*** boys clothes: Ireland


Irish pinafores
Figure 1.--This Irish family in 1905 dresses much as a middle-class English family. Notice the one boy still wearing a pinafore.

Catholic power in Ireland was finally broken by William III at the Battle of the Boyne and the last challenge of James II to regain the throne. The Catholic Irish were disenfranchised and lost title to their land, become a landless peasantry. While the World War ended in 1918, the IRA led by Michael Collins led a violent struggle for Independence and the English responded in kibnd with the Black and Tans. Britain finally granted independence to the Irish Free State. Ireland after independence was a quiet, backwater of Europe. It comntinued to be reltivly poor with income levels well below English and other prpsperous Western European countries. And as a result, the Irish continued to emigrate in search of decent paying jobs even after World War II. HBC has still only limited information on Irish boys clothes. We believe that Irish styles basically follow English fashions. This is certainly true today. One would in fact have difficulty differentiating between the clothes of English and Irish boys. There have been differences, especially in rural areas where poor Irish families simply did not have the money to buy fashionable clothes--especially for children. Rural dress is important because ubtil recently that was where most Irish lived. Boys often wore dresses in rural areas. The kilt was also worn in Ireland, but not as commonly as in Scotland. In the towns and cities, boys normally dressed like English boys even in the 19th century.


Ireland is an islands located in the Atlantic Ocean on the northeast perifery of Ireland. Ireland until modern times was the furthest reach west of European populations. This is why so many cometctions with North America exist. Irish monks during the Dark Ages learned about Ocelabd and may have traveled further west. The Irish were the first Catholics to emigrate to the United States in numberrs (1840s). The first Trans-Atlantic cable conections to North America were with Ireland, County Kerry (1857). Marconi with his first Trans-Atalantic radio braodcast chose England, Cornwall for the same basic reason (1901). The final port call for many ocean kiners, including the RMS Titanic was Queenstown (1912). Ireland was the first land that Lindberg sighted in his first solo Atlantic crossing flight (1926). Lindberg flew over Ireland heading for mire dramatic landing in Paris. Amelia Earhart landed in Ulster when she crossed the Atlantic soon after (1928). In the modern era, Iceland became the furtest western Europedan population, but without the connctions to Enagkand and the Cintindentbthat Ireland has. Unlike most of England. the entire western coast of Irelnd is exposed to the North Atlantic and the North Atlatic battering has created a rugged, drantic coastline in addition to many islands, peninsulas, and headlands. Ireland's extensive coastline and rivers exposed it to the ravages of the Norsemen (8th-9th centuries), although they left a smaller imprint than in Englabd. The central geographic feature is a low-lying central plains without any substnatial mountains. The central plasin is extremrely well waterd, leading to Irelznd's legfndry name--the Emerld Isle. There are coastal nountains ringing the central plain. The highest peak is Carrauntuohill (1041 meters). There are several lakes which are sizeable given the country's small area. Lough Neagh is the largest lake in the British Isles. There are also several mostly small rivers, Ireland is cut in two by the River Shannon (259 km) flowing south Lough Erne in the north and entering the Atlantic south of Limerick. The Shanon and extensive estuary dominate central Ireland. Ireland is separated from England by the Irish Sea. It is separated by mainland Europe by the poorly defined Celtic Sea which touches on other Celtic areas: Wales, Cornwall, and Brittany.


Ireland is one of the smallest countries in Europe. Despite its size, Ireland has played an important role in world history. Irish history is often depicted as a morality play with the good-hearted English and evil English. As is often the case, it ws developments from abroad tat since the Christiniztion of the Islnd that have goverbed the country's history and fate. The Irish was one of the few Celtic peoples not overwealmed by Rome. It was after the fall of Rome Christinized. And thus it was also one of the few corners of Western Europe not overwelmed by the barbaric German invasions of Western Europe after the fall of Rome. Thus Christian Ireland was one of the rare centers of learning during the Dark Ages and helped to preserve the precious classical and early Christian heritage. Much of Ireland's history during the 2nd Millenium was associated with England, becaues of the English conquest that began with the Normans. The history of the English Supremecy is a long and brutal one which left the disenfranchised Irish people, who clung to their Catholocism, largely landless peasanys eeking out a precarious existence. The bloody 17th century European relgious wars left it mark on Ireland. And Ireland hs lefts its mark on America and other countries of te Diaspora. The modern Irish population has never recovered from the Potato Famine and the disasterous English response to it. This caused not only a collapse of the population, but an Irish diaspora throughout the world. Ireland today is virtually the only country with a larger 19th century population than a 21st century population. As a result, of the Famine, one of Europe's smallest countries became one of the main ethnic groups in America. The Potato Famine changed the dynamic of this relationship with England and convinced many Irish people that the English had no right to rule. Despite Ireland's eventual separation from Britain and apauling British actions in Ireland, the English as in other areas they ruled, left a prescious heritage of law, democracy, and free markets.


Ireland after independence was a quiet, backwater of Europe. It comntinued to be reltivly poor with income levels well below English and other prpsperous Western European countries. And as a result, the Irish continued to emigrate in search of decent paying jobs even after World War II. One author describes Dublin in the 1950s, "I have to make a mental effort to remember the Dublin of the 1950s, which is in many ways a Third World city," recalls Garvin. "Horses, no motorcars, children in bare feet, dirt everywhere, people living in slums, no television, no bathrooms - a really impoverished European country that really didn't seem to be going anywhere." [Gavin] Since the 1840s Potato famine, Ireland had one principal export--its people. The population of the Republic is about 3.5 million and with Ulster added on, the total population is only about 4.0 million. Yet an astonishing 70 million people in American and oher countries identify as being Irish. No other small country has such a huge diaspora abroad. In recent years the emigration has finally declined and when rising immigration, the popiulation flow balance has shifted. Some of the new immigrants are indiuviduals of Irish ancestry returning to the Old Sod. The reason is that Ireland has become the Celtic Tiger--a reference to the Asian Tigers--countries which adopted free markets economics and created roaring economies. All of a sudden high-tech companies began springing up in villages that were previously dieing. The town of Leixlip in County Kildare, is famous as the birthplace of Guinness beer. But prosperity in Leixlip now comes from Intel, which built a $5 billion plsant there. But many smaller compsanies are active. Ireland has become a leading exporter of computer software. Ireland was never industrialized like England. As a result, the country with a basicvally pristine environment is mocing from a largely agricultural economy directly into the information technology era. Many of us were apsauled by rank McCourt's description of Limerick in Angela's Ashes. He came to America because jobs were so difficult to find. Now Limerick workers are making computers. The recipie for Ireland's success is fairly simple--the same recipie used by other modern success stories. A shift away from socialism toward a business friendly environment and low taxes. The European Union Transfer Psayment to poor countries may have been a factor, but some econonmists believe they were inefficent sand even counter productive. Most economists do believe that Government subsidies and investment capital did play an important role. Here the IDA was particularly important. Major American corporations (Dell, Intel, and Microsoft) were attracted to Ireland. Many of these companies were fleeing California's Silicon Valley because of California's policies which punish business ans businessmen. European Union membership meant that production had access to the emnernse EU market. Entreprise Ireland, another a state agency in business friendfly Ireland, provides financial, technical and social support to start-up businesses. Following the U.S. investments, the International Financial Services Centre in Dublin led to the creation of many high-paying jobs in the expanding financial sector. [Flanigan] And as strange as it may seem, these policies have resulted in greater tax reveue that the Government can use to address social problems. And of course the jobs created help solve many of those social problems by raising per capita income. A well educated population and an English speaking work force were also important factors. Americans will no doubt note that the policies that Ireland followed are just the oposite what the now bsankrupt state of California followed. Of course, Ireland was not imune from the worldwide 2008-09 recession. But the increasingly diversified Irish economy is well position for the future.


HBC has little information on boy's clothing before the 19th century. We do, however, have information beginning in the 19th centurty. English fashions are clearly dominant. This has been true for some time. There have been differences in rural areas, primarily because of the poverty rampant in Ireland. This changed in the 20th century, especially after World Wae I. Today in Ireland there is little difference between the clothes worn by boys in urban and rural areas.


HBC at this time has only limited information on the garments worn by Irish boys. Yonger boys commonly wre dresses, but even some older boys also wore them in rural areas. Kilts have been reported in Ireland, but in modern times they do not appear to have been very common. The caps, suits, shirts, pants, and hosiery worn in Ireland appears to have been very similar to English fashions. Ireland has only a small population and as part of the United Kingdom, the Irish Republic was created in the 1920s, it is understandable that English fashions would have been so influential. Even after independence, people in Ireland and England maintained close ties. Many Irish immigrated to or worked in England.

Irish dance
Figure 2.--American boy participating in an Irish dancing contest. About 30 million Americans identify as being of Irish ancestry, about 10 times the population of the Republic.


We have begun to acquire some informtion on boys' activities in Irelad. School is the major ctivity for children. Irish school uniforms in the first half of the 20th century were as far as we can tell, indistinguishable from English school uniforms. We do not know of significant differences. This is understandable because until the 1920s, Ireland was a part of the United Kingdom. Even after the Republic in the southern counnties achieved independence, little or no change was made in school uniform. Religion is another important ctivity and has played an especiall imprtant rol in Irish history. And of course there are imprtant activities roles for boys in the Church. We notice some Irish choirs although Choral music seems pronounced than in England. We notice some bands. One of the best known is the Artane Boys Band in Dublin. We also note Irish step dancing. And we have some information on holidays in Ireland. Many are comparable to holidays in other European countries, but there are several destinctive Irish holidays as well. The best know is St. Patrick's Day. We do not have much information on sports, but the most popular sport as in most of Europe is footbll (soccer). Another activity are the various youth groups, especially the Scouts.


Family images provide a great deal of useful information. Rhey ptovide imagesd not only on individuals, but have information on the clothing items worn by the various oyher family members. They also provide useful sociological details as well. We do not yet have enough information on Irish families to assess tends. Our Irish archive is limited. So far we have only archived a few family imsages. We hope to gradually expand this section. We do note an unidentified family in Clones, we think in the 1890s. The children seem very much dressed like English children. We notice another unidentified family, this one in Dublin, also probably in the 1890s. The boys are all dressed in sailor suits a good indficator of a family in comfortable circumstances. We have also found a portrait of the Jenkings family taken about 1900 in Clonbrock, County Galway. This one was taken outsdide the studio as we get to see the home. It looks like a peasnt fsamily. The mother and three children are posing in front of their cottage, a typical country cottage with attached roof and white washed exterior. The glass windiws and one boy wearing shoes suggest that the family is better off than much of the Irish peasantry at the time. We note the Bronsan family with nine children in 1958. They were a very poor family in Clounmellane, a rural area in County Kery, Ireland.

Irish celtic roots
Figure 3.--The Irish are generally seen as a Celtic people, but this ignores the neolithic peoples that inhabited the country and gto dsome extent the rest of the British Iles before the arrival of the Celts. Ireland is the modern country most deeply rooted in the Celtic culture, but that dioes not mean the Celtic people. .


The Irish are generally seen as a Celtic people, but this ignores the neolithic peoples that inhabited the country and gto dsome extent the rest of the British Iles before the arrival of the Celts. Ireland is the modern country most deeply rooted in the Celtic culture, but that dioes not mean the Celtic people. The Celts spread across much of Central Europe and eventully crossing the Chnnel into the British Isles. Ireland is the most importangt holdout of the Celtic culture and languages that were once dominnt throughout much of Western Europe. And of all the differnt peoples of the Brutish Iles, it is the Irish thst have most fiercely defended their unique Celtic cultural charcter. Culture and ethnicity, however are two separate matters. The human peopling of Ireland nd Grat Britain began after the Ice Age glaciers retreated from Northern Europe (about 7,000 BC). Hunter- gatherering pople spread north dutring the Neso-Lithic (Middle Stone Age). As fr sas w know, unlike modern humans, the Neanderthals never crossed the Chnnel and reached the Brritish Iles. Modern man did. And evidenc of farming communities have been found in Ireland. This is in the Neolithic--New Stine Age (about 4,000 BC). The Bronze Age ebded the Stine Age (about 2,500 BC). We see new skills linked to metalworking and pottery. During the late Bronze Age, the mastery bof iron beagan on the Continent. Huge changes were set in motion. The Iron Age began (about 500 BC). And one of the people who mtered iron were the Celts. Iron age tecnolgy enabled the Celts to spread widely in Western Europe, including the British Isles (400 - 275 BC). The Celts are belived to have orinianted in Eastern Rurope. There was bo centally controlled force, but many often wearring tribes. We know them princvipally through their literate enenies, the Greeks and Romans. The Romams eveventully coquered the Celts in in France (Gaul) and most of Britain, but not in Ireland. After the Celts came the Vikings anbd English. The Vikings conquered much of Ireland, but left only a small ethnic imprint, the Englisdh little larger imprint. DNA studies provide evidence on Irish origins. The modern -Irish population share many genetic similarities with Scottish and Welsh populations, and to a lesser extent the English whno also have Celtic roots. But this is misleading, wht is lso true is tht thse peoples were also based on a neolthic populztion befor the arrival of the Celts. One source explains, "At the same time, DNA testing of remains of ancient Irish people suggests that some of the earliest human arrivals on the island originally came from much further afield." [McKeown] DNA suggest that the earliest inhabitants of Ireland were not directly descended from the Celts of central Europe. Genome sequencing conducvted by researchers at Trinity University in Dublin and Queens University have revealed at least two major neopliyhic migration waves . One wave points to the modern-day populations of southern Europe, especially Spain and Sardinia. their ancestors originally migrated from the Middle East, the cradle of agriculture. There was not, however an finity with the modern cottish, Welsh, and modern Irish. The second wave aaoeras to come from the edges of Eastern Europe. One third of this popultiomn oriinted on the European Eur-Asian Steppe (Russia and Ukraine). Their ancestors appear to have gradually migrtd west across Europe. Threwas also a genetic affinity with the Scottish, Welsh, and modern Irish. This suggests that many of the modern Itrish have genetic links to people who were living on the island at least 4,000 years ago--milenni bdefore gh zarrivl olf the Celts. . Irish ethnic clothing is also interesting. The Irish are one of the most important ethnic groups that have made modern in America. More than 40 million Americans identify as being Irish Americans, more than one out of every 10 Americans. The immigrants, like each successive immigrant group, did not have an easy time of it. But the Irish have succeded, reaching the Presidency and the Supreme Court. Irish Americans from the beginning looked back at their misty, green island. Ethnic frstivals, music and dance are emensly popular. Like Scotland, the kilt is seen as ethnic folk dress and is worn by Irish pipe bands and step dancers.

Hair Styles

We do not have a lot of information on Irish hair styles. As is always the case here is much more infirmation on women t's than men's hair styles. There is some understnding of historical male styles. There seem to general agreement that the Celts wore their hair long. Soldiers may have been an exceoption. There is also some evidence that men also wore their hair in rounded, bowl cuts. We have no specific information concerning boys, but we suapect it was largely similar to adult men. One source describes class destinctions. The uppr-class sported mustaches and beards, both forked and squared. The lower classes commonly wore just long mustaches, sometimes curled at the ends. Sometimes bands of cloth or metal were worm across the forehead. We do not hve much infomation on the late middle ages when Engkand finally solifigied their control of Wales. We suspect that hair syles in Ireland and England were similar, certainly among the Anglo-Protestant Asendency. At it was the upperclasses that set the trends. We can not follow this in detail until the invention of photography (mid-19th century). Ireland is a very small country, at the time a cionstinuent part of the United Kingdom, but actuallly more like a colony. Ireland was a small ciuntry to begin with, but as a resultb if the Potato Famine was hugely reduced and very poor. As aresult, our Irishb photigraohic archive is very limited. We have begun to develop some limited information. As indeed hair styles in Irekand were identical to those in England.


Ireland has traditionally been divided into four provinces or regional territorial divisions. These four Provinces provide a construct for how Ireland has been traditionally viewed. The terms provinces, however, is a foreign word. The Irish-language word for these territorial division is "cúige" (meaning "fifth part"). This reveals that their was once five provinces. The fifth province was Meath (now a part of Leinster). The four provinces are divided into 26 countirs. The provinces and countries are as follows. The Republic of Ireland is composed of Connacht, Leinster, and Munster. Connacht in the northwest is composed of Galway (Galway City), Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon, and Sligo. Leinster in the east is composed of Carlow, Dublin (Dublin City, Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, Fingal, South Dublin, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Longford, Louth, Meath, Offaly, Westmeath, Wexford, and Wicklow. Munster in the southwest is composed of Clare, Cork (Cork City), Kerry, Limerick (Limerick City), Tipperary (North Tipperary and South Tipperary), and Waterford (Waterford City). British Northern Ireland is basically composed of the fourty povince--Ulster. Ulster is composed of Cavan, Donegal, Monaghan, Antrim. Armagh. Down. Fermanagh. Londonderry. and Tyrone. The Republic of Ireland since European Union (EU) admission is now divided into two EU regions. 1) Southern and Eastern Ireland, including Dublin, Cork, Limerick, and Waterford. 2) Border, Midland and Western Ireland, including Galway City.


we do not yet have an Irish literature page. There is a page on Irish novels where we are collecting passages where boys clothing is mentioned. Hoefully readers will add items they have noted in their reading.


Ireland is a very small country, both in area and population. It is not noted a s country with substantial minorities, especially eyhnic minorities. Ireland is a country that is strongly Catholic and relatively homogeneous. Thus minorities stand out more in Ireland than many other countries. The country separated from Britain before many Empire ethnic hroups began emograting in large numbers. In addition until rlatively recently, the Irish econmy was weak and did not attract immigrants. The historic flow has been the Irish emigrating to other countries, especially America and Britain. There are, however, several small minorities in Ireland. The most important is what is known as the the Travelling community. One source estimates that there are more than 20,000 Travelers in Ireland. They are primarily the Pavee who in Irish are called the 'na lucht siúil' -- the Walking People. Some groups of Pavee also live in Britain. Gypsies and Pavee are culturally similar, both nomad peoples, but they have different origins, languages, and cultures. The Pavee are ethnically Irish with blond or tawny hair. There are also small numbers of blacks, both from Africa itself and the Caribbeans, probably totaling around 20,000 people. In addition there is a small Asian community. There is a small Jewish community of about 3,000 people. Ireland was neutral in World War II. Ireland did not offer refuge to Jewish refugees and was notably silent about NAZI attrocities and the Holocaust. Some Irish Jews have emigrated to America. In addition there are a number of asylum seekers and refugees. Unlike many European countries there seem go me few Muslims in Oreland. While not an ethnic minority, Protestants are a religious minority. The Catholic Protesrant religious divide, however, is not as sgharp in the Republic as it is in Northern Ireland.

Irish Diaspora

There is no modern country that haost ,ore of its people than Ireland. The population of every country we know of has increased in the 19th and 20th century. The Irish population today is only a fractio of what it was before the Potato Famine (1840s). The decline is due both to a terrible death toll during the famine as well as massive emigration to the United states and other countries. As a result, there is a huge Irish diaspra arond the world. The term is usully used for the Roman expulsion of the Jews, but the Famine killed or disperse the Irish in huge numbers. [Guinnane] we of no other country that experiencd such a sharp population drop. And even the Irish who stayed in Irelnd were affected. The percentage of adults who never married increased from 10 percent to 25 percen of course seriously affecting the birth rate. But the Irish population around the world sored, now nearing 20 times the popultion of Ireland itself. President Mary Robinson in an address to the Joint Houses of the Oireachtas -- 'Cherishing the Irish Disapora' she reached out to the "70 million people worldwide who can claim Irish descent". She said, "The men and women of our diaspora represent not simply a series of departures and losses. They remain, even while absent, a precious reflection of our own growth and change, a precious reminder of the many strands of identity which compose our story". Irish emigration has had a huge impact on of course Irelans, but also on the countries to which the Irish spread. Many of the emigrants would have perished had they stayed in Ireland. Money sent hime has assisted fmily that syayed, but Ireland has also lost a great amount of talent. America was of course the major destination. And at its peak some 1.8 million Irish has emigrated to Ireland. The Irish had a huge impact on America. The American population was rekatively small at the time so the Irish impact was massive. The Irish were the first national group to arrive in hug numbers and thefirst Cathokic group which made a major contrinution to America's ethnic and relgious diversity. Leading evebtually to the eletion of President Kennedy. Gradually Irish emigration shifted to Bitain, which was easier to reach and closer to home. There are now four times more Irish in Britain than America. We thinkthis is in part because the Irish in America were more likely to assimilwte nd disappear into thevgenral population. In recent years, the Irish economy has made apowerful recivery. This has ended the emogration which from the beginning was economically based. In addition to America and Britain, there are important Irish communities in Argentina, Austrlia, Canada, and New Zealand.


The primary government institution that children involve children is of course schools. There are other important instituions for children, especially charity institutions. The two most important here are the work house and orphanage. Our informtion is limited, but as best we can tell these institutions were similar to those in England, but there were differences. Of course until after World War I, Ireland was not divided. Thus there are no separate stories for southern and northern Ireland. There is a sad history of work houses in Ireland. And by the time the division took place (1920s), the work houses were being closed throughout the United Kingsom. Workhouses existed in Ireland before the 19th century, but on a relatively limited scale. The Irish Parliament passed an Act (1703) which set up a House of Industry in Dublin 'for the employment and maintaining the poor thereof'. [O'Connor] Authorities had the authority to commit people and to punish those already there. The punishments included flogging, imprisonment, and deportation. These houses were set up at various sites throughout Ireland. Ireland became part of Great Britain under the Act of Union during the wars of the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars (1801). The British government attempted to address the problem of widespread poverty in Ireland A succession of Parliamentary Select Committees (1804, 1819, 1823, and 1830) achived next to nothing. And there were virtual non-stop Royal Commissions and Special Committees of Enquiry which investigated the situation in Ireland (1800-40). The British Government seemed more concerned about Irish emigration to England than in dealing with the poverty problem. Parliament passed the landmark 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act which made the work house the only form of poor relief in England and Wales. Parliament decided that this was not suitable for Ireland. Parliament thus passed the ground breakinhg Irish Poor Law Act (1838), just before the horiffic Irish Polato Famine. It proved a disaster. Some 130 workhouses were constructed. Many of these imposing, if forboding tructures still exist.Construction was still underway when the Potato Famine occurred. Men woman and children died insused and outdside the poor houses waiting to be admitted. Until the Potato Famine few Irish people emigrated to Ameruca. Catholocism was a factor. The Potato Famine disaster changed that and the Irish became the first lrge group of European Catholics to reach America. Another important institution is orphanages.

Individual Accounts

We have some pages about individual Irish boys. These pages are useful in collecting information about fashion and experiences over time. They add valuable insights to the photographic record. Some are historical accounts such as the writer James Joyce's boyhood. We have also have individual accounts contributed by Irish readers. We have added some portraits of individuals or famulies, although in these cases we often have only limited information about the photographs.


Guinnane, Timothy. The Vanishing Irish (1997).

Marie McKeown, Marin. "Blood of the Irish: What DNA tells us about the ancestry of people in Ireland," Owlction (August 19, 2018).

O'Connor, John. Workhouses of Ireland: The Fate of Ireland's Poor.


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Created: December 20, 1998
Last updated: 2:23 PM 12/31/2023