French Boys Clothes: Social Class

Figure 1.--The photo was taken in Marseille during 1908. Marseille is France's most important Medietrranean port. We suspect that the fathers of the working-class children here are primarily fishermen and dock workers. Notice the long pants and barefeet. Also only one boy wear a beret. Also notice the boxes the boys' hold. These were shoe shine kits. We do not know just when the photograph was taken, but we suspect that many of these children still did not attend school. Click on the image for a fuller discussion.

Much of our assessment of French boys' fashion depicts middle-class and to a lesser extent uper-class. This is because the phtographic record, especially the 9th and early-20 century photographic recird, is biased towrd thwe affluent classes. And HBC in its assessments relies heavily on photography. These were the people most likely to have portraits taken. A French reader writes, "Boys from upper and middle class families boys were dressed almost alike during the first half of the 20th century, except for the quality of the garments. In French families very often mothers, grandmothers, and aunts were often very skilled at making clothes. Skills in embroidery, sewing, and knitting. So often boys in large families wore beautifull embroidered rompers with embroidery." There were some differences, principally well-off parents often bought many more garments and these children had a larger wardrobe including more dress up garments or special occassions. Also wealthier families tended to dress children in more juvenile styles for a longer period. There were significant differences with poor families. Working class boys were a different matter. We have far fewer images of working-class children. We do not see anything like the social photo journalism like we find in America. We have, however found a few images. The French scholl smock was introduced largely to cover up the differences in how children with different socio-economic backgrounds were dressed. These childrenes were dressed less fashionably and often began wearing long pants like adults at an early age. These differences varied over time and begun to decline after World War I, both for working-class children and farm/peasant children. After World War II and especially the 1960s these class detinctions in how French children dressed became less apparent.


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Created: 6:50 PM 3/12/2012
Last updated: 12:53 AM 3/14/2012