouts wore a great variety of caps and shirts, although short pants were standard around the world--except in America and Scotland.

Countries

Information on national differences in Victorian and Edwardian boys' fashions and modern trends among various countries include:
England: No country has had more destinctive boys' fashions than England. The sailor suit is probanly the most influential, but other styles in clude Eton and Norfolk suits, shotrt pants, kneesocks, peaked caps, and many others.
France: France has also been extremely influetial in boys fashions. The smock and beret is probably the boys' garments most associated with France. France has been even more influential in developing stylistic changes in existing garments. France for example appears to have led the way in shorter cut "Continental" short pants in the 1950s and subsequently longer cut shorts in the 1980s.
Germany: Germany appears to have generally followed boys' styles developed in other countries. One popular destinctively German style, however, were lederhosen.
Italy: HBC does not yet have adequate information on Italy to assess destinctive fashion trends.
Scotland: The Scots are of course noted for the kilts which Queen Victoria helped to popularize as a major boys' style in the 19th century.
United States: Amerucan boys generally wore styles based on European fashions. The Fauntleroy suit was one of the first important American fashions. America came into its own after World War II (1939-45) when blue jeans, "T"-shirts, baseball caps, and other American fashions began to spread around the world.

Homoginization


Americanization


Europinization

From the threat of Americanization/Europeanization to that of the transnational corporation fears exist that a homogenization will wipe out national distinctiveness, threaten democracy and , ultimately, endanger the national state. To counter this threat, some small groups on the right have responded by a narrow turning inward, a xenophobia. The more democratically inclined have suggested voluntary, local associations, self-sustaining communities and other areas where true citizenship exists. On the other hand, many have welcomed the changes that mericanization/Europeanization and the transnational corporations have brought. Youth, for example, throughout Europe consume and play in a similar way. Europe itself is now viewed throughout much of the world as a homogenizing force. Areas of the world, such as east-central Europe, see the global corporation and Americanization/Europeanization as the way to dissolve the economic and social barriers between nations and are not so upset by "cultural homogenization." European regional groupings have also taken a stance often at odds with the national states when confronted by transnational forces. However, regional diversity is perhaps more an obstacle to national than to European cultural unity since regional groups often cooperate with the European Union rather than their own national governments.

Globelization

One of the major current causes of the decline of national distinctive dress is globalization. In the days when American clothes were made in America, French clothes in France, and Italian clothes in Italy, it made sense that different countries might have different styles. Today, American, French, and Italian clothes might all come from the same factories in Bangladesh, Singapore, or China. It's much cheaper for those factories to make the same designs for all their customers, rather than cater to the tastes of each individual country. The customers cheaper clothes, but with a much narrower range of choices than in the past. It's kind of like the way that Hollywood prefers to make movies with a lot of car chases and explosions instead of subtle plots and dialog. It's a lot easier to sell explosion movies worldwide.








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Created: January 14, 2000
Last updated: August 30, 2003