Sweaters: National Trends

Figure 1.--This and similar sweater patterns were published by the Mary Maxim company in Manitoba, Canada. There were many designs for size 4 to adult. The sweaters were worn by boys and men especially,being most fashionable from the mid 1950s to about 1970 or so. Mums would often knit matching sweaters for dad and all the boys in the family.

Sweaters have been popular garments for boys around the world. They are most popular of course in countries with seasonal winter weather. That means thet are most common in northerly countrly countries in the northern hemisphere and southerly countries in the southern hemishphere. Not only is cold wearher important for sweaters, but also countries with highly variable seasonal weather. We see them in northern Europe, Canada, and America. There are also a few countries in the southern hemishere, primarily Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa. Here we are just beginning to collect information and have not yet developed any detailed information on national trends.


We do not yet have much information on American sweaters. We do not see boys wearing sweaters in the early and mid-19th century. We first see sweaters in the late-19th centuries. The first ones we note are pull-overs, often with heavy necks, both turtle necks and roll overs. We note cardigans in the early 20th century. The sweater was a major clothing garment for boys by the 1920s. Many boys wore them to school. They were avtually part of the increasing informality in dress. Boys wore sweaters instead of suit jackets. They were a useful garment in that the child could keep his sweater on indoors if it was not warm enough. For parents who wanted a little formality, a V-neck could be purchased which showed a tie. Other boys wire crew necks. Sweaters in bright patterns and colors became very popular. In addition to different neck styles, there were also sleeveless sweaters developed. They were also a popular item for home knitting. The letter-man's sweater was one of a teenagers most prized possessions. Sweaters were at first wool garments. Since World War II, synthetic fibers have been used to produce less-expesive alternatives.


Sweaters have been popular garments and can be worn for much of the year. They are the most popular knit item worn by Canadian boys. Here we have little chronlogical information. A Candian reader, however, has provided us some information on knit sweaters styles that were popular in Canada during the mid-20th cenury.


Knitted garments were important in England, especially but not exclusively during the winter. The weather can be chilly in England even during the spring and summer. The most important knitted garment was the sweater. Sweaters are commonly called jerseys in England. Many important sweater types first appeared in England. This included cardigans. We first see sleeveless and V-neck sweaters in England. Some English boys during the 1920s began wearing sweaters, which tended to to be made longer than now, over their pants--usuallly short pants. This fashion was, however, not as pronounced as on the Continent. We have observed this same convention in other countries--including Belgium, France, Germany, and the Netherlands. We do not know why this convention developed. Later the swearters becam more shorter and were cut at the waist and often tucked inside the pants. We also see girls wearing a variety of sweaters. A good exmple is Joyce Smith duriung the 1930s. The sweater became an important school garment. This began diring the inter-War years. It ws particularly suitable for chool wear because it coild be easily taken off or put back on. Very useful in the changeable English weather.


Sweaters were worn in France, but not nearly as much as in England. We think climate was the primary difference.


Sweaters are widely worn by German boys. The northern European climate makes the sweater a pratical garment for childre. But because girls mostly wore dresses , you do not see nerly as many girls wearing sweaters. The weather was not varable like the British weather. Thus there was less need for a garment the children could take off and put back on. There was, however a need for cold weather clothing. We do not yet have a fix on the chronology of sweaters. We see sweaters mostly in the 20th century. This may partially why vesta were so common in the 19th century. They were worn in circumstances like sweaters were worn in the 19th century. We notice quite a few styles of sweaters. This was made somewhat complicated by the fact that these garments were often hand knitted at home. Many European boys during the 1920s began wearing sweaters, which tended to be made longer than now, extending below the waist line. We have observed this convention in Belgium, France, Germany, and the Netherlands as well as other countries. We do not know why this convention developed. We also notice boys tucking their sweaters into thewaistband of their pants, some you never see today. An example is an unidentified schoolboy in 1943. Later the swearters became shorter and were cut at the waist and often tucked inside the pants. We also notice boys wearing belts over their sweaters which meant the belts served no real purpose other than adornment.


(The) Netherlands



Related Style Pages in the Boys' Historical Web Site
[Smocks] [Caps and berets] [Long pants suits] [Shortpants suits] [Socks] [Eton suits] [Jacket and trousers] [Blazer] [School sandals]

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Created: February 4, 2003
Last updated: 3:21 AM 10/10/2017