American Mail Order Catalogs with Boys Clothings: Sykes & Kirschbaum Tuxedo (1901)

Figure 1.--Formal dress was still quite important in the 1900s. We notice ads for formal dress outfits. One such outfit was offered by Sykes & Kirschbaum, a fashionable New York clothiers. They do not use the term tuxedo, but it was kneepants tuxedo.

Formal dress was still quite important in the 1900s. We notice ads for formal dress outfits. One such outfit was offered by Sykes & Kirschbaum, a fashionable New York clothiers. They do not use the term tuxedo, but it was kneepants tuxedo.

Sykes & Kirschbaum

The suit was sold by Sykes & Kirschbaum, fashionable New York clothiers. We have no additional information about the company at this time.

The Youth's Companion

This boy's dress suit ad appeared in The Youth's Companion (November 28, 1901, p. 632). The Youth's Companion described itself as "An Illustrated Weekly Paper For Young People and the Family." It was established in 1827. The magazine was published in Boston, Massachusetts, by the Perry Mason Company, 201 Columbus Avenue. It appeared under this title until 1929. It was in the late 19th century one of the most popular weekly periodicals in America and known for the quality of the writing. The magazine catered to teen-age boys and girls especially, containing articles on sports, on hobbies, and on various literary and cultural interests. But it was really a family magazine and had many advertisements for clothing, both adult and children's. The magagazine had a very strict policy about the advertising carried because its readers were mostly children.


The tuxedo is one of the two basic styles of formal wear. It is esentially an adult fashion dating from the 19th century. Thus the history of the tuxedo deals with its development as men's wear. As in many areas of men's fashion, the Prince of Wales, in fact two princes of Wales< played a key role in the development of the tuxedo. The term tuxedo, however, is an American innovation. One of the principal role of the tuxedo is in a formal wedding. At these weddongs boys for many years did not wear tuxedos. Only recently in the 1980s have boys begun wearing tuxedos for formal occasions. Boys now wear them mostly with long pants. Some ring bearers, however, wear short pants tuxedos.


This is another boy's dress suit resembling a tuxedo, although the advertisement does not use this term. But note the formal features of the outfit--a small black bow tie, a starched shirt with detachable high collar, a low-cut vest to expose the bosom of the shirt (like a man's dinner jacket vest), what appear to be satin lapels, very form-fitting knee pants, long black stockings, and patent leather shoes with bows (like a man's pumps). Everthing about this suit is just like an adult male tuxedo or dinner jacket except for the knee pants. The ad copy read, ""For Boys. Every boy who likes nice clothes should ask the dealer to show him the Suits and Overcoats made by Sykes & Ab. Kirschbaum & Co. We send Free For the Asking our two beautiful Poster Books, "Gotham Styles for Little Fellows" and "Smart Attire for Big Boys and Young Men," with pictures of sixteen charming lads, done in five colors from original sketches by a famous American artist. Be sure of the books. Have mother or father write at once--they are mailed only to heads of families. Sykes & Ab. Kirscgbaum & Co., Dept. K, 708 Broadway, New York."


The boy in the illustration looks to be about 11 or 12. The advertisement says nothing about the size ranges, but it mentions both "Little Fellows" and "Big Boys and Young Men" so we can infer that Sykes and Kirschbaum sold suits for boys from very young ages certainly to older teenagers. One reader believes that they may have been made for youths up to up through age 20-21 years.

Social Class

These suits seem especially designed to appeal to the boys of fashionable urban families of the east--probably mostly from Boston and New York City ("Gotham). One can't imagine boys from rural America wanting or needing suits like this.

Pants Type

Notice that this tuxedo was done with kneepants. American boys at the time commonly wore kneepants, even older teenagers. Boys also wore knickers and longpants. We are not sure about the youth sizes for long pants tuxedos. We do not notice tuxedos being done with knickers. We believe that knickers at the time had a sporty image that was not seen as appropriate for a formal outfit like a tuxedo.


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Created: 5:21 PM 1/18/2005
Last updated: 5:21 PM 1/18/2005