French Boys Suits: Pants Types

Figure 1.--Here we see a French brother and sister in what look like new Easter outfits in 1961. The children look to be about 8-10 years of age. The girl wears a jackert with a Peter Pan collar and slash pockets with a pleated skirt. The boy wears single breasted lapel jacket with short pants. Both children wear ankle socks.

Suit types are generally named by the style of jacket. There were, however, srveral different types pf pants and trousers as well. French boys have worn a variety of pants with various suit types over time. The pants types were affected by chronological and other factors and generally followed overall fashion tends in the types of pants and trousers worn by boys. We see French boys wearing the same styles of suits worn with knee breeches that their fathers wore (18th century). French boys like boys in other European countries mostly wore long pants (early- and mid-19th century). Skeleton suits popular in the early-19th century were mostly worn with long pants. This began to change at mid-century. France to a degree was a fashion trend setter, although not to the same degree that they set women's fashions. We begin to see younger boys wearing suits with shortened-length pants (mid-019th century. This include both straight leg knee pants and bloomer knickers. They were generally done below knee level when they first appeared. French boys commonly wore knee pants suits in the late-19th century, but we see bloomer knickers as well. At the turn of the 20th century, we still seen knee pants suits and bloomer knickers. Most boys wore them with socks rather than long srockings as in America and Germany. Shorts pants suits began to appear and after World War I (1914-18) were the primary suit type worn by French boys. Some older boys, mostly teenagers, might wear knicker suits. To a degree this was seasonal. Some boys had suits with shorts for the summer and knickers for winter wear. After World War II (1939-45), French boys still wore short pants suits and some teenagers knickers suits. This began to change (1950s). Short pants suits were still quite common, but knickers gradually went out of style and more boys began wearing long pants. long pants suits became more common, especially during the 1960s. By the 1980s, virtually all French boys wore long pants suits--except for the very youngest. At the same style with more informal life styles, fewer boys were wearing suits, even to occassions once seen as formally

Knee Breeches

We see French boys wearing the same styles of suits worn with knee breeches that their fathers wore (18th century). The button closures at the knee hem became the inspiration for the ornamental buttons on knee pants when they appeared in the mid-19th century. Knee breeches began to go out of style with the French Revolutions as they began to be associated with the aristocracy. The term 'sans-culottes' (with out short pants/knee breeches) became a political term. They were the radical left-wing partisans of the lower classes. Typically thuis mean urban workers which dominated Parisian and other major city streets. Boys were the first to begin wearing long trousers with any kind of fashionalble intent. The skeleton suit with long trousers became very popular for boys. It was in fact the first dedicated boys' style. Until the turn-of-the 19th century, children wore junior sizes of the clothes worn by theior parents. And often for the poorer classes they were cut down versions of the worn out clothes of their parents.

Knee Pants

French boys began wearing knee pants suits at the mid-19th century. We are not sure about the precise origins. The style may ahve originated in France, but we can not yet confirm that. Nor are we sure about the chronology. Photography was invented in France by Louis Daguerre (1839). Unfortunately we have been able to find few ealy French photographic portraits. Thus we can only begin to follow French fashion trends with the appearance of the CDV in numbers (1860s). We think at first most boys wore long pants and knee pants were for younger boys from fashionable affluent families. A good example is the Parisian Caplain brothers in the 1860s. Only gradually did the style become more generalized and older boys began to wear them. But as far as we can tell that boys began waring knee pants and other shortened-length pants earlier than in America. And we begin to see older boys in France wearing knee oants older than in America. We are still assessing the 1860s, but we see younger teens wearing knee pants in the 1870s. hey were no universal, but increasingly popular. We are not entirely sure what attributes caused a family to choose knee pants rather than long pants. Nor are we sure what trends were for working-class famlies. Most of the early images we have found are for middle-class or upper class familes. As the century progressed knee pnts and othr shirtened-length pants become increasingly popular. We are still assessing the relative importance of the diffeent types of pants.

Bloomer Knickers

French boys also began wearing bloomer knicker suits at the mid-19th century. This was another kind of shortrned-length pants. This was a popular style in France and other European countries into the early-20th century. We also see knee pants for younger boys, but the bloomer knickers were at least as popular if not more so. We do not yet have a complete chronology because examples of early formats do not seem very common. Only with the appearance of the CDV do we begin to see large numbers of images allowing us to make a reasobable assessment (1860s). We note large numbers of these images throuhhout the late-19th century. We also see these bloomer knickers being worn in the 1900s, but less commomly in the 1910s. We nomlonger see them after World War I in the 1920s. Like knee pants, the bloomer knickers were commonly done at knee length. They were worn with a wide variety of suit styles. We are not sure about the age conventions involved yet, but they were coimmonly worn by school-age boys. A few younger teens may have worn them at the turn-of-the 20th century, but we are not yet sure how common this was. Social-class conventions sem to hve been involved.Unlike American boys, French boys commonly wore these bloomer knickers wiyh socks, usually three-quater socks, rather than long stockings.

Short Pants

French boys began wearing short pants in the 1900s and they rapidly replaced the knee pants that boys had been wearing since the mid-19th century. Knickers continued to be commonly worn both by older boys and as seasonal winter wear. French 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. This continue to be standard wear for French boys. We begin to see lomger shorts (1970s). Ironically this was about the same time that British boys were adopting the shorter-cut French shorts, aclled continental ,style. By this time, however, suits in both Britain and France were becoming less, even gor formal occassions. And increasingly the suits that were worn with long pants.


We are noy yet sure about the late-19th century, but we see older French boys wearing knockers suits in the early-20th century. They seem to have been a kind of trabnsition to long pants for teenagers. They were, however. much less common than in America.

Long Pants

French boys very commonly wore long pants during the 19th century. We only see long pants in the first half of the century, beginning with skeleton suits. Our image archive, however, is very limited. At mid-century we begin to see shortened pants styles, bloomer knickers and knee pants. At first they were just worn by younger boys after breeching, and primarily boys from affluenrt, fashionable families. For most of the rest of the cebturty we mostly see boys wearing long pamts as part of suits. This began to chamge at the end of the century and the early-20th century we see more boys wearing shorterned-length suit pants as well as older boys. Gradually we see more wearing shortened-length suit pants, eventually younger teenagers. And gradually boys began wearing shortercut shorts. Long pants suits never went away. Older boys wore them. Amd there were variationsd from family to family. Some boys got long pants suits as they approached their teens. Other boys wore short pamys suitys into theior mid-teens. This began to cahage after World Wr II. We see more long pants suits in the 1950s, escpecially by the late-50s. And this trend continued into the 60s. By the late 60s we begin to see mostly long pants suits. In the 70s we begin to see longer-cut shorts becoming fashionable, but by this time long pants suits were becomiong standard. And we see fewer boys wearing suits as life styles become increasingly informal.


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Created: 12:51 PM 8/17/2013
Last updated: 3:55 AM 8/13/2014