Boys' Suit Jackets: Stylistic Elements


Figure 1.--Lapels were an important part of a suit jacket or coat. Some styles of boys' jackets were made without lapels. Here we have an unidentified American boy wearing a cut-away jacket without lapels, probbly from the 1870s. Notice the use of apliqué and buttons used with Hussar styling.

Suit jackets/coats are not only made in different types, but they are a wide variety of differences in stylistic elements. The major stylistic elements involve buttons, lapels, collars, sleeves, pockets, and belts which are included with some types like the Norfolk jacket. The issue of buttons somewhat complicates a consideration of style. Certain jacket styles like the skeleton suit jacket or the very permutations of Eton jackets have been worn with different numbers of buttons. Blazers have been made in both single and double-buttoned styles. Buttons have been used in a wide variety of ways on boys' suit jackets. The lapel was a creation of the French Revolutionary/Napoleonic Wars. Not one knows for sure who created the lapel. The general believe is that an officer in the heat of battle or perhaps during manuvers on a hot day, opened his tigthly buttoned coat at the collar and folded it back. From that poit on the lapel became to major feature og the men's suit. As such its placement and width has varied widely over time. The collar was a less important eklement of the suit than the lapels. Thus they have never been a major stylitic element. Unlike lapels the width of collars never varied substantially. HBC is noy yet sure why buttons were put on jacket sleeves. The origins of the buttons at the coat sleeves and the imitation buttonholes are also difficult to expain. According to Nystrom, these buttons are vestiges of custom down from the time when outer garments were actually opened at the sleeve, making the button and buttonhole a necessary means of open and closing. Other sources say the style originated in 18th century military uniforms. Commanders reportedly ordered buttons sewn on the sleeve cuffs of expensive military jackets to prevent soldiers and sailors from wiping their mouths and noses on their sleeves. The back slit is means jackets is so that the jacket could be worn when horse-back riding. Allowig the jacket to open up when the man was sitting on the horse. Women who rode bare back do no have these back slits.

Buttons

The issue of buttons somewhat complicates a consideration of style. Certain jacket styles like the skeleton suit jacket or the very permutations of Eton jackets have been worn with different numbers of buttons. Blazers have been made in both single and double-buttoned styles. Buttons have been used in a wide variety of ways on boys' suit jackets. The first boys' jackets, worn with the skeleton suit, could have large numbers of buttons. Fauntleroy jackets were often worn open or one button. Eventually most styles like Eton, Norfolk, Suffolk jackets as well as blazers and sports jackets were worn with three buttons. Saville Rowe eventually ordained the two button single breasted jacket. Single breasted jackets have generally had 2 or three buttons, some were even made with one--simplifying the question of which to button. Two buttons are today the standard--ordained by Savile Row. Only the upper button of a two button blazer should be buttoned. The reason is that a jacket is balanced to close at that point--thus it just looks better. The lower bytton should not be fastened, certainly not by itself, but even along with the top button. Another popular style was the double breasted jacket worn with two rows of buttons.


Figure 2.--Lapels are the most important stylistic element of a suit. They have varied greatly in both placement and size. Notice how high on the suit the lapels of this Brooklyn boy are placed. We are not sure how to date this portrait, but would guess the 1870s.

Lapels

The lapel was a creation of the French Revolutionary/Napoleonic Wars. Not one knows for sure who created the lapel. The general believe is that an officer in the heat of battle or perhaps during manuvers on a hot day, opened his tigthly buttoned coat at the collar and folded it back. From that poit on the lapel became the major feature of men's suit. It is essentially a vertical extension of the collar. There are three basic types of collars: notch, peak, and shawl. The most common type for boys' suits has been the notch lapel, but this has varied over time. The placement and width of the lapel has also varied widely over time. Some lapels were small and set high up on the suit. And they varied greatly in width. There has a been a constant cycle over time as lapel widths have cycled and recycled every conceivable width oiver time. Lapel widths can thus be used to help date photographs. While lapels were a essential element of a man's suit jacket, some boys' jackets were made without lapels. The cut-away jacket worn in the 1860s was commonly made without lapels, altough not always. The cut-away jackets made for Little Lord Fauntleroy suits never had lapels. Collar buttoning jackts were widely worn in the late-19th century. We also note the Eton jackets worn by younger boys. The mandrid and Nehru collar also did not have lapels, but they were no commonly worn by boys.

Collars

The collar was a less important eklement of the suit than the lapels. Thus they have never been a major stylitic element. Unlike lapels the width of collars never varied substantially. Some boys' jackets did not have collars, including cut-away and Eton jackets.

Sleeves

HBC is noy yet sure why buttons were put on jacket sleeves. The origins of the buttons at the coat sleeves and the imitation buttonholes are also difficult to expain. According to Nystrom, these buttons are vestiges of custom down from the time when outer garments were actually opened at the sleeve, making the button and buttonhole a necessary means of open and closing. Other sources say the style originated in 18th century military uniforms. Commanders reportedly ordered buttons sewn on the sleeve cuffs of expensive military jackets to prevent soldiers and sailors from wiping their mouths and noses on their sleeves. We have seen this suggested concerning both boys abnd youthful recruits as well as men. Concerning boys the legend goes that they cried a lot and were constantly wiping their tears and nose with their sleeves. The buttons made this more difficult. Some sources claim that sleeve buttons originated in the 18th century with Frederick the Great of Prussia who didn't like his soldiers spoiling their fancy uniforms by whiping their noses on their sleeves. Other sources say that Bitain's Lord Nelson was responsible. Here it should be noted that while officers wire military jackets at the time of Nelson, enlisted men did not. Thus if Nelson came up with the idea it would have been for the young midshipmen--boys training to be officers. More information is needed here.

Pockets

The pockets are another stylistic element that has varied over time. There were different kinds of pockets and their number, placement, and styling varied. This depended somewhat on the type of jacket.

Belts

Norfolk jackets often were made with self belts.

Back Slit

The back slit is means jackets is so that the jacket could be worn when horse-back riding. Allowig the jacket to open up when the man was sitting on the horse. Women who rode bare back do no have these back slits.








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Created: 3:48 AM 2/2/2009
Last updated: 11:10 PM 2/2/2009