German Boys' Clothes: Early 20th Century--Breslau

Figure 1.--Both of these suits offered in 1923 were called Joppenanzuge. The right one looks like a Norflok suit and the other has elements of Norfolk styling. Joppen and Norfolk aren't contradictory terms, but it's a prove - I think - that Norfolk term was losely used. Source: 17392, 17393, BH, Jg 21 [1923], Nr 13. I'm not sure of the age range in which these suits were offered. We do not have the ad copy that went with the illustrations. Both illustrations suggeststhe suits were to be worn with long stockings rather than kneesocks.

A Polish resercher has assessed boys' fashions in what was at the time the German city of Breslau. The city is now the Polish city of Wroclaw. He has reviewed early 20th century Breslau publications. While he has focused on Breslau, the results are a good reflection of German fashions in general at the time. One of the principal styles assessed is the sailor suit. He has provided us some of his major findings.

Here are the main points of my article:

Breslauer Hausfrau

Although Breslauer Hausfrau (later called here just BH) is called Breslauer, it doesn't present fashion of Wroclaw (Breslau) or Silesia (a past German land which capital is Breslau, but now after World War II in Poland it's called Lower Silesia). Because the target readership of BH magazine is middle-class, the fashions presented are largely middle-class styles. Since the middle-class throughout Germany had largely common value and tastes, the fashions depicted in BH are largely representative of styles commonly worn in other German cities and not just Breslau/Wroclaw.


The time between the first issue of BH (1903) and the last (1941) saw the rising popularity of shorter trousers. Breeches, knickers, and below the knee kneepnts declined in popularity and short pants above the knee became more common. Also long stockings were gradually replaced with kneesocks. The most change in boys clothing involved the pants. At the turn of the century almost all boys wore knickers (knickerbockers) and below the knee kneepants before World War I. The first short pants appeared before World War I. Short pants became increasingly popular after the War and gradually shorter cuts became more popular. Long pants were primarily worn by adult men. Some boys, usually older boys, were allowed to wear ong pants for special occasions, in particular holidays like first communion, confirmation or costume parties.


Zippers first appeared in the 1930s.

Military Styles

World War I didn't pass without an influence on boys' fashion. Before and during the eatly years of the War (about 1913-1915). BH promoted many military uniforms, and many boys where pictured with guns, sabers, and flags. Military clothing styles did not appear in Germany during World War II as had been the case during World War I. In fact, during the entire Third Reich era (beginning in 1933) the NAZIs do not appear to have had an influence on boys' fashion presented in BH. (Perhaps because everyone knew that there was well organised Hitlerjugend which utilized military-style uniforms.)

Tunic Suits (Kittleanzuge)

There are numerous depictions tunic suits (Kittleanzuge) in the era before World War I. This was one of the most fashionable styles for younger boys. They were worn with bloomer knickers, about the same length as the bottom hem of the tunic. Many were done in the sailor style, but this was not the only style. We do not see them featured after the War, one of the many changes in fashion that took place after the War.

Figure 2.--After World War I, sailor suits became very simple and usefull. Such sailor suits were also sewn for younger boys than before the War, thus replacing partially tunics. Description: "Kieler Matrosenanzug, fuer jedes Alter passend. [...] fuer 2-4, 4-6, 6-8, 8-10, 10-12 Jahre. Etwa 1,75 m Molton, 1,40 m breit erf[orderlich]." Source: 14526, BH, Jg 21 [1923], Nr 13.

Norfolk Suits ( Norfolkanzuge )

BH had offered many suits ( Joppenanzuge ) for boys. One of the most popular style was the Norfolk suit ( Norfolkanzug ). We note a varuety of suits styled like Norfolk suits or with elements of Norfolk styling. The illustrations show here are from a 1923 issue (figure 1). I'm not sure of the age range in which these suits were offered. We do not have the ad copy that went with the illustrations. They are two-piece suits with jackets and trousers, but no vest (waistcoat). They look to be done in both with knickers orkneepants. Both illustrations suggests the suits were to be worn with long stockings rather than kneesocks.

Sailor Suits (Matrosenfuer)

After World War I, sailor suits became very simple and usefull. Such sailor suits were also sewn for younger boys than before the War, thus replacing partially tunics. Sailor suits in BH after the War were commonly advertized for boys 5-12 years of age. Until the early 1920s and after the decline of tunic suitss, sailor suits began to become available for boys as young as 2 years. [HBC note: HBC has more information on German sailor suits.] Sailor patterns were so popular that they appeared also with other clothes (not called sailor suits) as sailor collars or characteristic stripes on normal collars. Sailor suits were advetised as good for alsmost every situtaion: on the street, in park playgrounds ( spielplatz ), as a attire for first communion, and for schoolwear. The kneepants sailor suit seen here was in a 1923 edition (figure 2). It was described as "Kieler Matrosenanzug, fuer jedes Alter passend." This translates as, "????." It was made in sizes from 2-12 years. The sailor suit is made with kneepants and looks to be worn with long stockings.

Fauntleroy Suits

The Fauntleroy suit with very few exceptions were not advertised in BH. It seems that it was too elegant for everyday wearing but only for holidays. I've noticed one (called a samtanzug ) offered for Christmas holiday wear. The BH description here is: "Samtanzug fuer kleine Knaben. Das Kurze Samtsacco erhaelt einen eingeknopften Wascheinsatz mit einer Stickereikraufe (beliebig auch ein Westchen) und einen auswechfelbaren Waschkragen. Stahlknoepfe sind zu beiden Seiten der Borderteile je vier Stueck aufgesetzt. Aermel mit seide vorgestossener Umschlagmanschette. Glattes Beinkleid." [4, BH, Jg 1, nr 14.] Note there may be some errors in the German here as the original in Gothic letters was difficult to read. This means something like, "Velvet suit for little boys. The short velvet jacket contains an buttoned-in washable insert with an embroidered ruffle (preferably also a small vest) and an exchangeable washable collar. Four steel buttons have been sewed on at both sides of the collar pieces. Sleeves with long foldable cuffs. Sleek trousers." The boy pictured was about 4 years old and was not wearing a hat.

Sport Suits

Since the beginning (1903) there were sport suits ( sportanzugen ) advertized in BH for hiking, cycling, playing tennis, and riding. At first these suits do not seem much different than normal suits. A time passed knickerbockers and knee pants were still associated with sportanzugen, but not yet short pants. This nuance may seem strange but the reason for this is that German those sportanzugen (with knickers and kneepants) in the early 20th century weren't designed to be practical, comfortable sportswear, but eather to present oneself fashionably and well dressed while doing sports.

Play Clothes (Blusenanzug)

We note by the 1930s new and very quite contemporary type of Blusenanzug. This might be translated as Blouse Suits, but probably more correctly pluy suiys or shorts sets. We notice them beginning in the 1930s. They look to have a half zipper or bitton front, a style called Rugby shirts in Britain. They were outfits for younger boys from 2-4 years old. The accompamying illustration showed bots wearing them with sandals, but we did not notice boys wering sandals much during the Third Reich. The ad copy reads, "Wenn die Sonne einmal nicht scheint, dann ist ein kleiner Bub in einer Bluse mit angeknoepfter Leinenhose nicht zu luftig u[nd] doch zum Spielen passend angezogen. Linda-Schnitt [a company offering this tailor patter] f[uer] 2-4 J[ahrigen] Etwa 0,75 m einfarb[igen], 0,75 m gestr[eiften] Leinen." That means, "????."

Alpine Folk Styles (Tiroler Anzug)

BH through the 1930s offered Tiroleranzugen (Alpine style outfits) for trips, especialy to the mountains. This was caused by the rising popularity of Alpine culture which helped to popularize Alpine fashion. The popularity in Germany of Alpine culture began in the second half of 19th century. [? can you site the aticle?]. BH in 1923 offered an Alpine folk style outfit that was apparently popular weekend trips into the mountains and country side. It was called as Tiroleranzug. The ad copy reads, "Tiroler Anzug mit blauer Leinensacke, brauner Samt- oder Lederhose und weisses Leinenhemd fuer grossere Buben. [...] fuer 10-12, 12-14, 14-16 Jahre. Etwa zur Hose 75 cm Samt, 1m breit, zum Hemd 1,75 m Hemdentuch, 84 cm breit; zur Jacke 2 m Leinen, 90 cm breit, erforderlich." That maeans, ?????."

Tomasz Jankowski


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Created: May 16, 2003
Last updated: October 11, 2003