Boys Fashions: The 1910s--Garments

Figure 1.--This snapshot was taken in the 1910s. While it is undated, the boys' clothing especially the sailor hats strongly suggest the 1910s. We do not jnow where the photgraph was taken. The fact that the older boys are not wearing knickers and are not wearing long stickings. Rules out Americ as does the building in the background. We might guess France or Germany, but are not at all sure. The photograph does show case many of the styles worn by boys in the 1910s.

Major changes in fashion and garments occurred during the 1910s. The decade began with a great deal of formality in dress, even for children, although thst hd begun to change. Many of the boy's styles from the 19th century had largely disappeared like Fauntleroy suits and kilts suits. These chnges occurred before comparable changes ocuurrred in adult fashions. Comfortable casual styles for boys became increasingly popular. he sailor suit fashion continued popular in the 1910s. Maby styles at the beginning of the decade were little changed than at the turn of the century, except that shorts and knickers largely replaced knee pants. By the end of the decade sailor suits were being worn by increasingly younger boys in Britain and America, although older boys continued to wear them in Germany and other European countries. Most American boys wore knickers, often including high school age boys. The real changes occurred in the second half of the decade as Europe and America was rocked by horrendous tragedy of World War I (1914-18). It is unclear just how the War had this impact, but it is not hard to envision. Women working in defense plants dressed practilly amnd this experience must hve affected future fashion choices. And the idea of fancy dress for little boys not only seemed absurd after the war, but many women did not want to devote their time to such absurdities. Many major changes occurred during the War and affected life style and fashion after the War. It certainly had the impact of destroying all the old certanties of pre-War Europe. And during the war, industry including the clothing industry was directed toward the War effort rather han fashion. The impact was to permnntly alter fashion trends. The 1910s were a major dividing point between the formal styles of the late 19th century and the more clearly recognizable as modern styles of the 1920s. Certainly World War I (1914-18) must have been the major factor forging the new fashions.


Boys at the beginning of the decade commonly wore a wide variety of headwear. We see both hats and caps and other styles like berets, tams, and stocking caps. Hats had dominated in the 19th century. Caps were domiminant in the 20th century although we still see some boys wearing hars in the 1910s, especially sailor hats. Styled varied by country. In England the peked school cap was dominant. In America it was the flat cap. And a lot if boys wore sailor hts anhd caps, especilly younger boys although this varied by country. Sailor hats were destinctive in the 1910s. The brims could be partilly or entirely turned down. Sailor headwear commonly had dangling streamers. By the end of the popularity of the sailor headwear had significantly decclined in most countriues.

Skirted Garments

Younger boys for several centuries wore dresses until being breeched. We note boys in the 19th and even in the early 20th century wearingh a range of skirted garments. Some mothers still dressed their younger boys in dresses in the 1910s, but this was no longer common and the practice dieing out. A few boys still wore kilts, now mostly in Scotland. we no lo longer see kilt suit. Smocks were common in several European countries, mostly for school. Tunics were apopular garment for younger boys, especially in the United state. we notice both play and dressy tunics.


Considerable formality was still associayed with fashion in the early 1910s. Boys wore both single and double-breasted suit jackets during the 1920s. Norfolk suits were very popular in the 1910s. Knickers became increasingly popular in America, largely replacing kneepants. Knee pants continued to be worn in Europe and they began to shift towards short pants--although they were still quite long. Baden Powell's short pants seems to have been a factor here. We are not sure why this difference developed. Climate seems to have been a factor, but we think more was involved. Throughout the 19th century there was considerable similarity between America and Europe, in part because Europe, especially England, largely was the origin of fashion trends which Americans followed. Of course the 1910s was a decade dominated by the disaster of World War I (1914-18). It engulphed allmost all of Europe and eventually America. Even those countries that remained neutral were affected Europe except for Spain and the Scandinavians. Dress standards had to decline as even fabric became a scarce national resource. The result was a utilitarian trend which had been largely ignored in Europe for decdes. It was a factor in the trend toward casual wear that had already begun before the War.


Boys in the 1910s throughout Europe and America wore various kinds of shoertened-length pants and trousers. Kneepants were the most common, but began to be replaced with short pants in many countries and knickers in America. By the end of the decade, knickers had become very common in America. A new style became popular for younger boys, romper suits--one piece suits often with puffed pants. Of course World War I occurred in the 1910s. We are not sure at this time just how the War affected fashion. There were substantial differences in pants from country to country. In Germany knee pants had become standard wear for most boys, even teenagers. It is difficult to follow the transition from kneepants to short pants, in part because they are so similar, even short pants were knee-length in the 1910s. Also catalogs and fashion magazines commonly used various terms for the different types of pants. Of course one indicator of kneepants is the ornamental buttons at the leg hem. It is difficult to follow the transition from kneepants to short pants, in part because they are so similar, even short pants were knee-length in the 1910s. Also catalogs and fashion magazines commonly used various terms for the different types of pants. Boys still commonly wore long black stockings in the 1910s. White stockings were commonly worn by girls. Younger boys might wear them fgoe special occassions, often with knee pants. kneepants were more commonly worn by boys in America. (I'm less sure about Britain.) Knickers became more commin in the 1900s and by the 1910s most American boys were wearing knickers. Quite old boys wore knickers, some all the way through high school. I think older boys wore knickers/knee pants as part of suits than during any other period in America history. >


Most children wore long stockings in the early 20th century, although this varied from country to country. Black long stockings were especially common in America and norther Europe. White long stockings were also won by girls, but were less common for boys. There were variations. Children in southern Europe were more likely to wear three-quarter socks. And there were seasonal differences. Younger children commonly wore three-quater socks in the summer even in countrie where long stockings were common. Poor children often went barefoot. And in some countries like Amnerica and the British Dominions, going barefoot was common wven with middle-class boys. By the end of the decade, we begin to see many children beginning to wear knee socks rather than long stockings. This process varied from country to country.


Significant innovations occurred in boys' footwear during the 1910s. We begin ti see more boys wearing low-cut shoes than in the 1900s. High-tops were still dominany, byt we see more low-cut shoes. This varied from country to country. High-tops were still if notbuniversal, by far the most-dominant style in the United States. The same tended to be true in Europe, although there we see quite a number oif boys wearing low-cuts. Here age was a factor. Two other developments can be observed. Sandals appeared in the 1900s, but were increasingly popular for children in the 1910s. The dominant style w double bar sndals, called t the time barefoot sandals. Populrity varied by country. Another important development was snekers. In Europe they seem more of a gym shoe. In America they began to be seen as an informl shoe for play. Profuction of these shoes was affected by the avaiability of rubber which was affected by the wr. The smeaker began to come into its on in the 1920s, especilly in America. The War also affected the availability of leather, primarily because horse were still used as draft animals during the War. The post-War chaos and economic dislocations meant that a lot of younger children began going barefoot. We see a great deal of this in Germany and Austria-Hungary.


Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Return to the Main 1910s chronology page]
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Clothing styles] [Countries]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Glossaries] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]

Navigate the Historic Boys' Clothing Web chronological pages:
[The 1800s] [The 1840s] [The 1870s] [The 1880s] [The 1890s]
[The 1900s] [The 1910s] [The 1920s] [The 1930s] [The 1940s] [The 1950s] [The 1960s] [The 1970s] [The 1980s]

Created: 8:27 AM 10/7/2014
Last updated: 8:27 AM 10/7/2014