* United States boys' clothes social class differences during the 1930s

United States Childrens Fashion: Demographics-- Social Class Differences (The 1930s)

Figure 1.--This phopgraph was describeed as, "Society at the Greentree Fair held at the Estate of Mrs. Payne Whitney. at Manhassett, Long Island. We see Mrs. John H.G. Pell, with her two children L to R, Sarah Gibbs Pell and John Bigelow Pell." The photograph was dated June 21, 1937. Sarah wears what mightbe described as a baby bonnet and a white summer dress. Her little brother wears a button--on short pants outfit with a ruffled collar. A HBC reader recalls, "Almost 50 years ago I was at an auction at the Whitney estate in Old Westbury. Lot's of Vanderbilt paraphernalia. We did not bid on anything but did go through the estate viewing items up for auction. I remember hearing one of the children describing what items went to the museums after the family chose favorite items and then antique dealers went through and the left over was being sold in auction (hundreds of items over 3 days). The property was sold to a developer."

There were very substantial social class differences in dress throughout the 19th century. This continued into the early-20th century. At the time, clothing took up more of family income than is the case today. This was a function of high relative production and low working-class incomes. This gap gradually narrowed in the 19th century as mass production lowered costs, Ameican industrialized, and became more and more urbanized. And this process continued in the early29th century. Here major steps were Henry Fords's $5.00 a day income, a considerable mnout in the 1910s and the economic boom of he roaring 20s. Social-class diiferences had not disappeared, but they were far less pronounced than in the 19th century. The Depression of the 1930s arrested this trend because so many fathers lost their jobs and family income declined. Even so social class diiferrnces persisted, especially in rural areas. Overalls still dominated in rural areas. In urban areas boys were not yet wearung jeans let alone overalls. Another difference was obviously that higher income people could affotd or expensive, fashionable clothes. And children from higher income families did not wear patched clothing. Except for the very poor on rural areas, pathching was no longer very common, except for the knees of long pants. Boys very commonly tore their pants at the knee while playing. This occurred so often that knee patches were marketed. Perhaps the most coom difference was that short pants were more common among hidher income families. We are not entirely sure why this difference develoed. Before World War, kneepants were worn by boys of all social classes. After the War this difference developed in he 1920s and continued into thev 1930s. We think that higher income Americans may have bee more influenced by European fashions. We do not see these fifferences in schools, in part because well-to-do childtren often attended private schools. Parties were another matter as people nprmally associated withoth people of comparable classes. We note a 1930 Valentine Day party.


Navigate the Historic Boys' Clothing Web Site:
[Return to the Main U.S. 1930s page]
[Return to the Main 1930s page]
[Return to the Main U.S. Inter-War page]
[U.S. 1900s page] [U.S. 1910s page] [U.S. 1920s page] [U.S. 1940s page] [U.S. 1950s page] [U.S. 1960s page]
[U.S. 1970s page] [U.S. 1980s page] [U.S. 1990s page]

Navigate the Historic Boys' Clothing Web Site:
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Cloth and textiles] [Clothing styles] [Countries] [Girls] [Topics]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]

Navigate the Historic Boys' Clothing Web chronological pages:
[The 1800s] [The 1840s] [The 1880s] [The 1900s] [The 1910s] [The 1920s] [The 1930s]
[The 1940s] [The 1950s] [The 1960s] [The 1970s] [The 1980s] [The 1990s] [The 2000s]

Created: 1:58 PM 1/26/2020
Last update: 9:12 PM 1/26/2020