Canadian Boys' Clothes: Influences

Figure 1.--.

There are several important influences on Canadian boys' wear that have to be considered in any assessment of Canadian clothing styles. One HBC reaper opines tat Canadian styles may have initially been quite regionalized, due both to climatic and ethnic diversity.

British Styles

English clothing styles were very influential in Canada. The English seized Canada from from France in the French and Indian War (1754-63), leading to the The Seven Years War (1757-63) in Europe. The climatic battle occured at Montreal when Wolfe defearted Montcolmb on the Plains of Abraham (1763). Canadians refused to join the American colonists in the American Revolution (1776-83). The English influence in the 19th and even early 20th Century was the most important because the Canadians maintained theor ties with Britain. There is also a destinct Scottish influence in the maritimes, especially Nova Scotia.

French Styles

French Canadians located primarily in Quebec are Canada's primary ethnic minority. French Canadians are located mostly in Quebec are Canada's primary ethnic minority. The French are mostly not recent immigrants from France, byt rather the discendents of the French population from the 18th Century when France was still a French colony. There apperas to have been little contact between French Canadians and France after the English seized Canada from France. Canada has not had anything to do with France since 1763 and has been part of the British Empire ever since. The styles in English and French Canada have been more or less the same. Canadian children, whether they be English or French speaking have had English fashions and more recently, American fashions. Destinctly French fashions such as berets and svhool smocks were never worn to any extent by French Canadian children. In Quebec, there was a sizeable English speaking population in Montreal, which was dominant in business (they have shrunk since 1976 when the separatists first came to power). Therefore, they tended to set the trends. There was very little difference between English and French Canadian styles. Canada is 80 percent English speaking and 20 percent French speaking (located mostly in Quebec and northern New Brunswick), so as a minority, the French speaking population were dominated by the majority fashions, which, were British and American. I have noticed this over the past 30 years and looking at old pictures of French speaking families in Canada. France did not have much of an opportunity to influence French Canadian boys because of the majority English speaking population across the dominion, the political ties to Britain and the location next to the United States. Thre were not even any French magazines that were widly circulated in Quebec. There were Canadian magazines that were printed in both English and French, but the fashions they showed were identical. [Alcock]

American Styles

America has been the primary influence in boys clothing since the mid-20th Century. There is extensive travel and trade accross the border. The American influence probably began in earnest with the Sears and Robuck and Montgomery Ward catalogs which were circulated througout rural Canada. Notably American-style knickers were widely worn in Canada, but not Britain in the 1920s and 30s. Short pants, usuakky with kneesocks, despite the climate, were more common in Canada than America because of rge British and French influence, but most boys as in America wore knickers. Canadian boys like American boys began wearing jeans in the 1950s. American-dominated mass media today has trenendous influnce on Canada. Most Canadian cities can pick up American TV stations. Canadian stations carry American programs. Canadians read American publications. The media penetration is so significant that the Government has passed laws requiring Canadian content. Even so, the omnipresent American media presence has played a major role in affecting fashion trends.

German Styles

HBC readers have noted some similarities between Canadian and German boys' clothing. The similarites seem the strongest with French Canadians. We have also noted some similarities, but believe that they were driven primarily by similarities in climate. A French Canadian reader writes, "I have a real picture of myself at 2 or 3 year-old. It was around 1939. My hair is cut in short bangs. My pants are near bib pant like it was at that time. I feel that German clothings were really popular among mothers at that time. My mother (and many others) were able to copy everything from newspaper. We sometimes forget that the NAZIs were seen by some at the time (like Edward VIII) as a progressive regime. During the 1930s the United States was identified with gangsters like Al Capone. These are memories we have forgotten. I remember clearly that my Christmas gifts came from Germany which made good product at a cheaper price that from America and Britain. My father (a river pilot on the St-Lawrence River) told me that mrchant ships from Germany brought all kinds of products from Germany".


Alcock, James. E-mail-message, July 25, 2002.


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Created: July 25, 2002
Last updated: January 4, 2004