Boys' Suits: Country Trends

Figure 1.--American boys commonly wore suits in the early-20th century. Here we see two identified brothers, we believe in the early-1920s. They look to be about 5-9 years old. The oldr boy wears a single-breasted knickers suit. Note the Norfolk-style belt. His younger brother wears a short pants sailor suit.

Suit styles were primarly established in Europe. Here Britain was especially important. France was very important for women's abnd girl's fashions, but Britain was more importsnt for male clothing. There were quite diverse styles in the 19th century. Often it was possible to identifyb the countries involved. Suit styles became mor standardized in the 20th century. There were still variations in jackets, vests, and pants ajmong major countries. HBC has many country suit pages. We have just begun, however, to link these pages to our country suit page. This will take a littke time to complete.

America, Latin


As far as we can tell, Argentine boys suits generally followed European trends. We do not yet have mnuch information on Argentine boys' suits in the 19th century. We have found some infortmation on the 20th century. We notice boys wearing both single and double breasted jackets in the early 20th century, but single-breasted blazers became more common in the later half of the century. We see younger boys wearing sailor suits. British and European styles seem more important than American styles. Knee pants and short pants were very common for boys. Until about 1930, long stockings were common, especially for older boys. Gradually knee socks became more popular Knickers were less common. Long pants suits became more common after mid-century, although suits were becoming less common by the 1970s. we are not yet sure about the social class conventions.


America, North

There are principally three countries in North America: Canada, Mexico, and the United States. Here we are discussing Canada and the United States. Mexico is in North America, but culturally and economically has more in common with Latin America and thgere fore we have included Mexico in our Latin Amrican secrion. We have no information on Canadian suits until the 19th century, HBC has some limited information on Canadian boys' suits in the 19th and 20th centuries. Canadian boys wore English style suits in the 19th century. I'm not sure to what extent French-style suits were worn. Well to do boys, especially from English families, might wear Eton suits and collars. After World War I, American-styled suits have become more common. HBC has noted Norfolk suits in the early 20th century. By the 1930s modern looking single breasted and double breasted suits. I'm not sure how common kneepants suits were in the late 19th century, but Canadian boys do seem to have commonly worn knicker suits through the 1930s. Despite the climate, short pants suits appear to have been more common than in America. The first suits specifically made for boys in America as in Europe were skeleton suits. We notice suits with short jackets and often contrasting pants in the 1840s. At this time younger boys began wearing fancy suits, often heavily embroidered cut-away jackets with bloomer knickers or knee pants. Modern looking sack suits began to be worn in the 1860s. Younger boys in fashionable families might wear knee pants suits, but long trousers were more common for older boys until the 1890s when older boys began wearing them as well. Younger boys by the 1870s commonly wore kiltsuits by the 1870s and Fauntleroy suits by the 1880s. Sailor suits were another popular choice. Older boys wore more modern suis. Many destinctive styles appeared such as Norfolk suits. There were also single- and double-breasted suits. After the turn of the 20th century, knickers began replacing knee pants, especially after the 1910s. After World War I, short pants suits appeared, but knicker suits were much more common. Afrer World War II long pants suits became increasingly common. Boys also wore sports jackets and blazers. The increasingly popular more casual life style meant boys were wearing suits less and less commonly.


We see relatively few Asian boys wearing suits. Here culture was a factor. Until relativly recently, Asian boys wore mostly traditional styles rather than Sestern styles. Economocs wa also a factor. Most Asian countries were reltively poor and excpt for Japan, South Korea, and Tasiwn still have income levels substantially below European levels. Climate was also factor. Many Asian countries are located in tropical and semi-tropical areas. Of course China is the most populace country, but various factors such as the prevlence of political systems (tradutional and Communist) which discotragfed Westrern styles meant that suits were not common. Poverty was another factor. We do see suits being worn in Japan, especially in the 20th cntury.


We note European boys commonly wearung suits in the 19th and early- mid-20th centuries. We do not know much about the 19th century, but we know a great deal about the 20th century. Suits begin to become less common after the mid-20th century as casual styles become more common. We can often identify the country involved based on suit styles worn, at least for the major countries. The smller countries tended to wear styles set in the major countries, especilly England, France, Germany, Italy, and Russia. There was a great deal of similarity among coutries, but along with suit styles there are other cluses such as the caps, neckwear, hisiery, and footwear. We note a range of styles, including destintive styles for younger boys. Fauntleroy suits were not as popular in Europe as in America, but sailor suits seem more popular. The styles worn in the 19th century were quite varied. Gradually single- and doubled-breasted suits emerged as the mail styles, but Norfolk abd Eton suirs were also worn. Various type of pahts wee worn by boys, including knee opahts, short pants, knickers, and long pants. Shier pants suits were very common for schoo-age boys. After World War II, especially by the 1950s we see fewer European boys wearing suits and thge suits they wore were incwasinglky stabdardized.

Middle-East and North Africa


Unknown Countries

We notice some images of boys wearing suits which are not identified. Often the background kike house styles or cars can provide clues. But if these clues are not available we have to just work on the suit styles and accompanying clothing. Until the 1970s there were major differences between countries. By the 1970s we begin to see pan-European styles becoming dominant and it vecomes very diffiult to identify countries. .


Navigate the Historic Boys' Clothing Web Site:
[Return to the Main suit pages]
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Clothing styles] [Countries]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]

Navigate the Historic Boys' Clothing Web chronological pages:
[Early 19th century] [Mid-19th century] [The 1860s] [The 1870s] [The 1880s] [The 1890s]
[The 1900s] [The 1910s] [The 1920s] [The 1930s] [The 1940s] [The 1950s] [The 1960s] [The 1970s] [The 1980s]

Navigate the Historic Boys' Clothing Web style pages:
[Skeleton suits] [Eton suits] [Norfolk jackets] [Kilts] [Knicker suits]
[Blazers] [Short pants suits] [Long pants suits]

Created: December 21, 1999
Last updated: 12:18 PM 5/23/2017