Eton Suits

Eton suit
Figure 1.--This Sargent painting of 19?? depicts Essie, Ruby, and Ferdinand Wertheimer. Ferdinand wears a classic Eton suit and collar, the formal dress for boys at the turn of the century that had graduated from Fauntleroy and sailor suits. The Eton suit became standard dress wear for affluent British and American boys.

The Classic Eton suit was a style which dominated boys' suits for about a century in England and were also commonly worn in America, France, and other countries. The style originated in England's fabeled Eton college. The prestige of the school resulted in the style being copied for boys' suits at other public schools as well as suits for boys that did not go to Eton college. Older English boys as well as boys in America commonly wore the style as their best dress suits for several generations. It was commonly worn until after World War I when it was replaced by suits with soft collars. We still see Eton collars at some schools, but they were rapidly relced with sodt attached collars. Even during the 1930s, English boys might don an Eton suit for an especially formal event. After World War I we begin go see younger boys wearing junior Eton suits, lapeless jackets with Eton coolars. Detaschable Eton collars were graduaslly replced with soft attached collt b;ouses, with both Eton and Peter Pn collars.

Eton College

Eton College is one of the best known schools in the world. The Eton suit first appeared at about the turn of the 19th century at Eton College. It was adopted by many other schools and is still worn today at Eton College. The Eton suit thus set the pattern for school uniforms at British schools. Until adopted by Eton, school uniforms in England were only worn at charity schools. Many schools adopted different uniforms, although the Eton collar became standard. While the styles were different, the idea at wearing uniforms at public (private) schools became well established.

Classic Eton Suits

English boys in the early decades of the 19th Century began wearing short jackets which came to be known as Eton suits as the fashion was worn at Eton school. Entry requirements at Public schools (private boarding schools) varied greatly during the first half of the 19th Century. Some schools accepted quite young boys. These younger boys might arrive in tunics or other more juvenile attire. Many schools at the time did not have a detailed uniform that the boys had to wear. The Eton uniform was originally quite colorful, including blue jackets and red waist coats.


Figure 2.--Collarless jackets appeared in the late 1920s and had become popular by the mid-1940s. They were marketed as Eton suits. At first they were worn with stiff Eton collars, but Peter Pan collars soon became more common. Apparently American mothers considered Eton collars somewhat severe for such little boys. Matching brother-sister outfits also were worn.

American Junior Eton Suits

A spin off of the Eton suits became fasionable for small American boys beginning at about 5 years of age. They were introduced as stylish dress for boys from affluent families. Such mothers often looked to England for styles in men and boys' clothing. Thus calling the suit an Eton suit would help to generate appeal. I began to note the lapel-less Eton jackets in America during the late 1920s, but it does not appear to have become a widely worn style for small boys until the mid-1940s. Almost all the boys wearing Eton suits before the 1950s would be boys from affluent families. Only in the 1950s did the style become widely worn by all classes of American boys. Eton suits had very short jackets with no lapels and were generally worn with very short short pants--often suspender shorts. This contrasted with the longer shorts worn with the suit styles for older boys. The suit was usually worn without a tie--especially for younger boys. The collar folded over the jacket. An Eton collar were first used for these jackets. Soon Peter Pan collars replaced the stiff Eton collars formerly worn by British boys.

Eton Suits Today

Eton suits are still sometimes seen at formal weddings where the ring bearer might be dressed in a blue or white Eton suit. Often white knee socksare worn at weddings, with both white and blue suits. The Eton suits worn in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s generally had very short pants, commonly suspender shorts. The same cut was used for the formal suits used for ring boys at weddings. The Eton suits worn for weddings and other formal occasions in the 1990s generally have the longer cut shorts that have become fashionable.







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Created: December 10, 1998
Last updated: 7:22 PM 11/3/2016