* United States boys clothes -- Inter-war years 1920s and 30s decades

United States Boys' Clothes during the Inter-war Years: Decades

Dramatic changes occurred in the clothes worn by America boys after the First World War (1914-18). Dresses and kilt suits for younger boys disaapeared. Boys had worn dresses for centuries, but this suddenly disappeared almost entirely. Fauntleroy suits also other fancy outfits also largely disappeared. Kilt suits also disappeared, although the kilt a an ethnic garment continued to be worn for special occassions by boys of Scottish ancestry. Sailor suits were still worn, but most by younger boys. Knee pants disappeared. Some boys wore the new short pants with kneesocks imported from England, but knickers proved much more popular in America. They first were widely worn in the 1910s and were prevalent throughout the 1920s, but declined in popularity during the 1930s. A lot of boys' styles spanned the inter-war years, but there were definite fashions shifts during the period making it often easy to separate 1920s from the 1930s. The decline of knixckers and long stockings are one very important shit. We see more short pants and long pants in the 1930s as well as patterned knee socks. We see even some younger boys wearing long pants in the 1930s. Many of our modern clothing styles owe their foundation to this era.

Figure 1.--American boys in the early 1920s were wearing both above the knee and below the knee knickers. Most boys preferred the below the knee style.

The 1920s

A dramatic change occurred in the clothes worn by America boys after the First World War which ended in 1918. Dresses and kilt suits for younger boys dissappeared as did Fauntleroy suits and kilts during the 1920s. Dramatic changes in fashion were perhaps inevitable after the horrors of the War, but just why these fashions disappeared is not fully understood. Sailor suits were still worn, but mostly by younger boys. Knee pants disappeared entirely. Some boys wore the new short pants with kneesocks imported from England, but knickers proved much more popular in America. More informal fashions began to appear in the 1920s. Boys continued to dress more formally than is common today, but much less formally than at the turn of the century. American boys mostly wore knicker suits. Suits and jackets were still more commonly worn than today. Double breasted styles were popular, but single breasted jackets the most common. Parents generally purchased patterned kneesocks for boys, although some boys wore ankle socks during the summer. What Americans now refer to as Eton suits for little boys appeared for the first time in the 1920s. Younger boys were the most likely to wear short pants. They were most common with affluent families which were more apt to follow English and other European styles. Shorts were most common in the Southern states and California. A variety of play clothes for little boys such as rompers and coveralls were also worn. Most older boys wore knickers for both school and play. In the early 1920s knickers were worn with long stockings or kneesocks, but by the 1930s it became common to wear them with ankle socks--especially during the summer. Overalls were commonly worn by rural boys, but city boys had not yet begun to wear what we now call jeans. Caps and hats were commonly worn by both men and boys.

Figure 2.--Short pants in America were mostly worn by younger boys. Note this boys button sshort pants and strapmsandals. His shirt collar is characteristic of the 1930s.

The 1930s

There were not a lot of new fashions appearing in the 1930s, perhaps because the Great Depression following the U.S. 1929 stockmarket crash caused many families to retrench. Others simply could not purchase new clothes. Several fashions, however, evolved during the decade and the fround work was set for the American boy's big leap to long trousers in the 1940s. Outwardly American men's clothing had changed only subtly during 1930s. Men and older boys wore suits with wider shoulders and more double-breasted suits. Boys wore both single and double breasted suits. School age boys mostly wore knicker suits. Younger boys might wear short pants suits, but by the time they were 8 or 9, sometimes earlier, they wanted knickers or even long pants. Many men of the era can remember to this day when they got their first pair of knickers and then long pants. American boys commonly wore knickers in the 1930s. At the beginnng of the 1930s the knickers buckled at the knee. Most boys by the 1930s were wearing knickers that buckled below the knee. A new style of knickers became increasingly popular by the early 1930s. Rather than buckling at the knee, the new style was elasticized. The boy then pulled his kneesocks up over the elasticised knicker hem. He then put a garter under the turn- over-top sock cuff to keep the sock up. Short pants varied somewhat depending on the boys' age. Younger boy wore very short shorts, often with short jackets. Older boys wore longer short pants, usually cut to knee length. Formal dressy short pants were mostly worn by younger boys. Mostly they were worn with ankle socks. Shorts were most common in the south and California. Some older boys in the northeast, especially boys from affluent families wore short pants with knees socks. Casual and play shorts were also worn mosly by younger boys--mostly during the summer. Somewhat older boys might wear play shorts, but even play shorts were not commonly worn by boys past elementary school. Many boys went to camp during the summer. Some of the more expensive camps had uniforms. Usually shirts with the camp logo and short pants. Some of these shrts had a vertical stripe on the side. Fancy dress up clothes were still worn, but much less than in the eraly 20th century. Velvet Fauntleroy suits had not entirely disappeared for boys. The Fauntleroy suit was much modified and now made with short pants to be worn with white kneesocks and ankle socks. These outfits were only worn by boys from wealthy families for formal occasions. Sailor suits were still worn in the 1930s, but only by younger boys. Boys older than 8 or 9 year old rarely wore sort pants. They were primarily worn with short pants. Sailor suits with knickers were unusual.


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Created: 3:40 AM 11/22/2011
Last updated: 3:40 AM 11/22/2011