Sailor Suits Country Trends: North America


Figure 1.--This 1890 painting by Sargent shows Mrs. Edward L. Davis with her son Livingston Davis in 1890. He looks to be about 7-8 years old. Livingston wears an immaculate white summer sailor suit. He wears matching white knee pants with short socks. Note the classic wide-brimmed sailor hat he wears with it. We think the 1890 date is definite, but mostly we see boys wearing long stockings in the 1890s with shoes.

North America is dominated by Canada and the United States. We know sailor suits were worn by Canadian boys, but the style does not seem to be as popular as in Britain and the United States. Here we are still assessing Canadian trends. Our Canadian archive is not as large as our Ameruican archive. We thus more about the United States. Sailor suits were worn relatively little through the 1870s. This changed dramatically in the 1880s. By the 1890s they were the single most popular outfit for boys and, unlike the Fauntleroy suits also wornh in the late 19th Century, boys actually liked them. The sailor suit became popular in America as the country emerged as a major naval power. The styles seemed to follow British styles modified to reflect U.S. naval uniforms. Even boys still wearing dresses were outfitted in sailor suits with skirts. Sailor suits in the 1860s and 70s were made in a variety od styles and only gradually did the traditionlly styled suits emerge as a standard. As the sailor suit became popular in the 1870s, pants styles for boys shifted to knee pants worn with long stockings. Sailor suits with knee pants continued to be a popular style for boys through the 1910s. As boys pants styles shifted to knickrs in the 1920s, sailor suits began to go out of style. Some small boys wore them, but with short pants rather than knickers. While most of North America is the United States and Canada. Yjere are a few other jurisdictions. Mexico is located in Morth america, but we have rchived it in the Latin American section.

Canada

Canadian boys as in America and Europe also wore sailor suits. We have little information about this fashion specifically related to Canada, largely because our Cnadian archive is still relatively limited. As far as we can tell, Canadian boys wore the same style of sailor suits as worn in the United States. There may have been more of a British influence in the mid 19th century, but by the turn of the 20th century they seem to be wearing rather American style sailor headwear and suits. An example is a family portrait taken by an itinerate photographer, probably on New Brunswick. The two boys in the family wear matching white sailor suits with floppy tam-like headwear. A Canadian reader has provided us a photograph of an English Canadian boy wearing a traditionally styled sailor suit in 1928. The suit is quite a bit different than those worn by American boys. Perhaps it is based on an English style. The cap is a type we have not noted being commonly worn in the 1920s, either in America or England. We are insure to what extent it was a popular boy's style in Canada. We also notice Canadian boys wearing tunic suits done in the sailor style.

United States

Sailor suits were worn relatively little through the 1870s. This changed dramatically in the 1880s. By the 1890s they were the single most popular outfit for boys and, unlike the Fauntleroy suits also wornh in the late 19th Century, boys actually liked them. The sailor suit became popular in America as the country emerged as a major naval power. The styles seemed to follow British styles modified to reflect U.S. naval uniforms. Even boys still wearing dresses were outfitted in sailor suits with skirts. Sailor suits in the 1860s and 70s were made in a variety od styles and oinly gradually did the traditionlly styled suits emerge as a standard. As the sailor suit became popular in the 1870s, pants styles for boys shifted to knee pants worn with long stockings. Sailor suits with knee pants continued to be a popular style for boys through the 1910s. As boys pants styles shifted to knickrs in the 1920s, sailor suits began to go out of style. Some small boys wore them, but with short pants rather than knickers.








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Created: 9:11 AM 10/13/2015
Last updated: 9:11 AM 10/13/2015