French Boys Garments: Pants

Figure 1.--French boys in the 1930s commonly wore short pants, both as casual and dressy clothes.

French boys have worn the same stles of pants as worn in other European countries. Knee breeches were worn in the 18th century. Long pants and keepants were worn in the 19th century. Quite old French bots wore kneepants. Yonger boys wore them with smocks to school. Knickers and short pants became common in the 20th century. Most French boys after World War I wore short pants. Older boys wore knickers as did some younger boys during the winter. Some suits were made with both shorts an knickers. Some younger boys were allowed to wear knickers during the winter. Long pants became more common in the second half of the century.


Kneepants appeared in the mid-19th century. French boys in the late-19th century wore both kneepants and knicker-type blouced pants. Some kneepants in the mid-19th century were rather baggy, and fashionable pants might have embroidered or other decorations such as stripes. Kneepants became more trim tailored by the late-19th century and were worn without decorative trim. They were commonly worn with three-quarter socks, but long stockings might be worn in the winter.

Bloomer Knickers

We see bloomer knickers being widely throughout Europe and not just with tunic suits. We note suits with bloomer knickers in the 19th century. We note them worn with blouses and tunic suits in the early 20th century. Bloomer knickers seem particularly popular in France. A French reader tells us that they were not very common in France, but we see quite a number of images of French boys wearing them. Many of the images we have found were depictions in post cards. This probanly reflects the large French post card industry and our limited French archive. The common appeaance in post cards suggests to us that these pants were seen as stylish. It probably does suggest that it was a style more popular with middle-class than working -class people. We are not enirely sure about the chronolog, but they seem to have been popular from the mid-19th to the early 20th century. We rarely see them after World War I. We are not sure what they were called in the 19th century, but we see them referred to as " culotte bouffante " in early 20th century catalogs. We note them being worn with three-quarter socks in the early 20th century.


French boys in the late-19th century wore both kneepants and knicker-type blouced pants which we term "bloomer knickers". The knickers worn in the late 19th century generally had no crease and bounced at the knee rather than haveng buckle closures. They were generally worn with long stockings. We see older French boys wearing proper knickers in the 20th century. They were called " pantalon de golf " and fashionable for teenagers and adults during the 1920s-50s.

Short Pants

French boys began wearing short pants in the 1900s and they rapidly replaced the kneepants that boys had been wearing since the mid-19th century. Unlike Europe, knickers continued to be commonly worn. Short pants suits generally had knee-length shorts until the 1930s when shorter cut shorts began to appear for younger boys. Older French boys began wearing the shorter style in the 1940s. A French reader reports that during this period that some mothers believed that the shorter shorts were more fashionable and often a boys's shorts for sunday and holudays were shorter than the ones he wore everyday. Older boys began increasingly to wear long pants in the 1960s, especially after 1968, the Paris student revolt. A new longer style of shorts became fashionable after the mid-1980s.

Rompers /Barboteuses

Rompers or "barboteuse" were a popular style in France. France appears to be one of the countries in which rompers were especially popular. HBC still does not yet know, however, just where rompers originated. I do not yet have enough information to develop a time line for French rompers. They appear to have appeared about the turn of the 20th century, but became more common in the 1920s after World War I (1914-18). They were primarily a play suit, but dressy versions also appeared. They were mostly worn by pre-school age boys to about 6 years, althogh boys as old as about 7 might alsdo have worn them for formal dress occasions. They were still being worn by pre-school boys in the 1950s, although by younger boys to about age 3 years. By about the 1960s, however, they became increasingly less common, except for infants and toddlers. Rompers were initially a boys garments, but today both boy and girl infants wear them.


We have not notice them being worn to any extent by boys in any other country. An exception here is France. We begin to see garments looking like shortalls in the 1930s. We note some family snapshots of boys wearing garments looking like shortalls during the 1930s. We are not sure what the French called them. We have noted a style looking rather like shortalls in a 1941 French sewing fashion magazine. This outfit looks more like American shortalld, although notice their is defined waistline which American shortalls usually did not have. We are not sure just how popular they were in France. They seem more of a fashionable style than worn commonly worn by French boys. Rompers called Barboteuse seem more common for pre-school boys in France.

Long Pants

French boys first wore long pants in the late 19th century with the fashionable skeleton suits. Fashionable boys in the late 19th century mostly wore kneepants or knickers, but there were long panys outfits for even small boys as well. We note long pants suits for boys beginning atbabout 10 years, but many boys did not begin wearing long pants until several years later.


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Created: March 31, 2001
Last updated: 9:54 PM 11/28/2008