French Boys Clothes: Summer Camps

Figure 1.--These French boys are picture at a children's holiday camp at Oléron in 1952. They are all dressed alike, white shirts and suspender shorts. Presumably it was a camp uniform. One reader thinks it is more likely that the boys are triplets.

The summer camp experience is largely thought of as important component of American childhood. HBC knows less about summer camp in European countries like France. We have one report of "holiday camps", although we are not sure precisely what this meant. We do know that there were programs to provide a healthy summer camp experience for city children from low-income families, but we have few details at this time. The boys at one of these holiday camps appear to be wearing a kind of uniform--white shirts and suspender shorts. Hopefully our French readers will provide more details on French summer camps.


A French reader tells us that the French term for summer camp is, " Colonie de vaçances ".

Types of Camps

HBC has limited information on the types of summer camps in France. Many American camps are private, fee-paying camps. We do not know how common such private camps are in France. Again in America the YMCA has an important summer camp program. We do not knpw if this is the case in France. We do know that French Scouts maintain camps. We also note that French sources describe holiday camps and "colonie de vacances". We are not sire just what kind of camps these are. There appears to be a government program to provide summer camp experiences to low-income children. HBC reasders also mention catholic camps. Local communities and town councils also organized camps. We notice a reference to 'UFA" in connection to ma youth agency, but we havebbeen unable to find what this this acronym meant.


American children headed to camp generally did so by bus. The United States had an excellent rail system. Perhaps not as well developed as the major European systems, but still an excellent rail system. But my personal experience and much of the photographic record shows children heading off the camp by bus. This as best we can tell is not the case for France. We notice French children being transported by rail. We are not entirely sure why this was. It could be because France had a much better rail system. But the location of French summer camps was also probably a factor. We note many French summer camos located at populalar beach resorts. The were locations with excellent rail service because so many vacationers came there. American summer camps were primarily located in more isolated inland rural areas in the mountains are on lakes where the raul service was more likmited. We notice some coastal camps, often in estuary locations rather than at beach resorts. These are all areas that busses were needed to gets the kids to camp.

Camp Uniforms

An HBC reader tells us that in general, French boys did not wear uniforms. There were only a few exceptions, certain private school, Scouts, and certain institutions. Apparently many holiday camps after World War II (1939-45) did introduce uniforms and this was common until the late 1960s. Many children, especially after the War, were poor and many did not have the needed garments for seaside, mountains, or country. So many camps introduced a sort of uniform. It was almost the same uniform during the summer: short pants butonning on one side or with shouderstraps (suspender shorts) for the younger boys. Blue or dark colors were the most common and they were worn with colored shirts. A European reader reports, "I am a bit astonished at the uniform clothing, I would have concluded that this is not a camp uniform, but that we have here a picture of triplets.


Boys in the holiday camps mostly wore short pants. The camps were for school-age children, mostly older than 6 years old. In the camps as in schools the boys did not wear rompers. Rompers were common for boys until about 5 years of age, although boys of 6-7 years might wear them at home, on special occasions, or on holidays. Usually uniforms in summer camps, called in French "colonie de vacances", would be limited to a cap and a kind of T-shirt, certainly not to pants. In most cases there is just a list of garments to be taken to camp, but with free choice about styles and colors. Usually boys at these camps wore shorts. Younger boys might wear suspender shorts. Boys in Catholic camps might wear white shirts on Sunday. The boys often worn Scout-like neckerchiefs ("foulards") to help destinguish different groups. Berets were common at some camps, but were not commonly seen by the 1960s--except at Scout camps. We have also noted capes at some camps.


Aparently as French families became increasingly propsperous in the 1970s that boys began to increasingly wear their own clothes at camps. Trend apparently have differed over time at the various kinds of camps. A reader reports that camps prganized by local town councils usually had simple uniforms for the children. They often provide shirts and shirts pants, although this became less common after 1968.


One reader believes that garments uniformity at camps has a different purpose than school uniforms. Camp uniforms are merely for the accompanying adults to be able to see at a glance where all the boys are, and distinguish them from others kids.

Individual Camps

We do not have a lot of information on individual French camps. One colonie de vacances we note is at Gréoux les bains (near Marseille) in 1951. We do not know much about it except that the boys were very young and seem to have worn uniform bib-front shorts.


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Created: October 26, 2001
Last updated: 6:02 PM 3/23/2019