* United States boys' clothes demographics rural urban differences during the 1930s

United States Childrens Fashion: Demographics-- Rural-Urban Differences (The 1930s)

Figure 1.--These children are standing in front of a general store near Muskogee, Oklahoma in 1939. Oklahoma was not just adversely affected by the Depression, but the double wammy of the Dust Bowl hitting the Southern Plaines. We are not sure if P.W. Store is the name of the single store or some kind of chain. It looks like the stores we still commonly see throughout rural areas in the 1930s. Most othe boys here are barefoot, but not wearing overalls. -

The 1930s was the last decade in which there were major differences betweem rural and urban children in America. The rural economy expereinced depression conditions in the 1920s. And the Great Depression not only hit industrial America, but rural America as well. The Depression of the 1930s meant that fashion continued to be on hold during the decade. Many parents did not have the money for fashionable clothes. People who lose their homes and farms are not to concerned about fashion. The differences between rural and urban rapidly disappeared during and after World War II (1940s). A combination of factors were involved, the need to expand agricultural production during the War, New Deal programs, rural electification (an especially important New Deal program), government price supports, an expanding economy, school consolidation, television, migration to urban areas and the end of share cropping, improved transport, and other factors. Some of the same factors that moved city residents into the suburbs help connect the rural population more fully with the national mainstream.

Rural Boys

Rural homemakers later recalled the importance of creativity during the lean Depression years.One reported, "During the hard years, my boys wore short pants made from the legs of men's pants." Others spoke of the usefulness of feed sacks, some of which were printed with colorful patterns. "We made everything from them. We made shirts, dresses, men's shirts and all sorts of clothing from them." Not only clothing but household textiles were manufactured at home from these plain-weave, cotton sacks: "... four feed sacks would make the size of a tablecloth or sheet, and one pillow case could be made from each feed sack." Using feed sacks was not without its perils: "The first things I had was bloomers and slips out of flour sacks that they bleached the names off. Mom was good at that. She didn't leave parts of the name. Some people had Pillsbury on their seat." In the 1930s, even though more household workers were available, only affluent families could afford to hire them. Rural boys still commonly wore bib-front denim overalls although this declined as the decade progressed. The 30s were the last decade in which overalls were a major fashion for rural boys. Rural boys were less likely to wear knickers.

Urban Boys

It was of course in urban areas where fashions were set. It was often only the lack of money that prevented rural children from dressing like city children. The fashions had actually long been available thanks to mail order catalogs. And in the cities children were increasingly wearing comfortable casual styles. Few boys went barefoot or wore overalls. There were fashion in the 1930s, but they were mostly minor changes in 920s fashions. The major shifts would come in the 1940s. Boys wear wearing knickers with patterened knee socks rather than long stockings. Another shift was the gradual disappearance of flat caps and the shift from high-top to low-cut shoes. We also see more boys wearing sneakers. And a steady increase in the number of boys wearing long pants. Jeans had not yet caught on. This was essentially overalls without the bib. Some boys at the end of the decade saw cowboys wearing them in the movies and wanted them.


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Created: 2:25 AM 9/17/2017
Last update: 2:25 AM 9/17/2017