United States Boys' Clothes: The 1960s--Clothing Types

Figure 1.--The ethos of Amerericam life shifted from the central cities to the suburbs after World War II anf by the 60s, the 'burbs' were dominant. And they were conducive to casual living. This was reflected in popular fashions, including kids' fashions. These children in the early 1960s are wearing summer play clothes, T-shorts and boxer shorts, in their suburban front yard. Notice the short hair cuts.

The 1960s were a a time of enormous cuktural change. And this including changing fashion trends. We see increasingly sharp destinctions between dress clirhing and casual clothing in the 1960s. This was aprocess that negan earlier. Boys exceot for the well-to-do tended to have reaktively small wardpbes in the early-20th century. There was not all that much difference between dress up and play clothes. Most boys wore their older more worn clothes for play and had a new outfit for best. Graduakky as incomes rose more and more specialized casual styles appeared and became an increasinly important and wardrobes grew as more amnd more families led incread]singly prosperous lifestyles. Even so, th proprtiin of a ]famoly budget devoted to clothing declined. There were a range of interesting trends assiciated with both dresswear and casual clithing in th 60s. Until the 60s dresswear was a very important part of a boy's wardobe. It was in the 1960s that casual clothing became the more mportant part of a boy's wardrobe and the point wherevthey increasing began to be worn in situations for which dressy clothes were formerly more common.

Dress Clothes

While increasingly rare, a few boys were nicely dressed in the 1960s. British fashions still influenced American mothers, a least wealty or well to do families. The Kennedy's had a great impact on American fashion. Jacki's impact on womens' fashions was legendary. The Kennedy children impacted children's fashions. The most famous Kennedy boy, of course, was John John. His wearng of a short pants suit, with rather short shorts, in the middle of the winter was noted by many mothers. His shortalls and red strap closed-toe sandals also impressed fashion concious mothers. Even after going to New York he was often seen in shorts, knee socks, and "t" bar sandals until he was about 10. These outfits probably didn't indear John to his friends. (Incidentally John didn't like to be called John-John, his famous kickname appears to have been a press creation.) The children were always emaculately attired. Jacki's choices in clothes for both John and Carolyn, however, were more English than American. While noticed, few American mothers could even hope to keep their boys in shorts passed the shortalls/Eton suit phase. Perhaps more influential was John John's bangs. Ethel Kennedy kept her younger boys in black short pants suits and knee socks. But these were the last few times that such fashionable clothes would be seen on American children. Boys in America increasinly reserved their suit for very special occasions. Even church did not merit a suit. Boys' suits were mostly single breasted with narrow ties and lapels. There were also some new fabrics such as searsucker. Some boys wore searsucker or Madras jackers with contrasting shorts. Cord suits were also available. Boys mostly dressed up in long pants suits. Short pants suits were never as common in America as in Europe. As the decade progressed fewer and fewer boys dressed up in shorts. Some little boys wore shortalls , a new style intoduced at the beginning of the decade. Jackie Kennedy and the way she dressed John John had the impact of promting this style. Slightly older little boys might wear Eton suits. At about 7 or 8 they might get regular short pants suits which they would wear for a few years, but rarely beyond 10 or 11. By the end of the decade, however, even this was declined greatly. For most American mothers it was a struggle beginning at about 7 years to keep boys in short pants suits. Most of the parents that did were wealthy and sent their children to private schools which had short pants as a uniform. Knee socks were not as common as in Europe, but were worn by well dressed boys for special occasions. As the population moved to the more informal suburbs, boys dressed up less and less. Suits and even blazers were less commonly worn. Even occasions formerly requiring suits and ties such as church and parties increasingly were more casual events for boys. As a result, dress occasions like church or dance classes were often meant a mix of clothing. Some parents holding to the old conventions. At the beginning of the decade there would still be some boys up to about 12 in short pants suits. By the end of the decade, however, only younger boys of 7 or 8 years might be seen in dressy shorts, and even this was increasingly rare.

Casual Clothes

Clothing styles developed along simpler, more youthful lines during the 1960s. Clothing began to appear in many more varried colors than ever before. Tennagers finally arrived on the fashion scene. Rising family incomes and teenage jobs foe spending money rather than to support the family meant that there was a significant and growing new market to exploit. The fashion industry lost no time in doing so. The 1960s were the first decade that had its own fashions directed specifically at teenagers. Before the Sixties, teenagers dressed like basically scaled-down versions of their parents as soon as they outgrew juvenile styles. Young adults dressed in the same styles of dresses or suits that their mothers and fathers wore. There had previously existed fashion subcultures which were more or less limited to young people, such as the Edwardians (Teddy Boys), the "Rockers", and the Beatniks. However, since these movements existed as sub-cultures among the non-conformists or the alienated youth, they were concentrated among just a portion of the entire young population. The majority of teens continued to dress like their parents. Casual clothes became increaingly common during the 1960s. There was a notable shift from the beginning to the end of the decade The move to the suburbs fit in with the casual life style. This casual shift was notable in several areas, including clothes. Casual clothes became fully accepted atschool. Basically the only differebce was that a new set of casual clothes were bought for school and older clothes were worn after school. Boys began to ibcreasingly wear T-shirts rather than collsred shirts. Jeans became increasingly dominant. And in the 1960s they began to be worn in secondary as well as primary schools. Schools gave up with trying to ban them. And designer jeans appeared as jeans by the end of the decade became fashionable. Short pants were becoming increasingly popular among boys as casual play wear. They were less common at school. They certainly appealed to hard pressed moms because of the ease of washing them. Manufacturers had found consumers receptive to clothing that did not require ironing but that also had the look and feel of cotton. Clothing was given wrinkle-resistant finishes (these had first appeared in 1929). Resin-finished cotton or cotton and polyester garments were marketed as 'wash-and-wear' or 'easy care'. A new style was inroduced, "camp shorts" with larger pockets. Toward the end of the decade "cut offs" became popular. They emphasized that they were casual, not dress wear. The idea being that one did not purchase a proper pair of shorts, but rather salvaged an old pair of worn out long pants bt cutting off the legs. Some younger boys began wearing these casual styles to school. Older boys could now be seen wear Bermuda shorts" or "Bermies" for casual wear, always with white athletic socks and tennis shoes. While dress shorts were becoming less common, play shorts were becoming more popular attire.


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Created: 5:46 AM 11/1/2014
Last updated: 5:46 AM 11/1/2014