*** topics : country styles of boys clothing

Country Trends: North America

knee socks
Figure 1.--American boys commonly wore knickers during the 1920s-30s. Boys from wealthy families, especially those with English or other European connections, were more likely to wear short pants. Note the distinctive patterned kneesocks, commonly worn by American boys during this period.

The information on most of the regions and countries we are assessing is still sketchy. This is not the case for North America, especially the United States. We have managed to accumlate a huge archive on the United States. Central America and Mexico are located in North America, but for cultural consistency, we have archived them under Latin America. The principal North American country is the United States and no other country has left such an enormous photographic record. Photography was invented in Europe (1839), but spread like wildfire in the United States. Thus from the mid-19th century there is a huge photogrphic record that can be used to follow fashion trends in considerable detail. American fashions when photography first appeared were still bring largely influenced by Europe, including children's fashions. The Little Lord Funtleroy suit was strikingly the first major contribution to children's fashions. American fashions despite the phenomenal growth of the U.S. economy following the Civil War continud to be primrily determined by European trends. The expanding American economy created an enormous market and consumers with an unparalleled potential for creating fashion trends. American children's fashions only began to diverge grom Europe in a major war after World War I. Since World War II. America has been a major influence on boys' fashions around the world. Casual styles like baseball caps, T-shirts, jeans, and sneakers were all American creations. Canadian fashions are quite similar to American fashions, but with a greater English influence, at leat until after World War II. Another factor has been the French Canadian population centered in Quebec.


Bermuda is a British overseas territory in the western North Atlantic Ocean. It is located about 650 miles into the Atlantic off North Carolina. It is often group with the Caribbean ialands, ut is in fact well to the north. Given its location, Bermuda is often struck by hurricanes. it is frequBermuda is actually only the largest island where the capital, Hamilton is located. There are some 300 coral islets, motly unihbited. It was well enough off the coast of North America tht native amnericans nevere reached it and unlike the Caribbean islands to the south was unihabited when the Europeans arrived. The island is named after its discoverer, Spainard, Juan de Berm´┐Żdez (1515). The Spanish did not settle cthe island, in part because of the dangerous reefs. Settlement began when English colonists led by Sir George Somers headed for the North American mainland were ship wrecked (1609). The Bermuda population is primarily Afro-American, but the history is different than tht of the Cribbean because the climate and agricultural capacity did not support sugar plantations. The English settlers did import Africans as well as indentured servants. The absence of plantation agriculture, however, meant that slavery was never as haesh or as extensive as in the Cribbean. Much of the rest of the population are of English and Scotts-Irish ancestry. There are also people of other races and mixed races. The island is a popular vacation destination with pink sand beaches. Banking and tourism are the principal economic activity. Bermuda is noted for smart casual clothing. Most famous of course are Bermuda shorts.


HBC has begun to collect some information on Canadian boys wear. Canada is a bicultural country with both English anf French influences. The French have, however, had only limited influences on boy's fashions. Rather the dominate influences have been the climate and America. HBC has only limited information on Canadian boy's clothing trends. At this time we have virtually no information on the 19th century. After the turn of the century knickers began to replace kneepants. In the 20th century the trend has been primarily a shift from English and French fashions to American styles. Canadian boys in the inter-war period wore varied styles, including short pants, knickers, and long pants. Reflectibng the English and French influence, short pants were worn by some boys, but not nearly as commonly as in Europe--probably due to the severe winters. After World War II, HBC has noticed little difference between Canadian and American fashions.


Greenland is a huge island, although not as large as suggest by most maps. Most os the island lies within the Artic Cirles in the western North Atlantic between Canada and Iceland. Geologically it is part of theCanadian shelf. Most of the island is covered by an enormous ice shelf more than two miles dep in some places, except for coastal areas. There are numerous glaciers and fjords. Most of the small population lives along thesouth western coast. The Arctic climate there is somewhat moderated by the Gulf Stream. The first humans settlers were Native Americans Archeologists are uncertain as to just when Native Americans first reached Greeland, but apparently occurred at a very late point (about 2500 BC). Native Anericans reached southern South America several millenia earlier. Native American settlement has been intetminent since that time. They subsistd on fisheries and hunting marine mammals. European settlement began with the Vikings led by Eric the Red (982 AD). They attempted to continue a European life style with sheep. This failed when the climate turned colder and the Vikings eventually abandoned the settlement. Modern settlment began with a Norwegian missiony (1721). Greenland became a Danish colony. Most of the population is of mixed Native American-Danish origins.

United States

America basically followed European fashions in through the early 20th century, although two classic styles Fauntleroy suits and Buster Brown suits did originate in America. After World War I, American and European fashions diverged. Short pants were never as popular in America as in Europe. American boys more commonly wore knickers. It was after World War II, however, that American styles began to dominate childhood fashions around the world. The smart, wealthy set in America still looked for Europe to set fashions. But American boys knew what they wanted and it wasn't Italian strap sandals and English short pants suits. It was "T" shirts and blue jeans. By the 1950s this was a virtual uniform of American boyhood. In the next decade these styles spread to Europe and eventually around the world. Even the Iron Curtain and the KGB was powerless against the relentless onslaught of American fashion. Today virtually any where you go you see baseball caps, "T" shirts, and jeans.


Geologically, Mexico and Central America are part of North America. But for our purposes, culturally they are more associated with Latin America. And while we have not ignored geology and geography, our focus is on cultural issues. We have thus included Central America within the Latin American section of HBC.

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Created: June 30, 1988
Spell checked: July 30, 1999
Last updated: 12:46 PM 3/31/2017