Short Pants Suits


Figure 1.--I'm not sure about the nationality of this photograph. It has an English look about it, but the colarless jacket was more of an American style. It was more of a style for younger boys, but this boy looks to be about 11 years old.

Suits for boys resembling the modern suit began to appear in the mid-19th Century. They were at first worn with long pants. Knee pants became very common in the late 19th century. We begin to see short pants suits in the 1910s, but the popularity varied by country. Short pants suits began to appear in England during the 1910s and had generally replaced knickers by World War I (1914-18). We see them in a variety of different styes. Few English boys wore knickers by the 1920s. The chronological pattern differed by country. Knickers continued to be more popular in America, much more popular than short pants suits. Shorts were most popular with boys from affluent families. This social divide was not as pronounced in Europe. The pattern in Europe was more similar to England and by the 1920s, short pants suits were common throughout Europe. Almost all younger boys wore them and even some older boys. Boys as old as 15 or 16 years might wear them. In many countries, knickers continued to be worn by older boys or for cold weather wear. After World War II (1939-45) shorts pants suits were still commonly worn in Europe, sometimes by quite old boys--perhaps reflecting the difficult economic conditions. By the 1960s, however, short pants suit began to decline in popularity, except in Japan. Boys by the 1970s were no longer commonly wearing short pants suits, although some were worn as school uniform. They were, however, occasionally seen in fashion magazines. The age of boys wearing short pants suits varied over time and from country to country.


Figure 2.--Some older French boys in the inter-war era wore short pants suits. This boy wears a double breasted suit. Kneesocks were commonly worn, especially for more formal occasions.

Suits

Suits for boys resembling the modern suit began to appear in the mid-19th Century. Previously boys had worn skeleton and sailor suits and tunics with long pants after graduating from baby dresses and kilts. Their fathers in the early era of the 19th Century wore knee breeches. By mid-Century that had changed. Men wore long pants and children knee length pants. At mid-Century the suits worn by boys were generally plain, although some more elaborate styles were available to romantic mothers. It was not until the 1880s that elaborate Fautleroy suits appeared with lace collars and fancy blouses.

Suit Styles

We notice short pants suits done in many different coat/jacket styles. The name of the suit was generally derived from the style of the jcket. Short pants suits have been made in several different styles. These styles varied over time and from country to country. Commonly the same jacket style was made for boys of various ages. The younger boys common wore them with short pants and somewhat older boys with knickers or ong pants. This variedc, however, by country and chronological period. We notice American teenagers wearing varioys types of suits with knickers and in Europe we note teenagers wearing both short pants and knickers with suits as well as long pants.

Shortened Pants Types

The first dedicated suits for boys were skeleton suits which had as knee breeches declined, long pants by the turn-of-the 19th century. Men began wearing long pants a little later. Both boys and men wore long pants during the early-19th century. Around the mid-19th century we begin to see younger boys wearing suits with shiortened-length pants. Bu the end of the dcentury even teenagers were wearing them. Trend in America and Europe were similar until after Wirld War I. European mothers liked preferred short pants suits for boys which American boys did not take to for reasons we do not fully understand. Thus knicker suits predominated in the United States. After World War II, American boys mostly wore long pants suits. While in Europe short pants persisted for sime gtime, but long pants gradually became more common. The trend varied from country to country. At the sane time suits became less and less common.


Figure 3.--These two brothers show a toddler suit and a short pants suit typical late 1920s early 1930s America. Note the patterned knee socks.

Chronology

Short pants suits began to appear in during the 1910s and had generally replaced knickers by World War I (1914-18). They were partocularly common in European countries like England, France, Germany, and Italy. Few Ebglish boys wore knickers by the 1920s. The chronological pattern differed by country. Knickers continued to be more popular in America, much more popular than short pants suits. Shorts were most popular with boys from affluent families. This social divide was not as pronounced in Europe. The pattern in Europe was more similar to England and by the 1920s, short pants suits were common throughout Europe. Almost all younger boys wore them and even some older boys. Boys as old as 15 or 16 years might wear them. In many countries, knickers continued to be worn by older boys or for cold weather wear. After World War II (1939-45) shorts pants suits were still commonly worn in Europe, sometimes by quite old boys--perhaps reflecting the difficult economic conditions. By the 1960s, however, short pants suit began to decline in popularity, except in Japan. Boys by the 1970s were no longer commonly wearing short pants suits, although some were worn as school uniform. They were, however, occasionally seen in fashion magazines.


Figure 4.--I find this a difficult image to assess. I think it is English, but am not positive. The shoes suggest the early 1920s, but the boys short pantss are much shorter than generally worn with short pants suits during the 1920s. The jacket has some Norfolk styling.

Ages

The ages of boys wearing short pants suits varied over time and by country. Short pants suits for boys of school age were common throughout Europe after World War I. Quite old English boys wore short pants school uniform, but most boys by about 13 began wearing long pants suits. Many English boys wore school uniforms rather than suits. On the Continent the situation was somewhat different. Through the 1950s, boys as old as 15 or 16 might wear short pants suits, although at that age long pants were more common. A good example is a German teenager in 1933. In America short pants suits were less common than in Europe and generally worn by younger boys. Many boys wore knoickers rather than short pants. After World WarII, long pants became incresasingly common, even for younger boys.

Shoes and Stockings

The shoes and stockings worn with short pants suits also varried over time and by country. Short pants suits were generally worn with lace up low-cut shoes. This was primrily a chronologival matter. High-top shoes which were common in the late-19th and early-20th century, althogh this varied somewhat from country to country. We see the transirion from knee panrs to short pants in the 1910s and in the 20s short pants primarily replaced knee pants, although knickers continued to be important in America. High-tops thus were generally passed out of style in the 1920s just as short pants suits were becoming popular. This is bout the same time that short pants were vbecoming increasingly important. we see different styles of shoes worn with short pants in ensuing decades, but they were all low cuts. Generally dark black or brown leather shoes were worn, depending on the color of the suit. We see English boy wearing sandals. White shoes might be worn in the summer. Younger American boys might wear saddle shoes with their short pants suits. Japanese boys commonly wear loafers as well as lace up shoes with short pants suits. Short pants suits were generally worn with socks rather than long stockings. This varied some what by country and chronolgiclly. Some younger boys, however, did wear long stockings with suits for formal occasions or for winter wear. Long stockings were still common seasonally in the 1920s and worb by younger boys in America during the 30s. In Germany and Scandinavia long stockings were still common in the 30s. As long tockings declined in popularity, knee socks became commonly worn with short pants suits. The type of socks varied by country. Knee socks became fairly standard in Europe and common in America. Hosiey not only varied from country to country, but also seasonally. Knee socks were common in England and Germany. French boys commonly wore ankle socks in the summer. American boys oftem wore their short pants suits with both knee socks ankle socks. Ankle socks became more common in the 40s. The declining number of American boys wearing short pants suits in the 1960s, however, often wore knee socks. In addition to the types of hosiery, colpr also varie. Generally mothers attempted to match the color od suits and hosiery. We see boys wearing white knee socks in Germany and France, but rarely in America and England. They wee, however, commonly worn by girls.

Material


New Suits

Children grow very rapidly as mothers know who have to buy their clothes. Some times boy wear suits that show to much of their sleeves or are have short or long pants that are too short. Mothers once they have decided to but a new suit have to drag their son to the department store to be measured for a new suit. As boys are often not to happy about the idea, somrtimes they go shopping without their son, guessing at the sizes. It is usually mon who does this, although dad might take his son to the men's oufitter for the first adut suit. Suits were often brought at easter or for the holidays. Special occasions like First Communion or Confirmation might also call for a new suit.


Figure 5.--I thouht these boys were English, but French writing suggests they may be French. Note how the boys wear identical suits despite their difference in age. Their colars and ties, however, are different. It mave been take in the late 1910s.

National Styles

The styles and conventions for wearing short pants have varied greatly from country to country. Difference have been particularly sharp between Europe and America where short pants suits were much less common and worn by generally younger boys. Latter after the 1960s there were differences between Japan and the West. By the 1990s boys around the world were increasingly wear similar styles. Mothers in many countries often selected the style of suit on thebasis of a boy's age. In some instances boys of different ages wore the same style suit, but their mother varied the collar style, bow or necktie, and other accessories on the basis of age.

Additional Information

New style: 1920s

Traveling in Europe: The 1960s

British debate: The 1960s

American boy: Eastern and western fashions

Boyhood memories






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Created: October 26, 1998
Last edited: 3:25 AM 1/1/2016