United States Boys' Clothes: The 2000s

Figure 1.--Here we see an American boy in 2005. He is wearing shorts cut above the knee and a matching blue shirt. A HBC reader writes, "I see a slow trend developing towards a return to shorter style shorts."

One interesting trend notable in 2000 is in "T"-shirts. Anmerican boys in the 1980s and 90s commnly used their "T"-shirts to convey messages. These message varied widely, raninging from Christain messages to nilhistic acid-rock themes. The new developmentvis that American girls in 2000 have begun wearing "T"-shirts making fun of boys. It has been common for boys to put girls down. Apparently girls in 2000 have felt empowered enough to make fin of the boys. Sample "T"-shirts read, "Boys Are Great. Every Girl Should Own One." and "I Make Boys Cry". One "T" shirt reads "Boys Will Be Boys" over an image of te rear end of a donkey. Some clothing retailers have rejected such "T" shirts in the past, fearing some mothers may be offended. The success of the first such "T"-shirt, "Boys Lie", has resulted in these "T shirts appearing in many retail outlerts. The boys don't seem to be complaining. One boy said that his only objection is that there are no comparable "T"-shirts aimed at girls. Apparently the attitude of retailers is that girls making fun of boys is good fun, but that boys making fun of girls is offensive. [Zimmerman]


Early 2000s (2000-03)

An HBC contributor reports on the popular fashions in the new school year: In California, the start of the new schools year brings out the newest fads and fashions for boys. Shorts are still very popular, especially the camp style (with the outside pockets) and the Carpenter style which contain a sewn on loop (for a hammer or other tool). Length's are shortening (to just below the knee), especially for older boys, the younger ones still seen to like the hideous mid-calf lengths. Cargo pants were quite popular. One retailer offered updated styling and knee tailoring with two front slash pockets, two inseam cargo pockets and two back patch pockets with self-adhesive closure. Button and zip closure. Colors were olive, sand, and khaki. White crew legnth socks are still preferred, some boys pull them all the way up and some push them down. Pant sizes are gradually shrinking back to normal, though they are still somewhat baggy. Docker style kacki's are the long pant of choice along with the ever popular blue jeans. Long and short cords seem to be on the way out. Another new style is the pants that have a zipper at mid length so that the pant can be worn a longs or shorts Shirts are varying from plaid button ups to Hawaiian, to the regular T-shirt. A few boys are even wearing knit polo shirts. Caps continue to be popular, especially the low crown style and less and less boys wear them backwards. Puka shell necklaces have become popular with the Junior High set. Earrings are disapperaing on the younger boys and the older ones seem to have two or more rather than one. Hair legnth is still fairly short and boys love to gel their hair in the N'Sync style and bleaching hair is still popular mainly with High Schoolers. The younger ones seem happy with just bleaching the tips of their hair and gelling them up. All in all, boys fashions seen to be going back to the conservative styles of the mid-80's. It will interesting to see if this trend continues or if boys clothes go off in another strange direction. I doubt we'll see short shorts, long socks and flared pants anytime soon. One survey of popular fashions among elementary school children in 2001 found that boys liked: baggy pants, bandanas, carpenter plants, baseball caps worn backwards, Hawaian shirts, headwraps/head bands, high-top sneakers, Hawaian shirts, team jerseys, and wearing shirts vackwards. Girls liked: Bell bottoms/flared pants, Capri pants, denim skirts, high boots, kneesocks, platform shoes, pedal pushers, short shorts, and tube shirts. Both boys and girls liked: back pack key chains, key chains, rolling backpacks, sandals, and rolling shoes. Also mentined were tank tops and tie-dye clothes. Boys inexpressed an interest in hair styles like: bowl cuts, hair shaved on one side, and spiked hair. Girls mentioned buttefly hair clips and corn rows. [Debnam] A California teacher writes, "From the conversations that I've had with teens, they're sick of being condescended to with the screaming "Yo! Yo! Yo!" hip-hop-oid ads that Madison Avenue has been churning out. I get a feeling like it's 1962 all over again; a shift is coming, but we can't quite see it yet. I hope it comes soon."


Late 2000s (2007-09)

A reader writes, "Due to my profession I am constantly trying to understand children and what they do and why. Can you tell me what is going on now with this over priced Skeleton clothing? Don't skeleton's represent, death, decay and just plain nothingness. Where something once was? You know our HBC website is primarily focused on historical trends. Thus we are not that well informed about the latest trends, although we do try to describe them when we find out about them. I don't know enough about this to comment, but it strikes me as just anoher manifestation of teen angst and rebellion. When I was a kid it was pegged jeans, rolled up T-shirts and black biker jackets. Goth clothing seems a more recent phenomenon. Teenagers like to play at rejecting established values. With some the more shocking the better.


Some basic information is available on the garments worn by American boys in the 2000s.


Obviously the backward facing baseball cap continues to be popular. One HBC reader reports that there is a trend to wear hats with ears flaps too.


It seems that the very baggy and oversized trousers seem to be in favour with many. Three-quarter length trousers appear to combine with the use of skateboards etc. There is no indication of a particular colour being preferred. Sports (soccer) shorts are seen a lot in the summer together with the complete football stripe. A reader believes that shorter cut shorts are becoming more popular at mid-decade. He writes, "K-MART is offering a wonderful collection of shorts made in a style similar to the original camp shorts. Although the sizes 10 & above are cut rather long, the smaller sizes of 6/7 & 8 (with elestic waist bands) could easily be used for older boys. The inseam in these sizes is 4 to 4.5 inches long. The bellows on the pockets are trimmed with a different color which is the same as the color on the inner lining of the elastic wait band. They come in navy blue with red trim, tan with orange trim, dark green with yellow trim & white with blue trim. They also have grey shorts with now different color trim. In addition, K-Mart also has some match/contrast with the shorts." Another reader writes, "While I've seen boys in above-the-knee shorts, they're always under 10 years old. You don't see such shorts in stores, so they must be hand-me-downs. Few 12-year-olds would have the courage to wear such shorts today. What I've seen on middle-schoolers are just-below-the-knee cargo shorts, or slightly shorter (right at the knee) dazzle-fabric sport shorts. If you check out Old Navy's web site you'll see a representative sample. Showing any above the knee shorts is a middle-school faux pas. It's been a while since I've seen a local boy wearing 3/4-length skater shorts, but they're still available so someone must be buying them. I've checked out some French and German etailers and they have the bulk of their "shorts" in those well-below-the-knee lengths, so that's a major difference between Europe and the United States."


Jackets seem very varied in popularity although a main criterion would still seem to be the 'designer logo'

School wear

Ties are declining in favour of polo shirt and sweatshirt. Blazers and ties are very rarely worn in primary schools now, although they are, no doubt, still worn in many private/prep schools. Black shoes predominate but white socks appear to be acceptable to most schools. There are limitations as to choice on school trousers for school trousers are schools trousers! Short trousers are rarely seen these days either in secondary or primary school. I have read recently that the bigger stores are now stocking larger sizes of shorts but this maybe that younger children are getting bigger rather than older children reverting to wearing them.

Scarves and gloves

These seem not to have a 'macho' image and so are rarely seen on youngsters. Look on any cold morning and see the number of senior boys and girls totally underdressed for the weather - they are just wanting to appear hardy.


Vests are definately a no,no! Pants must be of the shorts variety.


We know that 'designer trainers' are the current trend but it is also no longert 'cool' totie the laces, instead, they are neatly tucked into the side of the shoe. Some boys like sport sandals. White still seems to be the favoured colour. Socks, too, are to be white.

Hair Styles

An American reader reports in 2002, "I'm curious about the complete shift in the last few years to extremely short hair on boys of all ages, (from toddlers on up). I live in the Chicago area, and have noticed in recent years virtually all boys have taken to wearing the "buzz cut" styles, shorn to where the scalp is readily visible, coupled with greatly oversized shorts (mid-calf) and huge T-shirts. While it seems almost like a repeat of the mid-to-late 1980's, the hair today is shorn all the way around; there are no flat-tops or spike looks, and is very uniform in it's popularity. This is in marked contrast to girl's styles, where hair is of varying lenghts, accompanied by fitting clothes, ie. flared pants, tight tops, etc." We have noted boys in Britain and othe European countris wearing the same hair style. Another reader writes in 2003, "Recently in New Jersey I've started to see several boys with afros,and longer curly hair on white kids (I guess you can't really call those afros even though they look the same lol!) I don't know why this would come in style, except maybe the kid from "American Idol" with long curly hair. I know in the 60s and 70s it was trendy for blacks to grow their hair into big curly bushes, but I don't think curly-haired whites did the same thing. Now I am seeing also white kids with long curly hair. Also note-I see no long, straight hippie/heavy metal hair; only curly-haired kids seem to be growing their hair out." Another reader writes at the beginning of the 2004-05 school term, "An update on boys hair styles. More and more Middle School boys are wearing their hair longer these days. Short, stylish cuts have been the norm since the late 80's, but in the past year you see more and more boys growing their hair out. While not as long as kids wore it in the 60's and 70's, it's still much longer than before. Probably 25% now agrow their hair longer and not combing or brushing it in any way so that it has a "messy look". It seems most popular with the Middle School set, but you see some high schoolers with long hair now and a few younger kids with longer hair, although not as messy as the Middle Schoolers wear it. It will be in teresting to see if this trend is just a short-lived thing for a few kids, or we see a return to the 60-70's hair styles. My personal opinion is that it's just a passing fad. One thing though, you see less and less crewcuts now. Boys are wearing it at least long enough to comb." A reader writes about the mid-2000s. "The most significant trend I'm seeing locally is that most boys are currently letting their hair grow long. It's not a good year to be a barber."

Clothing Trends

A HBC reader writes in 2003, "In the 1990s there was a shortalls fad, when even big boys and young men wore that version of suspender shorts--bib overalls. These days the wearing of any variety of overalls by a male beyond toddlerhood is distinctly unfashionable. I've been tracking boys' fads and fashions for all my life, and the past half-dozen years have been remarkable for the lack of any significant innovations in boyswear. There is something unnatural about this period of fadlessness. Something is holding back change, but I can't quite put my finger on what it might be. I suspect that it shares its origin in whatever is making otherwise sensible people buy unsafe SUVs as a way to make themselves feel safer. Or perhaps it shares something with why "modern rock" and "alternative" radio stations these days seem to play very little music that was actually recorded in this century. There's a kind of cultural constipation going on. I don't think it can be blamed on 9/11, as it'd already been happening for several years when that event happened. It's also been going on since before the stock market bubble popped. Whatever the cause, we're stuck in a period of boring styles." Another reader writes, "We're seeing more college-age and even some grammar school age wearing shirts and shorts that look traditional. By that I mean not the baggy and well-below knee length "shorts". Every once in a while I see some college students in the 1950's-early 60's style of shorts. They're still a minority, though. The ads still feature the longer styles, but I have seen a shorter version of the carpenter style. As noted, it resembles the camp shorts which are no doubt its ancestor. The younger set still prefers the long and baggy look. We'll see if the change to a more traditional look gradually trickles down to the younger folks, or whether generational preferences prevail."

Fashion Slump

Some fashion experts believe that the industry is going through a slump with young people, and even admits that there's a "current lack of fashion trends" that makes it hard to sell them anything. One analyst writes, "With teens and tweens possessing qualities and lifestyles so different from the generations before them, it is proving difficult for the older generations to market successfully to them. These young shoppers have definite preferences, but not ones that older generations can relate to. Teens and tweens have shown us that value and strong individuality are important to them when shopping for stylish items. In addition, they often choose not follow fashion trends, which makes them all the more difficult to cater to in the apparel and footwear arenas. This leaves us all wondering where the future will take fashion retailers and manufacturers who are so interested in appealing to these demographics." [Russel]


We do not notice any new styles that appeared in the 2000s. Hip-hop styles which appeared in the 1990s continue to be popular in the 2000s. We do not know a great deal about hip-hop, hopefully some HBC readers will know more. Less popular, but by no means unimportasnt are the preppy styles which first appeared in the 1950s. A HBC reader has provided us some information on preppy fashions in the 2000s.

Cultural Trends

Throughout history, adults have always looked askance at the rising generation. Youth even in Greek and Roman literature are criticised. We suspect that the same may have been true for other ancient civilizaion--but literary evidence is more limited. And of course there is no lack of criticism in our modern era. Many social commentators are gravely concerned about the current generation and the future of America. One author, Henry Giroux a professor of Education at Penn State University, charges that America is "at war with young people". He charges that mass media exploits children and that many adults see them as more of a danger than hope to the future. He attributes the problems of modern youth to what he calls "market authoiritarianism" which is repossible for what he calls "an age of global plunder". He believes that the 9-11 attacks and the Government response to it has exacerbated many negative trends in America. [Giroux] Interestingly a wide range of indicators suggest that youth in the 2000s are in fact a much healthier emotional generation than the previous generation of Americans. Despite much greater publicity give to youth crime and hype about the impact of video games and films, teen agers in the 2000s appear to be less violent than in the 1990s, although admittedly this is difficult to measure. Non-homicide crime rates for youth are declining and are substantial below peaks reached in the early 1990s. Homicide rates in 2000 for youths 10-17 have declined 46 percent from levels reported in the early 70s. [Males] Recreational drug use appears to be declining. One study of 12th graders (highschool seniors) found that the class of 2002 that 25 percent had used drugs in the past month compared to a high of 37 percent among the classes of 1979 and 80. [Monitoring the Future Study] Teens are also having less sex. One study found that highschool students experiencing intercourse has declined from 54 percent in 1991 to 46 percent in 2001. [Kaiser Family Foundation] While still a large percentage, it is a significant decline and largely unreported in the media and popular mythology. More young people than ever before are continuing their studies after high school, both collge and other tertiary studies. Over 60 percent of graduating seniors continue their studies, more than 10 percent above previous generations. [National Center for Educational Statistics] It is not immediately apparent to HBC why these trends are moving in a positive direction. The dangers posed by AIDs may be one factor. Perhaps educational programs addressing these issues have proven successful, but other factors may be involved.

Personal Accounts

One American highschool boy reports that he does not like many modern fashion trends. He has provided a "Minority View".


Bonnie, William. E-mail, May 14, 2007.

Debnam, Betty. "The kids of 2001," The Mini Page, December 30, 2003.

Giroux, Henry A. The Abandoned Generation: Democracy Beyond the Culture of Fear (Palgrave, 2003), 234p.

Males, Mike. Justice Policy Institute

Kaiser Family Foundation

Monitoring the Future Study. A Federlly financed study.

National Center for Educational Statistics

Russell, Kody. "Teens & Tweens: The Younger Generation Who Have the Marketers Stumped." NPD Fashionworld (2002).

Zimmerman, Ann. "If boys just want to have fun, this may bring them down," Wall Street Journal, November 10, 2000, p. A1.


Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Return to the Main U.S. early 21st century page]
[Return to the Main 2000s page]
[Return to the Main U.S. country page]
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Clothing styles] [Countries] [Essays]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[ Boys' Clothing Home]

Created: October 27, 2001
Last updated: 12:21 PM 5/14/2007