English Boyhood Clothes in the 1970s: Church Clothes

I had a relatively strict and, probably, slightly old-fashioned upbringing. So, I suppose that the clothes and lifestyle that I had were more typical of a classic British upbringing in the late 1960s, rather than what most boys of my age were going through in the 1970s.

Younger Boy

As a younger boy, I did not wear a suit. I would normally have wore my school uniform either to Church or on other days when, outside school, formal clothes were to be worn, for example to visit relatives. School uniform was of absolutely standard British type. I wore short trousers with my uniform until are I was about 12, although I was put back into shorts for the summer during which I turned 13.

As I said, my socks were always a long and grey. I frequently wore sandals with the more informal clothing but with a suit I always wore black lace up shoes.

Buying a Short Pants Suit

I remember going to Harrods, the big department store in central London. They had and has a range of short trousered suits. I don;t know why, but I remember that they had them in "short" and "longer" style--the latter being shorts which reached further down towards the knees. The short pants suits were in sizes up to 30" waist. They were all lined. My mother picked the shorter style for me.

When you buy a shortpants suit they do not measure the length of the trousers like they do for a long pants suit. You more or less had to take whatevere they had. Which is why Harods had the longer and shorter short trouers. I can remember frieinds who were proportioned differently having the suits altered.

My Suit

The suit I wore was of grey woollen material, lined. The short trousers were quite short as was the style then, several inches above my knees. The jacket was also cut short and stopped just above the hem of the shorts. I wore either a grey or a white nylon shirt, short sleeved, with a tie, normally a school design. I wore black lace up shoes, and grey knee length socks with turn ups and a garter. Between shirt and vest I would normally wear religious jewellery, normally a crucifix and religious medal.

My jacket was single breated. It ws not unlike a jacket for a long pants suit, although. I think it was cut a little shorter, reaching only about 6 inches below the waist. The short trousers to my suit had pleats and back pockets with buttons to cover them. It also had belt loops but I didn't usually wear a belt. The front pockets were quite high up and very small, rather like watch pockets. I remember thinking at the time that this was rather strange. Like most formal shorts in the 1970s and 80s, my suit shorts were cut reasonably tight and reasonably short. I don't remember any shorts which were "baggy" or long like English boys used to .

First Communion

I first wore a formal short trousered suit at the age of about 11, after my first communion (this was a little later than the normal then, for my parents believed in very thorough preparation). I do remember that some boys of around 11 years old did wear long trousers for their first communion. I don't remember speaking to my parents about this because it had been made fairly clear to me that my father particularly considered short trousers to be both good for a boy in terms of discipline and in terms of health and to I could therefore expect to wear them at least until I was 13.

White suits were not very common for First Communiion, at least in my experience. I think they are motr common now. When I was a boy, most boys wore either dark short trousered suits or school uniform. The girls, however, did commonly wear white dresses.

Going to Churcg

So far as Church was concerned, there was a wide variety of clothing worn by boys in their early teens. At the age of 14, I was one of perhaps no more than two or three whose parents insisted on formal shorts for mass and for confession. The majority of other boys in of my school or in my neighbourhood wore either grey long trouser suits or long trousered school uniform. A very few wore more informal clothes such as slacks and an open neck shirt but that was considered unusual. At the age of 12 or 13, though, there would be quite a few boys, such as myself, who were allowed to wear long trousers to school but not to Church. By the time I was 14 I did speak to my father about the slight embarrassment of kneeling at the altar alongside friends nearly all of whom wore long trousers. He understood, but told me that he felt that it was perhaps good for me to go on for longer than most of my friends.

Other Boys

I do remember talking to other boys about the fact that I and only a very small number of others wore shorts. I wasn't teased, but the main feature of the conversation was of the generally much stricter discipline that I and the others had to endure compared with other boys'. The short trousers were only one item of the more disciplined and more religious upbringing that some of us had.

Long Pants

As I said, I continued to wear shorts for mass and confession until I was about 14 . My 14th birthday was shortly before Christmas. I first wore long trousers to Church that Christmas. I still had to go to confession in shorts until the following Easter. So, the last time I remember having to put my short trouser suit on was to go to confession on the Saturday before Easter after my 14th birthday. I would have been about 14 years and four months old.

As you can see, my clothing was very closely connected to a strict religious upbringing. I suspect, from looking at your site, that I may not be the only one who has had that experience. I would be very pleased to answer any further questions you may have.


Christopher Wagner


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Created: February 5, 1999
Last updated: February 5, 1999