* country styles of boys clothing -- Oceania

Countries: Oceania

Figure 1.--Here we see a boy collecting coconuts on near Pago Pago, Samoa, we think in thev1930s just before the Pacific War. Jis sisters are waiting for hin in a small outrigger just below.

We are preparing a series of pages on national clothing styles. We now have over 70 countries listed in our country section. Most have a linked page with at least some basic information on clothing in that country. We have developed detailed information for several mostly European counties and the United States. Many of the country pages, however, are just being sketched out at this time. So don't expect too much yet. We have a lot of other pages to do, so it will be a while before we can focus on all the countries on our list. Of corse here we need your assisatnce. HBC does not have the capability to visit or even reserach all of these countries. Do let us know if you have any text or images to contribute about your country. We are interested in adding information about every different countries around the world. The current Euro-centric focus of HBC is because European readers have been the most willing to contribute information. We have tried to create a page for each country, even if only limited information is available. This provides a location for collecting information. We hope that our readers will contribute insights into fashion trends in their own countries. HBC has collected information on more than individual countries. The information on most of these countries still sketchy. We have, however, succeeded in collecting quite detailed infornation on America and several European countries.


Oceania is the island continent, located in the Pacific Ocean--the world's largest ocean. It consists of countless islands including many small small uninhbited islands. Most are situated in the Central and South Pacific Ocean. This has been a major factor in the aility of people to rech the islands. There are reltively few islands in the North )the Aleutians are the most importnt) and East Pacific (Easter Island is a rare exception). Oceania includes Australia, the island continent. Oceania covers a vast areas as the Pacific is such an inmense body of water. It is, hover, the smallest continent in terms of total land area, especially if Australia is not included. The Pacific is vast, larger than all the Earth’s continental landmasses and islands combined. Oceania is dominated by the nation of Australia-- a much larger land area than all of the rest of Oceania combined. The other two major Oceania landmasses of Oceania are New Zeland (primarily composed of two islands) and New Guinea. There are three other island regions: Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia (including United States Hawaii). There are three island groups: continental islands, high islands, and low islands. The islands in these groups have been formed in different ways and are composed of different materials. The continental islands have a range of physical features. The high and low islands are basically similar in their physical geography. A major feature of Oceania is the horseshoe-shaped Pacific Ring of Fire (circum-Pacific belt) which affcts the southwestern island, casing earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Many of the islands in fact are volcanic in origin. The Ring of Fire is a nearly continuous series of oceanic trenches, volcanic arcs, and volcanic belts and plate movements. Over 450 volcanoes havve been identified.


Oceania is a geographic term coveing a huge area of the Western Pacific, most but not all south of the Equator. The area is commonly referred to as the South and Central Pacifiv, but is all locted in the Wesern Pacific--except for Easter Island. Oceania includes Australia commonly given continental status. There are also two huge archepolgical nations--Indonesia and the Philippines. In additn are a smll number of island nations. The largest islands are New Guinra, Borneo, and the two main New Zealand islands. Many other islands and island groups are included in Micronesia and Melonesia. Most of these islands, except for southern Australia and New Zealand are located in the Tropics. The proples of Oceania are a diverse mixture . We find aboregines in Austrlia as well as primitive proples ion isands like New Guinea and Borneo. Much of the area ws settled by Poynesian peoples originting in Southeast Asia. To the originl peoples have been added an extrdunary mixture of Indian Hindus, Arab traders, and European colonists, including the Dutch, English, French, German, Portugese, and Spanish. And finally in the late-19th century, the Americans. And finally the Japanese for a brief period of the 20th century leading to World War II. Many of the islands of Oceania achieved independence in the de-colonization period following the War..


Oceania is the smallest of the world's economic regions in terms of population. This is because it is largely composed of many small islands with limited populations. It covers a huge ocean area, but the land area of the islsnds is very small. There are two excrptions. Australia is a continent in itself, encoming a large area, but much of it is arid and the population small. The land aea of Infonesua exceeds that of all the rest of Oceania. The country is resource rich. The economy was largely sgricultural, but dince World War II has developoed a diversifuied modern economy. New Zealand is similar, although much smaller and better watered. Indonesia is a vast archepeligo with a huge population and enormous natural resources. Socialist, statist economic policies and corupt military rule impaired Indonesia's development, but since the Asian financial crisis (1997), major changes including free market reforms have stimulated economic growth. Also included in Oceania is Australia and New Zealand, two countries with important natural resources and productive capitalist economies. The Philippines, the other important archipelago, has not achieved the economic growth hoped for after independence. The region has benefitted by first Japanese post-World War II economic miracle and now Chinese economic growth. Both Japan and China have grown economically because of free market economic policies. The region has not experienced the phenomical growth of the Asian Tigers, but Infoinesiaa, Malaysia, and the OPhilippines have begun to report significant economic growth in recent years. Since World War II, most of the small island groups of the Central and South Pacific have emerged from cololonial trusteeship status to form independent nations. It is not yet clear if they are going to be able to develop successful, prosperous economies.


Oceania is a vast area the prople there developed diverse cultres, including religions. Early arrivals were the East Indies and Melanisia. Java man has beeb dated to 500,000 BP. There is also evidence of an early human presence in the Philippines. Other early arrivals were the aboriginal people of Australia and New Guinea and also populated Melanesia. This occurred at the dawn of humanity as part of the first wave of humans out of Africa. Anthropolgists differ widely on just when this occurred. Estimates range from 50,000-125,000 BP. The religion these early arivals developoed was animistic--the standard reigious practices of primitive man. Our ideas anout religious practives are largely influenced by the pore-Chrustian practices of native popularion encounteed by the Europeans (18th century). The rest of the population of Oceania much later, basically in the second millenium AD, migrants from various areas of Southeast and East Asia. Th human prsence in the smaller islands away from the major land masses is much more recent. The Polynesians are famed fior their navigational skills. As they were encountered by the Europeans in modern times. There religious practices are well known. The Polynesians world view was centered on the need please their rather capricious Gods and morecreliable ancestral spirits. Rituals to accomplsh this included various forms of sacrifices and dances. This was seen as ensuring fertility, protection from enemies, war power, and for bountiful harvests anbd fish catches. Polynesian communal life was intricately intertwined with their religion. [Breward, p. 218.] Many od the islands were dominated by a warrior culture which was intertined with religion. This was especially the case in Melanesia. The challenge was particularly challenging in Melanesia where a strong warrior culture of payback, avenging attacks was strongly ingrained in the culture. [Trompf, p. 246.] The first advanced religion to arrive was Hinduism, but was largely relpaced by Islam. This occurred in the East Indies (modern Indonesia). Soon afterward the Europeans and Christinity reached Oceania. The first were the Portuguese and Dutch in the East Indies and the Spanish in the OPhillipines. The Protestant Dutch gave little emphsis to spredug the faith. The Spnish in the Philippines did. While Islam proved resistant to Christinity, the rest of Oceania was different and today is largely Christian. The prudish attitudes of the first Christiam missionaries was alien to most of Oceania. The idea of individual salvation through repentance for sins, and a single universal God was a hard sell. [Garrett] And the missionaries also faced 'hostile' natives, especially in Melanesia where the idea developed that the early missionaries were malevolent spirits. The major missionary effort began in part due to a religious revival in Britain. It was a Protestant effort led by the London Missionary Society (LMS).

Regional Groupings

Oceania covers a huge area, only Asia is comparable. It is, however, an ocean area. The actual land mass is realtivly limited with the exception of Australia. This of course severly limits the population. Most of oceania is situated in the South Pacific, nearly all of the land mass. The major countries are located in the west (part of Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines). Taiwan is generally seen as part of Asia (China) geographically. Much of the area is geologiclly part of southeast Asia. And suring ie ages much of the area was conncted with land bridges. Then there is what was once called the South Sea Islands. There are four regional groupings based on both geography and ethnicity: Australasia, Melonesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. Australasia includes Australia and New Zealand, most of the land mass of the South Seas area. Australasia also includes New Guinea which is commonly associated with Melanesia because of the etnicity of the population. Australia and New Zealand were initially settled by Polyneisian people (the Maori) and melonesian people (the aborigenes). Melanesia takes its name from the negroid population. It extends from New Guinea to the Arafura Sea, and eastward to Fiji. Micronesia takes it name grom the small size of the many islands that it includes. There are literally thousands of small islands in the western Pacific Ocean. There is a shared cultural history with the two other two island regions, Polynesia to the east and Melanesia to the south. Polynesia consists of more than 1,000 islands scattered over a huge area of the the central and southern Pacific. The region derives its name from the ethnicity of the population wgich settled it -- the Polynesias. There are many common bonds, including the language, culture, and beliefs. Most importantly there was a strong tradition of sailing and navigation which explain the huge reach of the population which extended to Gawaii in the north and Easter Island approching the coast of South America in the east.

Countries, Country Regions, and Colonies

The many people of Oceania have a long and fascinating history beginning with the First migration of people out of the Aftrican Continent. The islands were colonized by European countries. This began with the European voyages of discovery (15th century). Ironically the Americas were discovered first as part of the effort to reach the East. The major colonial powers were England, France, the Netherlnds and Spain. Eventually America, Germany, and Japan became involved. The Philippines and Indonesia were the first colonies (16th century). More followed with Australia (18th cntury). The smaller islands were colonized (19th century). Most of the islands were relatively unknown to the world until World War II when some of the island became suddenly important in the most massive naval campaign in history. Oceania is now for the most part composed of independent countries, federations of island groups formed after World War II in the de-colonization era. Many os the islands have changed their colonial names. A few islands have been annexed by other countries (Borneo, Easter Island, and the Hawaian islands). There are also a few small remaining colonial dependencies.


Breward, I. Christianity in Polynesia: Transforming the Islands,” in ed. C. Farhadian, Introducing World Christianity (Oxford: Blackwell, 2012), pp. 218–29.

Garrett, J. Footsteps in the Sea: Christianity in Oceania to World War II (Geneva: World Council of Churches; Suva: Institute of Pacific, 1992).

Trompf, G.W. (2012) “Christianity in Melanesia: Transforming the Warrior Spirit,” in C. Farhadian, ed. Introducing World Christianity (244–258. Oxford: Blackwell, 2012), pp.244-58.


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Created: June 30, 1988
Spell checked: July 30, 1999
Last updated: 1:31 PM 10/26/2020