Fabrics and Material Used in Boys' Clothing

Figure 1.--Corduroy, a cotton fabric, became a popular material for boys clothes in the 1920s because it was so hard wearing. American boys word cord knickers. English and French boys wire cord shorts. Some English schools adopted uniforms with cord shorts, some also had cord jackets.

A variety of materials and fabrics are used to produce clothing, including boys' clothing. A great deal of information is available on the raw materials and fabrics involved. Because the production of clothing is a key element of human civiliztion, the history of cultivation of these raw materials and profuction of fabric textiles is an important part of the human history. Cotton is the most widely used natural fiber in the manufacture of clothing. It has a number of qualities making it ideal for making textiles and clothing. Until relatively recently, however, it's use was localized to the Indian sub-continent. Much more idely spread was the use of wool. Flax was the masterial most commonly used in ancient Egypt to make linnen. In recent years a variety of synthetic fibers have been added to the plants and animals that have over time been used to produce clothing.

Raw Material

Materials are the raw material fibers used to make clothing. While there are numerous fabrics made from these materials, three are relatively few fibers from which cloth fabrics are made, including both natural and synthetic fibers. The most important raw materials used in the production of clothing, including boys' clothing, are cotton, flax, and wool. There are also several other materials that have been used. The use of these materials even as late as the Renaissance varied geographically. Today with moderninternational trade, there used is common around the world. In addition to plant and animal fibers in the years leading up to World War II, a number of synthetic fibers were developed and are today widely used--most commonly in blended materials.


Boys clothing has been made in a wide variety of fabrics. Aristocratic boys once wore fabrics such as brocades that we would today consider totaly unsuitavle for boys. Some such as denim have been used for play and casual clothes. Others such a velvet have been made for elegant party suits. Other fabrics such as flannel, serge, cheviot, corderoy and many others have been used for a wide variety of different garments. Quite a variety of other fabrics, sometimes quite expensice such as cashmere, camelhair, and satin have been used for expensive boyswear. Some fabrics were once quite popular, such as chambray, cheviot, duck, and serge were once very commonly used for boys clothing, but now rarely seen. In recent years clothing has moved from formal styles to more utilitarian clothing and thus the hard wearing durable fabrics like denim and corderoy have become increasingly important. One particularly luxurious fabrics sometimes used for outfits to be worn by younger boys is velvet. Many fabrics have interesting modern historical stories denim and chino. Other fabrics date back many centuries if not milenia. Cashmere, camelgair, and silk were staples of the freat caravan trade.

War and Rationing

Rationing clothing and fabric is most associated with World War II, but this was not the only time that clothing has fabric has been rationed. The War required such a gargantian national effort on the part of the principal combatents that it was necessary that everybody did what was in their power to support the war effort. The most prominent way most countries accomplished this was by rationing. Rationing was a method used by the government to ensure that everybody was able to receive equal amounts of raw materials. This way, enough material was used for the war effort, but the public could still have access to these items. To circumvent rationing and price controls, World War II black marketeers traded in clothing and liquor in Britain and meat, sugar, and gasoline in the United States.

Special Characteristics

Some fabrics have characteristics that make them useful for a range of specialized garments. One especially notable characteristic is absorbancy. Rubber is water repelant which makes it useful for rain coats and other inclement weather garment. Wool is not as absorbent as cotton and thus for many years was used for bathing suits. Just before World war II, ltex began to be used. After the war a variety of syntheic fibers began to be used, often as blended fabrics. Synthetic fibers were not nearly as absorbant as wool and cotton.


Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Return to the Main clothing technology page]
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Clothing styles] [Countries]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [Essays] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]

Navigate the Historic Boys' Clothing Web chronological pages:
[The 1840s] [The 1960s] [The 1900s] [The 1930s] [The 1940s] [The 1950s] [The 1960s]
[The 1970s] [The 1980s] [The 1990s] [The 2000s]

Created: April 5, 1999
Last updated: 1:47 AM 5/4/2008