World Trends with Boys' Pants

A HBC contributor in 1999 submitted an assessment of contemprary trends around the world concerning short and long pants. His assessment confirms the continuing process of the globilization of boys' fashions.

Developed Countries

I just returned from a trip to Europe. While the weather was warm, I saw a number of boys in short pants (French schoolboys in Paris 12-15), smaller Dutch boys(8-10) coming out of church. But shorts entirely disappeared once the weather turned cool. American boys, at least in the northwest, where my family lives, are now more likely to wear shorts in cooler weather than European (the 12 year old neighbor boy to my nephews wears shorts all the time, even in quite cold weather -- my nephews remarked on it).

Of course, all these references to shorts mean the knee-length style currently in fashion. In the countries I visited, (France, Spain, Holland, Germany) there is no such thing any more as formal dress-up wear for boys (I even saw group pictures of French weddings. Boys were dressed "nicely" casual; the younger ones in shorts. A generation ago, both older and younger would have been in shortpants suits). Boys do wear shorts in warmer weather and because no formal wear for boys exists anymore, you will see in formal situations (church; weddings) boys in shorts, but they are only "nice casual" (i.e., polo shirts and khaki shorts instead of oversized t-shirts and the awful ghetto things).

The situation is almost exactly the same as in the States, the only difference being that American men are more likely to wear shorts than European men, so that shorts in Europe still carry a faint aura of "boys clothes" rather than just "casual clothes" that they do in the States. (This was particularly true in Spain where on a moderately coolish day I saw some boys, particularly younger boys, in shorts but not a single man). I think one could safely say that national distinctions, at least in the developed world, have almost disappeared. Formal shortpants wear for boys (indeed formal wear of any sort) continues to exist only in uniformed schools in Britain, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, and Japan. (The Japanese will still buy shortpants suits for their sons for school interviews and weddings/funerals).

Developing Countries

The developing world is a different matter. Thai and Indonesian schoolboys still universally wear shorts (the Thai ones, as you note on your Thai page, are knee length; the Indonesian ones short and smart); Chinese boys in Malaysia and Singapore wear smart formal shorts, and although I have never been there, I believe that formal shorts-wearing is still prevalent in the non-Islamic parts of the subcontinent (Srilanka and Hindus in India). May be true in sub-Sahran Africa as well.

HBC notes that even in the developing countries the trends have been toward long pants. School boys in many African countries have demanded the right to wear long pants. Secondary school boys at the secondary level throughout the Caribbean generally wear long pants. In some Caribbean islands (such as Anguilla) even the elementary boys generally wear long pants.

Christopher Wagner

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Created: October 12, 1999
Last updated: October 12, 1999