*** German boys clothes : chronologies

German Boys' Clothes: Chronologies

The following basic chronology is available on German boys' clothes. There have been times that boys clothong had many similarities througout Europe. At ther times there were destinctive national styles. Germany has never been considered a focal point of fashion. The country was in fact was in fact one of the more important counties affecting boys's fasgions, but this hasd varied significantly over time. At this time, HBC has only limited information on the 19th century. Hopefully our German readers cam help develop information in this era. As we have observed in other other European coubties, there has been a destinctive bluring of national styles beginning in the 1960s. Even so, some German styles have enfured. We have begun to collect, however, considerable information on 20th century styles. HBC has been developed primarily through assessing available images, in part because HBC has not yet found any historical accounts addressing German boys' clothes.

The 16th Century

HBC has not yet acquired any information on German boys clothing during the 16th century. Presumably it followed the overall European pattern of dressing little boys in dressesd until they were "breeched" at 4 or 5 years of age. At this time they would have been dressed in small versions of their father's clothes. This is, however, speculative on my part and needs to be confirmed.

The 17th Century

The 17th century is when modern male fashion began to evolve. Styles at the beginning of the century look very dated, men did not even wears garments regonizablee as pants and trousers. By the end of the decade we see recognizable jackets and trousers. The jackets were long abd tghe trousers knee breeches, bit they were clearly recignizeable jackets and trousers, the main stays of what became modern dress. There were no destinctive children's clothing. Younger boys might wear dresses. After breeching, boys wore small versions of the clothes their fathers wore. At the time, social class was more a determinant of clothing than natiionality. The aristocracy throughout Western and central Europe wore very similar syles, often set in Italy and France. We see a variety of ornate styles and decorative trim and luxurios fabrics. The peasantry wore much simplier clothing often homespun fabric. Is at this time that what we now call ethnic or folk styles began to develop. As peasants did not commonly travel beyond their local communities, these styles gradually developed destinct local characteristics. We still see some of the earlier fashions at the beginning of the century such as doublets and pants-lke garments done as balloning garmenys that only came to mid-thigh or higher and worn with long stockings covering the leg. The hose were very common in the 16th centurty, but in the early-17th century first began to increase in length and then evolved into breeches which by the end of the century began to look like the knee breeches commonly worn in the 18th century. This evolution occurred with both the clothing worn by adults and boys. The clothing of the aristicracy is much better represented in the available art work than that of the lower classes.

The 18th Century

Germans boys clothing
Figure 1.--The German mother and boy here is unidentified, except that the portrait was taken in Helmstedt. The boy wears a sailor suit. Note the non-traditional styling. The portarit was probably taken about 1885. Click on the image for a fuller discussion. Image courtesy of "Album.1990".

The 19th Century

HBC at this time has only limited information on 19th century boys' fashions. While we have compiled considerable information on the 20th century, we still have very little information on German styles during the 19th century. I do not have any information on how German boys were dressed in the early 19th century. The pattern in other European countries was to develop special styles of clothing for children. I assume the Germans also moved in this direction. Some of the Empire styles like the skeleton suit were associated with French fashions so I'm not sure how widely they were adopted in Germany. We note the Fischer children in 1838 wearing coordinated dresses. We do not notice any destinctive styles for German boys in the mid-19th century. As in other European countries, younger German boys wore dresses and skirts. We note one unidentified boy in the 1860s. We note images of German boys wearing tunics in the mid-19th centuries. Younger boys a variety of styilized suits in a wide variety of styles. Many had extensive piping and emroidery and often bloomer knickers. These outfits were similar to the styles worn in most other european countries. Rather modern looking suits with single and double breasted jackets began to appear by the 1860s-70s. They were at first wirn with long trousers. Most boys wore long stockings. The Germans by the end of the century were dressing children in a similar manner to other European countries. The sailor suit was one of the most popular styles trough Europe and it was particularly popular in Germany. The marriage of one of the Queen Victoria's daugters to the German royal family influenced German fashion, although she was always considered a foreigner and Bismark limited her influence over the upbringing of the future Kaiser. I'm unsure as to how other popular English fashions such as the kilt and Fautleroy suit were in Germany. I do not believe that the kilt was commonly worn, but Fauntleroy suits were worn, although not as much as in France and Italy. Some of the available images of German clothes in the 1870s look quite similar to styles we have seen in England and France, velvert suits, cut away jackets, and bloomer jnickers. We note images of German Fauntleroy suits from the 1890s. Boys' clothing in general, however, does appear have been similar to the rest of western Europe, but I hope to eventually obtain much more information on German dress trends in the future. I do not know of any destinctive German styles worn by boys, except for folk costumes. We note an interest in folk costuming beginning in the alte 19th century, with many German partents dressing children in folk costumes for special occassions. Sailor suits emerged in the 1890s as an especially popular style for boys as Kaiser Wilhelm began building a highseas fleet.

German boys clothing
Figure 2.--The major trend in German childrens clothes during the 20th century as it was in other countries informality in dress. Here we see German bous on an outing in 1953. Notice that none of the boys are wearing caps.

20th Century

HBC has begin to collect considerable information on 20th century boys' fashions. No destinctive German style appeared after the turn of the century. Styles appeared to have followed trends in the rest of Western Europe. Certainly the royal family was an important factor in setting German styles. Sailor suits remained very popular for boys, even some younger teenagers wore them. Slowly knee length pants and long stockings were replaced by shorts, albeit long ones. As in England abd other European countries, the new Boy Scout movement was an important factor in popularizing short pants. Shorts by the 1910s had become more common than kneepants. Fautleroy suits were worn, but I'm not sure how widely. Short pants increasingly replaced kneepants in the 1910s. Shorts had become the dominate fashion for German boys in the 1920s as in the rest of Europe. Quite old boys wore short pants although some also wore knickers. Some younger boys would wear long stockings with shorts during the winter rather than kneesocks. More so than French and British boys, some German boys would have a pair of long pants to wear during the winter. German boys did not generally wear school uniforms. This is somewhat surprising as after the NAZIs seized power in 1933, virtually everyone else in the country wore uniforms. After the World War II, Germany was devestated. There was little money for clothes. Insights into what German boys were wearing after the War can be seen in some of the many images of the Berlin Air Lift. With assistance of the Marshall Plan the Germany economy revived and the economic miracle soon caised a consumer exposion. West German children were among the best dressed in the world. Conditions were more difficult on the other side of the Iron Curtain in East Germany. The division of Germany ended in 1989 and the Berlin Wall was quicjly torn down. Differences between East and West were readily apparent and continued to linger in the 1990s. German boys today dress just like other boys in Western Europe. Short pants are rarely worn except by younger boys for casual summer wear. German like other European boys virtually live in jeans.

21st Century

German boys' fashions in the early 21st century as in much of Europe seem strongly influenced by American fashion trends. We note of no destively German fashion trends.


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Created: June 1, 2001
Last updated: 8:55 PM 11/17/2010