Boys' Clothing Glossary: "Sa-Sl"

We have begun to build a glossary of boys' clothing terms. As boys clothes until the 19th century was the sane as adult male clothing, we have included many applicable men's clothing terms. We have also included some women's terms as younger boys commonly wore dresses until the 20th century. As HBC is extensively used by non-native English speakers we plan to give considerable attention to this glossary so that words can be looked up. It will also serve as an index as we will provide links to the appropriate pages. We eventually hope to add foreign words, but that will take some time.

Sailor caps: Sailor suits were worn with both hats and caps. The difference between a hat and a cap is that a hat has a full brim, while a cap has only a partial brim or no brim at all. The first sailor suits were worn with the broad-brimmed sailor hats worn by British seamen. The The sailor suits popularized by Queen Victoria's sons in the 1840s were worn with accurate child-size reproductions of the full-brimmed straw sailor hats. The original sailor hat chosen for Victoria and Albert's children was the wide-brimmed straw hat worn by British seamen. Naval styles evolved and by the 1860s more practical caps without full brims were being introduced in navies around the world. The straw hat, especially with a wide brim was simply not suitable for everyday wear aboard a naval vessel. As boys' sailor suits followed actual naval unifor styles, these sailor caps soon became popular with boys.

Sailor hats: Sailor hats and caps, like sailor suits, were were originally worn exclusively by boys. One report indicates that boys were outfitted in sailor suits as early as the mid-18th Century, but the earliest image I have confirming this is a mid-19th Century image. It is certain, however, that it was Victoria's choice of sailor suits for the young Prince of Whales in 1846 that indelibly made the sailior suit acceptable as a boys' fashion. It was not until the 1870s, however, that the sailor suit became a major fashion for boys and was also being worn by girls. The sailor suit while not as dominate a style for girls as for boys, was still widely worn by girls.

Sailor suits: Few boys' clothing styles have beenb as imortant or so widey worn as the sailor suit. The sailor suit is certainly one of the classic styles for boys' clothing. Originally conceived in England, it oon became an internatiinally acepted style, easily crossing national borders. The classic sailor suit has changed little over time, although the pants worn with it have changed. While the classic style has changed little, there have been many variation on the classic style worn first by the British princes and subsequently by royals and commoners throughout Europe and America.

Sailor suit look: Elements of the sailor suit have appeared on many different garments.

Sand shoes: We have noted the English term "sand shoes". We thought it meant closed-toe sandals, like chool sandals. British reader tells us that growing up in northeast England, the term "sand shoe" referred to white plimsols. They also used the term "sandies".

Sandals: A sandal is a type of shoe fastened to the foot with thongs or straps. Sandals have been worn since ancient times. There are two basic types of sandals, closed toe and open toe sandals. Once considered primarily a child's shoe, sandals in the 1990s bdecame much more widely worn by older boys and adults. Sport sandals have even begun to compete with sneakers. Birkenstocks are popular with backpackers. In the developing locally-made sandals are available and flip-flops are widely worn.

Sandies: A British reader tells us that growing up in northeast England, the term "sand shoe" referring to white plimsols. They also used the term "sandies".

Sashes: A sash is a long band or scarf, usually made of silk, satin, or other fancy material. It is worn over the waist or shoulder. Military officers often wear shoulder or waist sashes as part of a formal military uniform. Waist sashes have been worn by women or children, both girls and boys, for ornament on formal clothes. Waist sashes were worn with Fauntleroy suits, dresses, and other outfits. They came in different materials and colors and worn with or weithout end tassles or edgeing. They were also worn at varying length and tied with different knots. Shoulder sashes are worn by boys wearing Scottish and Irish kilts for formal occasions and for participating in Higland and Irish dancing sashes varied substanitally.

School cap: One of the most common items of school uniform through the 1950s was the the peaked cap which normally matched the color and cloth of the blazer. It was so commonly worn in the early 20th Century that it was adopted as the Cub Scout cap by Boy Scouts in England and around the world. The cap appeared first in England and then spread around the world, but of course was most common at schools in the British Empire countries. The cap began to decline in the 1950s as headgear was less commonly worn. Boys wore hats less commonly and as pupil pressure prevailed, they began to disappear at school. In the 1960s the cap was no longer worn at most English schools, except for traditional preparatory schools. Some schools in the mid-1990s began adopting caps again out of concern for skin cancer. The caps being adopted are often styled like American baseball caps with larger brims than the traditional English peaked school cap.

School tie: The school tie evolved in England where schools in the 1920s began requiring neck ties in the school colors. The school tie came to be the very symbol of a school. Although the school tie came to be a central part of the school uniform, it is fairly recent in origin. Even after graduating, old boys of a school would wear their school as adults to identify their school. The tie while it came to be widely worn was especially identified with the England's elite public (private schools). See also "old boy tie" and "old school tie".

Figure 2.--British school uniforms have influenced the style of school uinforms in many other countries. These New Zealand boys wear a grey suit uniform.
School uniforms: School for most children is the major experience with the world outside the home. About a third of the day is spent at school and about half of a child's waking hours. School clothing did not used to be a great issue. Mom and dad chose it or the school had a uniform. In our modern world, kids haver become much more concerned with their clothes. The cost of those clothes and conflicts associated weith them have caused many schools and parents to reaasess the school uniform. Some countries are beginning to reverse the decline in uniform usage. School uniforms have varried from country to country and over time. The school uniform familiar to our British friends consist of a blazer, school tie, and dress pants which is worn by boys in many countries, especially English-speaking countries. This uniform evolvedin the England during the late 19th century. Blazers were at first sports wear, but in the 1920s began to replace Eton suits and stiff Eton collars and by the 1930s had become the standard uniform at many private schools.

Scottish dance: Higland dancing along with the kilt are two beloved symbols of Scotland. Its origins lie in the art of the ancient Celtic Scots. Modern Higland dancing is usually performed solo and is characterized by its typically sharp movements and the accompanying music. It's typically dance to the tune of the bagpipes. The dances are made up of different parts, called steps. There are usually four or six steps to a dance. Traditional Highland Dancing generally refers to a relatively few dances, especially the Highland Fling, Sword Dance, Seann Truibhas, and the Strathspey and Highland Reel or Reel of Tulloch. The basic movements in Higland dance are both strong and graceful. The hands are used expresively, quite different from the traditional dance of the neigboring Celtic people, the Irish. Higland dance was traditionally performed by Scottish men. Highland dancing is now performed by both men and women. In fact most competitors at Highland dance competitions are the lasses. Highland dancing is one of the few arenas where men and women compete equally. The dancers perform in elaborate costumes, however, the kilt and other costume garments appear to be relatively recent in origin. A dancer usually wears a kilt, Argyle socks and jacket/vest. Girls women wear vests or jackets of velvet and men wear a formal jacket such as a Price Charlie along with a cap and sporran.

Scottish country dance: Scottish country dancing is the modern form of the "country dancing" that was wide spread in both England and Scotland in the 18th century. It generally involves groups of about 6 to 10 people of mixed gender usually forming a "set". They dance to the driving strains of reels, jigs and strathspeys played on a variety of instruments--most commonly the fiddle, accordion, flute, piano, drums, and other instruments. Interestingly they rarely dance to bagpipes. The dance often combines solo figures for the "first couple" in a set with movements for all the dancers. There is, however, considerable variation in country dancing. One source reports that there are over 7,000 different dances have been catalogued and perhaps only about 1,000 are of lasting and non-local importance. These dances often derive from traditional sources such as old manuscripts and printed dance collections, but many are of recent derivation. This fusion of the traditional and the modern, and its ongoing evolution, are to many part of the attraction of Scottish country dance.

Scout and other youth group uniforms: Modern youth groups first appeared in the late-19th century as social leaders attempted to channel the energies of young people in the new developing industrial economies of Europe and America. Never before had young people had so much money. Families had moved from ancestrial homes to the growing impersonal cities. Crime was increasing. Centuries old social restraints were crumbling. Government an community leaders pondered what to do. The answer was the formation of youth groups to chanel the boundless energies of the young people in the new industrial societies of Western Europe. In this new movement, England led the way.

Sgain dubh: The Sgain Dubh or black knife, is a small knife worn on the right leg, tucked between the stocking and the leg. It is held in place by the garter band, with its handle protruding above the stocking top. Some are bone handled, some black with a cairngorm set in a silver mounting. Originally the Sgain Dubh was hidden somewhere on the highlander's body, it became tradition to wear it in the sock to show friendliness -- I.E. you are showing others where your knife is, so are not hostile. Tradition also states that the Sgain Dubh is worn in the sock so that even when kneeling a Scot is dangerous.

Shako: A shako is a tall, flat-topped almost cylindrical military cap, usuallu worn with a plume. Worn at some 19th century military schools. HBC has also noted a German youth group wearing them.

Shift: A shift was made similar to a modern day woman's nightgown and usually worn for sleeping purposes. Also referred to as a night dress. It is also used to describe a light summer dress.

Shell : An outer garment such as a rainjacket which blocks wind and rain. Due to this wind-blocking function shells provide the most warmth per weight of any garment.

Shield: A shield or dickey (also spelled "dickie") is a garment that resembles the front or collar of a shirt and is worn as a separate piece under a jacket, dress, or in the case of the sailor suit under the middy blouse. The dickie is soimetimes refeered to as a vest. In some cases the dickey was a small piece just covering the "v" of the middy blouse. Other alternatives were to actually attach the dickey to the middy blouse. Dickies could be plain or have an embroidered design. There were also stripped dickies. In other cases a kind of "t" shirt was worn under the middy blouse. This was the case for the French-style horizonal stripe shirts that served as dickies.

Shirts: The term "shirt" was initially used for a man's or boy's undergarment, covering the body from neck to knee. Most were made of white linen which could be very fine or very coarse. A gentleman's best shirt may have ruffles (ruffs) at the wrist and/or breast. A laborer's shirt was sometimes made of unbleached linen or small patterned checks and stripes. A plain shirt might serve as a nightshirt.

Shoes and sandals: Men's and boys' shoes were made in a great variety of styles and qualities. Fashionable low-heeled shoes or pumps were of softer leather, coarse common shoes of sturdier leathers. Black was by far the most usual color, and only occasionally were other colors seen. While buckles were the primary mode of fastening, ties were worn for utilitarian purposes. Boots of many sorts were worn for sporting, riding and working.

Short pants: Short pants are cut at or above the knee. Trousers cut below the knee we have generally referred to as knee pants if closed with buttons or left open. Trousers cut below the knee and gathered or closed with buckles we have referred to as knickers. Short pants have been referred to by different names in England. The English generally refer to short pants as "short trousers". They also used to refer to them as "knickers" although that term has for many years not been commonly used and more frequently is used to mean ladies underwear.

Short pant suit: Suits for boys resembling the modern suit began to appear in the mid-19th Century. Previously boys had worn skeleton and sailor suits and tunics with long pants after graduating from baby dresses and kilts. Their fathers in the early era of the 19th Century wore knee breeches. By mid-Century that had changed. Men wore long pants and children knee length pants. At mid-Century the suits worn by boys were generally plain, although some more elaborate styles were available to romantic mothers. It was not until the 1880s that elaborate Fautleroy suits appeared with lace collars and fancy blouses.

Shortalls: Shortalls are a one-piece short pants garmet worn by small boys in the 1960s-70s. It was based on the word overalls (the original name for jeans), but with short rather than long pants. Levi Straus came out with a version of its jeans for children in the 1920s. The shortalls appearing in the late 1950s and early 1960s, however, were not made of denim and disd not have bib fronts. I have no information about who first made shortalls or when they first appeatred, but it does appear to have been the early 1950s. Shortalls were popularized by President Kennedy's son John when he was dressed in them during the early 1960s.

Shortcoating: Shortcoating and breeching were two importnt events during the 18th century in the lives of children. Very young children wore long robes called mantles. These long garments extended well beyond the children's feet. As a child grew and began to crawl and eventually walk shorter garments were necessary. This process of dressing a child in ankle-length skirted garments or frocks was called shortcoating. This process applied to both boys and girls. Boys as they matured underwent an even more important rite of passage called breeching, in part because many boys remember being breeched. While girls and boys were shortcoated, only boys were breeched. There was no equivalent rite of passage for girls, who remained in petticoats and frocks. Shortcoating is more associated with the 18th than the 19th century, although breeching remained a major event in the lices of 19th century boys.

Sizes: Often childrens clothing have been available in various age groupings. The specific age groupings have varied over time. Many clothing catalogs advertising children's clothes describe the sizes in years. This means the average size child. Some children, of, course are smaller or larger than average. These sizes have also changed over time as today's better fed children are often larger than children in earlier times.

Skeleton suits: The skeleton suit was a fashion staple for boys. It came in one and two piece styles with numerous buttons in necessary places. It was worn during the French Empire period and the British Regency era Skeleton suits were widely worn by boys throughout Western Europe and America. Well dressed boys wore skeleton suits in the last decade of the 18th Century and the early decades of the 19th Century, about 1790 into the 1830s. Precursors to the skeleton suits appeared even earlier during the 1770s. The skeleton suit was one of the first specialized styles worn by children as opposed to scaled down version of the styles worn by one's fathers. They were apparently called skeleton suits because the boys at the age the suits were worn were so slender. The suits thought this period had two primary features: high-waist, and front buttons. An open neck blouse trimmed with lace or other elegant trimming was another feature on many suits. It was one of the more enduring boyhood fashions and was worn by boys for more than half a century.

Skirted garments: While skirted garments are primarily associated with girls, boys have in factall wor a variety of skirted documents. Garments such as bodies, dresses, pinasores, amd smocks have all been worn by boys.

Skirts: Little American boys until well after the turn of the 20th Century wore dresses and other skirted garments like kilt suits. Other skirted garments include smocks and pinafores. American boys rarely wore actual Highland regalia with bright plaids. One skirted garment I know less about are actual skirts.

Skull-cap: The skull-cap is a small, brimless, close-fitting fabric cap.

Skimmer: See "Boater".

Sleepwear: Boys have slept in a variety of different outfits. Until the 20th century men and boys slept in similar night shirts. Only in the 20th century was specialized children's sleepwear developed.

Christopher Wagner

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Created: July 9, 2001
Last updated: May 20, 2002