20th Century English Boys' Clothes: Post-war Era Decades (1945-70)

Figure 1.--A reader tells us, "This is sort of the scene my parents saw in London in 1965. My mother was so thrilled that she insisted I wear my hair like these two boys and bought me clothes similar to them. Espadrilles and not the T-bar as she tried that 5 years earlier and it did not work. I do remember wearing shorts and my mother wanting me to wear the knee socks which I quickly pulled down so they looked like everyone else’s." You can read mor about our reader's boyhood in Philadelphia by clicking on the image.

Boys fashions appeared to change little in the post World War II period, but beneath the surface very significant changes were beginning. A problem in Britain was the weak economy because of post-War socialist governments. As a result, war-time ationing continued into the 1950s while the German Economic Miracle was transforming not only Gemany, but much of Western Europe. As the English economy slowly improved, higher wages permitted families to devote more of their disposable income to clothing. By the 1960s, especially the late-60s we see major fashion changes. England participated in the evolution of pan-European styles in the 1970s.

The 1940s (1945-49)

The lack of change imediately after the World War II (1938-45) was in part due to a combination of the difficult economic straits faced by Britain as a consequence of the sacrifices and massive costs of the War as ell as the election of a Labour Government. Rationing continued for years after the War, into the 1950s. Many families were hard put to meet basic needs which left little time or money for fashionable boys' clothes. As in Germany, this mean that many boys wore short trousers longer than they would have before the War. Families did not have the money for new clothes as they did in more prosperous times. A new suit with long pants was an family expense tht could b postponed. A similar condition pervailed in Germany and other European countries during the late-1940s when quite old boys would still be wearing short pants suits. Some British chools required short pants even for teenagers. This was not the general situation, but there such schools in both Englnd and Scotlnd. This mean we see boys earing short pants for casual, school, and dress up outfits. School caps were still uniquitous. Wearing ties was still very common, In addition to suit coats we also see boys wearing short jackets, a kind of military style. Knee socks were still very common although ankle socks might be worn during the summer. Footwear inckuded shoes, sandals, and plimsols.

The 1950s (1950-59)

Most boys, including quite old boys still wore short trousers in the early 1950s. They were worn for both dresswera and casual wear. Fewer boys wore short oants all year round, but they were still commonly worn in the summer. Corduroy shorts were popular for casual wear and were even adopted at some schools. Styles finally began to change by the mid-1950s. The most notable changes were the declining popularity of school caps and the a shift toward long pants suits. Many schools comtinued to require short pants school uniform. Even state secondary schools often required shorts for the junior boys. Some private schools requited then even for the older boys. Short pants suits became less and less common. While British boys commonly wore blazers and ties to school, many boys rarely dressed up for other occasions. Church attendance, for example, was much less common than in America. As a result, many boys did not have a dress up suit. Casual clothes became increasingly popular Jeans and other American styes were not common in the early 1950s, bit were increasingly worn by teen agers by the end of the decade.

The 1960s (1960-68)

Trend that began in the 1960s became increasingly apparent in the 1960s. Short pants were still commonly worn in the 1960s, but by increasingly younger boys--especially by the late 1960s. Boys began wearing clothes with a European influence. Short pants began increasingly short in the 1960s. The standard short pants were grey. Terelyn blended fabrics tended to replace flannel. These grey shorts were widely worn at schools. Some younger boys at secondary schools still weore shorts in the early 1960s, but this was rare except in private schools by the end of the decade. Outside of school, dress shorts were less commolybworn, but a varierty of play shorts in various colors and materials, including denim were popular for boys until their teen years during the summer. The year of 1968 is especially important as it was the year of the Paris school riots--which marked the increasing importance of youth culture throughout Europe. This trend was and fashions styles which accompanied it were also noticeble in England. By the end of the decade it was rare to see an older boy wearing short pants suits with knee socks, except at a few mostly private schools. Even the Scouts, but not the cubs, following the popular trend switched to long pants in 1969.


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Created: 8:10 AM 3/25/2015
Last updated: 9:51 PM 2/20/2017