Figure 1.--Madras sport coats were popular in the 1950s-60s for informal occasions. They could be worn without ties or like this boy with informal shoes. The magazine cation in 1968 read, "Sunday at the club she wears a white-collared, navy cotton and Kodel dress smocked in white. Baylis, 3 to 6x, $9; 7 to 12 $10. Sixth floor, Bergdorf Goodman. He wears a patterned Indian madras sport jacket with back center vent. Chips 'N Twigs. 8 to 12, $14. On the mezzanine, Abraham & Straus." Note the small lapels typical of the 1960s.
Sport coats as we now know them began to appear after the World War I (1914-18). I am not positive why they are called sport coats. Certainly they are not worn for sport. Probably the term originated in England where they do strange things (I hope our British friends wont be to offended) like dress up in ties and jackets for sports. British boys at
prestigious Public schools (a strange term for exclusive private schools) might wear might wear a brightly colored blazer, for example, for cricket or other sports. Not only did the players dress up, but the spectators who came to see the games ("matches" for our British friends) also dressed up. The term sport coat as it is now used probably refers to a suit-type jacket for informal special occasions, such as sporting events, but not occasions formal enough to require a suit with matching trousers. The players in cricket, for example, would wear the white trousers worn at a cricket match. The players would usually take off their blazers to actually play in the match.
The term "sport coat" may confuse some of HBC's non-British foreign readers. HBC is mindful of the need to write in "internet English" for our non-American readers. Sports coats suggests that it is a garment worn for athletics. Actually nothing could be further from the case. The sports jacket is a dressy, relatively formal attire. While not usually worn very formal pccasions, the sports jacket is suitable for church, parties, and other occasions where one must dress up, but a level of formality is permisible. HBC has also noted these coats referred to as "sport jackets", note te ad copy in figure 1. One American reader advises, "Where I grew up, we called them sports coats rather than jackets. 'Jacket' implied to us a more casual top, the sort that has a zipper front." I am not positive why they are called sport coats. Certainly they are not worn for sport. Probably the term originated in England where they do strange things (I hope our British friends wont be to offended) like dress up in ties and jackets for sports. British boys at prestigious Public schools (a strange term for exclusive private schools)
might wear might wear a brightly colored blazer, for example, for cricket or
other sports. Not only did the players dress up, but the spectators who came to see the games ("matches" for our British friends) also dressed up. The term sport jacket as it is now used probably refers to a suit-type coat or jacket for informal special occasions, such as sporting events, but not occasions formal enough to require a suit with matching trousers. The players in cricket, for example, would wear the white trousers worn at a cricket match. The players would usually take off their blazers to actually play in the match.
Sport coats as we now know them began to appear after the World War I (1914-18). HBC has not noted sport coats before the War, but by the mid-1920s they begin to be seen in in England and America. Men and boys' dress used to be much more formal than it is today. The 1920s were a bridge between earlier years when formal dress was much more expected, even for what we now regard as casual, informal occasions and todays more casual era when boys rarely wear suits, ties, and leather shoes. HBC does not see boys commonly wearing sport coats, however, until the 1940s, especially the late 1940s. Before that time nore formal suits had become more common. It us at this time that rather loud sport coats appear, some times in two materials. The peak popularity for sport coats was the 1950s, although they were still common in the 1960s. By the 1970s boys less comminly dressed up and thus sport coats were not as commonly worn as before. Sports coats still are worn in the 2000s, but the more casual modern life style means that they are worn for relatively few occassions. Trouser styles differened somewhat from suits to sport coats. American boys after the mid-1950s wore short pants suits much less commonly than before. Some boys, however, did continue wearing short pants with the more casual sport coats.
The idea of wearing trousers that did not match the coat was not an idea that occurred to 19th century men. It may seem strange that such an idea occurred only recently. This is in part because until country and active leisure passtimes became popular in the late 19th century, there was little need for garments that were neither part of a suit nor formal dress. But as country walking and shooting became increasingly popular, new garments appeared.
The tweed suit became popular. Tweed coats continue to be a mainstay of the male wardrobe, but in the late 19th century the tweed suit, usually with knickers, was the standard outfit for country expeditions.
It was the Norfolk jacket/coat that significantly changed the pattern of men and boys' clothing. The Norfolk jacket is modeled after the hunting suit worn by the English Duke of Norfolk in the early 19th century. It was a a relatively short garment designed for active country wear and it was a garment in which the jacket did match the trousers.
It was not until the 1920s that sports jackets without the functional elements of the Norfolk jacket began to be widely worn. At first most sports jackets were tweed or flannel jackets and became increasingly accepted for casual wear and eventually for many more formal occasions. This was an adult fashion which was eventually adapted for boys as well.
Both men and boys wear sport coats. Men and boys intially wore sports jackets with knickers, but they became increasingly less common in the 1030s. The only real difference between age levels is that boys were more likeky to wear short pants with sport jackets than men. Most boys, however, wore sport coats with long pants, especially after the 1950s.
Styles varied widely. Some were bright patterns are loud colors. Other such as tweed sports jackets were very conservative. One popular style during the 1940s-early 50s was to use different material and colors around the shoulders. Jacket style followed the same trends as for suits as a whole. Most were single-breasted jackets. Double-breasted jackets were less common.
Figure 2.--Sports jackets were particularly popular in America, but were also worn in Europe. This British boy wears a very conservative tweed sports jacket, probably during the 1990s.
HBC believes that the sport coats is primarily an American style. It may have been worn in Europe as well, but we currently have little information on this. We have noted in worn more in American than any other country. Even so a lot of American boys growing up in the 1940s and 50s did not have formal suits or even sport coats. This was especially true in American families that did not attend church. Very limited unformation, however, is available on this subject. Hopefully HBC contributors will provide us information on the jackets, if any, that they wore as boys. Information about Europe would be especially interesting.
some basic information is available on the clothes worn with sport coats.
Suits being formal attire are always worn with ties. Sport coats on the other hand are sometimes worn with ties, but also turtle neck sweaters or even open neck shirts. Conventions here have changed over time. Ties were very common even with sport coats in the 1950s, currently ties are more optional. Both neckties and bowties are worn with sport coats.
As sport coats were primarily an American style, boys most commonly wore them with long pants. This of course was not always the case. We have not noted boys wearing sports jackets with knickers, primarily because knickers were going out of style just at the time when sports coats were becoming popular. Another factor here is age. Many parents did not buy sports coars and suits for younger boys and they were the boys most likely to wear short pants. We have noted boys wearing sporks jackets with short pants, although long pants were much more common. Here there appear to have been a range of social-class and regional factors. This is notable both in the photographic record and in available catalog advertisements and the photographic record. This has varied over time Some American boys, however, did wear them with shorts--as did some European boys, especially during the 1940s and 50s. Long pants became increasingly common in the 1960s, except for younger primary school-age children. While sports coats while primarily an American style, they were worn in other countries as well, and in some such as England, short pants were more common.
American boys almost always wore sport jackets with leather shoes as did European boys. Beginning in the 1970s you would occasionlly see a boy wearing sneakers with sport jackets. This was mostly boys wering slcks, but also a few boys wearing shorts. When wearing shorts they might wear tube socks or short white ankle socks. Such outfits were not wide spread, but were seen.
Sport coats are made from several different materials. In some cases two contrasting materials have been used.
Some of the eraliest sports jackets in the 1920s were flannel jackets.
Although not as popular as some materials, sport coats were made in corduroy,
Brightly colored Madras fabrics are named after the Indian city where the fabric was manufactured. Shirts and sport coats made in Madras material were popular in the late 1950s or 1960s. Bermuda shorts were also made in madras. One would never wear madras shorts with a madras shirt. Either the shirt or shirts had to be a solid color. The same was true of a madras sport coat.
Searsuucker shirts, sport coats and even suits (in the South), shorts, and longs are a popular fabric for summer cwear. I'm not sure when this fabric became popular, but I think around the 1940s.
British tweed is one of the most popular fabrics for sport coats. In the lkate 19th century tweed suits with knickers were popular for country wear. Today it is nmore common to wear tweed jackets than duits. Tweed comes in various patterns. Some of the most popular is herringbone and Harris tweed. Boys at many Scottish schools wore their kilts with tweed jackets.
Figure 3.--The father-son matching sport jackets of the 1960s never proved as popular as matching mother-daughter outfits. Often the son would wear shorts and the father long pants. Almost always the boy wore knee socks. Note the penny loafters the boy is wearing.
Some clothing manufactures in the 1960s pushed a style for fathers and sons. This was based on the much more popular style of mother-daughter outfits. The father-son matching outfits never seemed to catch on. The most popular garment used was matching sports jackets. Often the boy would wear shorts and knee socks with these matching outfits and the father would wear long trousers. Sometimes both would wear matching longs or shorts. Almost always this outfit was worn with
knee socks when short pants were worn. This was considered a casual style at the time and would have been worn to events like an informal country club events, but probably not to a more formal event like a wedding or church.
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