*** United States boys clothes: 20th century families

United States Boys' Clothes: 20th Century Families

American families 20th century
Figure 1.--Here we see the Fincher family in 1922. We are not sure if they were from Texas or Oklahoma. Here the father is in shirt sleeves, presumably it was a hot day. It also reflects the greater informality following World War I. The boys are also all in shirt sleeves. Notice that only the older boy wears suspenders like his father. All the boys wear knickers.

The development of the Kodak Brownie camera in 1900 meant that many American family could take family snap shots. We begin to get less formal images of family life. Soon we begin to get candid often amimated images of family life. These images show the clothes worn by the entire family thriughout the century. Not only do we see the varioys garments, but we can observe the steady development of informal styles as the century progressed--the most important single fashion trend. Color images bregin to appear before World War II, but do not become common until the 1970s. Digital imaged begin to appear in the 1990s.

The 1900s

We have acquired images of several America families during the 1900s. They cover a wide range of families of varying social class, occupations, and regions. We see a range of different outfits worn by boys of different ages. There were wide differences in how children from different socil classes dressed as well as differences between urban and rural America. Whilw we have images from a range of families, there are more images available from wealthy and middle-class families. In particular we do not have mages of the familes of child workers. There were still few labor laws protecting women and children. We see some of the different styles of headwear such as sailor caps and flat caps. We see tunic suits, sailor suits, and a variety of other outfits such as kneepants and knicker suits. Most boys wore kneepants and long stockings were still common. The images show the family in both formal and informal situations. The standards of the day required relatively formal clothing even for informal situations, but we see the begining of informal wear when compared to the 19th century.

The 1910s

We have collected images of quite a few American families in the 1910s. Many boys wore flat caps. Younger boys wore sailor caps and hats in different styles. We see boys wearing tunic suits, Fauntleroy suits, sailor suits, an Norfolk suits. Eton collars are worn by some boys. Most boys wear kneepants or knickers. The Norfolk suit was a very popular style. Girls all wear dresses. Many biys have bangs. We note some boys have their hair parted in the middle. Hair bows were very popular with the girls. Many boys went barefoot in the Summer, especially in small towns and rural areas. Most children wore long stockings.

The 1920s

World War I was a major inflection point in fashion, this included boys and girls fashion and adult fashion. Fashion and social convention in the 1920s was radically different from those before the War. Kneepants disappeared and boys mostly wore knickers. Younger boys might short pants, but most boys in elementary (primary) school wore knickers. Here there were social class differences. Long stockings were still common, but some boys wore jkneesocks. More casual styles became popular for an ibcreasinfg rabnge of activities. This was especially notable by the later parts of the decade. One major shift was substantial differences which developed between the way American and European boys dressed. For some reason this difference was not as norable for girls. Another development was increasing similarities between how boys of different social classes dressed.

The 1930s

The 1930s in America was dominated by the Great Depression. This affected the life style of many Americans. Many families had trouble affording the basic necesities, food and shelter, let along fashionable clothes. The trend toward casual clothes continued. The inability to afford clothes may have been a factor here. Boys continued to dress more casually. We see boys wearing "T"-shirts and sneakers. Boys still commonly wore kickers at the beginning of the decade, although fewer older boys than in the 1920s. We also see more boys wearing knee socks with knickers rather than long stockings. We note knickers going out of style by the end of the decade. More boys were wearing long pants, including younger boys. Younger boys wore shorts. They were also more common in the South and with more affluent families. Boys in the country commonly wore overalls. Girls mostly wore dresses. We do see girls in gym class and camp wearing rompers or shorts. Overalls in rural areas were commonn.

The 1940s

The 1940s were a monentous decade. The Depression was finally over, but then America became caught up in the malestorm of World War II. After the victory over the NAZIs an Japanese militarists, America had to face the Soviet Union in the Cold War. Anerican families were affected by the post-War Baby Boom. There were major fashion changes through all that. Knickers which were sill worn at the beginning of the decade disappeared during the War. More boys wore long pants. Younger boys might wear shorts, especially during the summer. Some boys from conservative, often affluent families might have short pants suits. There was a trend for plain practical clothing during the War. Jeans were mostly overalls worn in rural areas at the beginning of the decade. The War and Hollywood made jeans popular with boys by the end of rge decade. Sneakers were increasingly commonm. Girls still wore mostly dresses, but we see country girls wearing pants. Overall differences netween country and city families were beginning to disappear by the end of the decade.

The 1950s

The fashion trends notable in the 1940s continued into the prospeous 1950s. Boys shirts had large collars at the beginning of the decade. Stried T-shirts were popular summer wear, There were long-sleeve T-shies for fall an winter. Preppy clothes like button-down shirts were popular by the end of the decade. Jeans were popular by the early 50s. Boys commonly wore them, Teenagers aso liked them, but many hugh schhols did not allow them. Suspenders were bery common for younger boys. We still see shorts sets with belted shorts at he beginning of the decade. Suits were still fairly common when dressing up. Jackets had wide laels at the beginning of the decade, but lapels narrowed by the end of the deace. Long pants suits were the most commn. Younger boys and boys from affluent famiies most commonly wore short pants suits. Eton suits were popular for younger boys. Knickers which had been very common in America are no longer seen to any extent. Short pants after the early-50s declined except for younger boys. Suits ahd sispender shorts. We no longer see as many boys wearing short pants to school. They were becoming basically a seasonal summer garment. Knee socks were not common for boys. Boys mostly wore leather oxford shoes. Aneakers, especially high top Keds were popular during the summer. Low-cuts were becoming poykar by the end of tge decade. Both boys and hirls wore saddle shoes and loafers. Girls wore prim desses to school and church. Baloon sleeves were popular. Short pants were popular play garments. Girls commonly wore knee socks. Girls wore both oxford shoes and strap shoes.

The 1960s

1960s: Queman family

Here we see the children in the Queman family. This picture was taken in Red Creek, New York. Unfortunately it is undated, but looks like the 1960s to us. We know the children names. From top to bottom, left to right: Robert, Rosemary, Mark, Beth, Andrea, David and Betsy. Rosemary, Mark, Beth and Andrea are siblings. Their family name is Queman, a Dutch original family. Robert, David and Betsy are their cousins. The children mostly wear short pants, including the girls. The photogrph is a good example of how girls were commonly wearing shorts for casual wear by the 1960s. The children were also barefoot. This was becoming less common, but was not unknown around the home during the summer.

1961: Easter portrait

This very large California family had an Easter portrait taken in 1961. It appears to be the Ditz family. They whole family is dressed in their Easter best. The children are dressed in popular period styles. The boys all wears suits. One boy wears a dark suit. The other older boy wears a light-colored jacket, popular at Easter time. The younger boy wears an Eton suit. The boys wear neckties, except the younger boy who wears a bow tie with his Eton-style collar. (It looks like the Eton style, although it could be a Peter Pan collar.) The short pants of his Eton suit look unusually long for the period. The younger girls wear matching print dresses with white anklets and strap shoes.

1965: Suburban siblings

Here we see three siblings, two brothers and a sister. It is clearly some where in suburbian America. We are not sure just where. We do know that the snapshot was taken in 1965. We are not sure just what is going on here. The children are dressed rather strangely in an odd asortment of clothes. The older boy is dressed up with a Western tie, white shirt, and dress grey shorts. The younger children wear play clothes with their parents hats.

1966: Easter portrait

Here we have another family Easter portrait taken in 1966. It is traditional to buy new Spring outfits for Easter. Here the seven Casey children are all done up in fancy new Easter outfits. The children are Erin, Chris, Bobby, Kate, Mary Ellen, and Margi. The baby is Pat. An eighth child would follow later. I am guessing the family is Catholic. The girls wer very large wide-brimmed hats. The boys wear Eton outfits. Curiously Chris wears an Eton suit either navy blue or black with a Eton shaped collar. Bobby wears an Eton sports jacket with a Peter Pan collar. Both wear matching short pants and knee socks. Neither boy wear ties. They look about 5-6 years old. The parents are Ellen and Robert Casey. He would lose an election for govenor in the Fall election, but he was elected in the 1880s.

1968: Summer visit to the Grandparents

American had moved to the subburbs by the 1960s. This and the earlier nove to the cities meant that most of the country lived in nuclear families band given the mpbility of America, this was often at some distance fom the grandparents. Most American familes had cars and traditionally the whole family took off for a summer vacation. Often this meant a trip to te beach (Florida or California), national parks, historcical sights, and the grandparents. The only information we have here is that the roll of film was developed September 1968. September of course is when the kids go back to school. But it was probably taken just before in August while the family was on summer vacation. And it looks like grandad with the kids. Thee are four children, three boys and their older sister. They are all wearing summer vacation togs--shier pants and short sleeved tops. The younger childre wear T-shirts. The older boy weara a whire shirt. Notice how his shirt is buttined. Motice hos low-cut sneakers. In the 1950s, high-tops were more common. The baby wears white strap shoes. We are not sure just what big sister is wearing except for the sandles.

American-English movie star family: The Eggars

This is a press photograph of Samantha Eggar and her two children, Nicholas (1965) and Jenna (1967) Stern. Eggar was born into a British military family in Hampstead, the year World War II began (1939). The family relocatd to rural location during the War. She was educated in a convent school, but did not get on with the nuns. She claimed she tried to kill one. She was interested in acting at an early age, but discouragd by her parents. Both good looks and ability drove resulting in an acting career. She appeared in many films and TV shows, relocating to America (1973). She moved to America when most of her carrer was conducted. She married American Tom Stern, a less succesful actor. Here we see her traveling with the children to a film shoot. The press caption read, "Samantha Eggar in London: Samanth Eggar in London: Samantha Eggr, arrived at London's Heathrow Airport on Saturday (21-6-69) from Los Angeles, on her way to Paris to star in the film 'Lady in the car'. She travelled with her mnager Guy McElwaine and nanny, Tina, and her two children Nicholas 3 1/2 and Jenna 1 1/2. She said, 'Oh it's great to be back in England, as he sipped a cup of tea. 'I'll never marry anyone ever again.' Samantha is now estraged from her husband Tom Stern." Her performances were competent and were noticed, but there were no stunning success. Eggar and Stern divorced (1971). Her acting carrer continued throughout the 1990s). Tea sipping sounds English, but we noticed she remained in America after retiring as did the children. Nicholas is a film producer. Jenna is an actress, best know for her appearance in the 'Law and Order' franchise.

The 1970s

1970s: Wilson family

We note a British family living there in the 1970s. The Wilson family were an American family that lived in Gorka, Papua New Guinea. One photo shows the children opening the Christmas presents. They are having a rather American Christmas except for the way the children are dressed. The second photograoh shows the Davis boys playing marbles with local mates. I am not sure when marbes became popular in New Guinea. This snapshot interesting because of the way the family seems to have fitted in to the community. This was rare before World War II. We do not have much information anout the family, but we think they may have been missionaries.

1976: Indiana family

Here we see an Indiana family wearing many popular styles of the 1970s. Unfortunately we know nothing about the family. They stand in front of the family station wagon and camper in 1976. Notice the style of short shorts worn with knee length tube socks with colored stripes around the top. Boys of different ages wear them. One of the boys wears plain white tube socks with a tank top with the word Brazil on it (an Indiana town). The red and white tube socks are influenced by loyalty to the Indiana University basket ball team (the school colors). Notice the blue jean cutoffs worn by a high school boy. Also notice the flared jeans abd girl's bib-front shorts. Notice only the boys wear the tube socks.

The 1980s

1981: Manning family

Perhaps the most famous football family is the Manning family. Here is a family snapshot taken in 1981. We see the parents of the two stars with their three sons. Olivia and Archie Manning are shown at home with Eli (born the same year and therefore less than a year old), Cooper (born in 1974 and therefore about 7 or 8 years old, and Peyton (born in 1976, therefore about 5 and a half years old). Eli Manning plays football for the New York Giants and Peyton for the Indianapolis Colts. Cooper might have become a football star himself but for spinal stenosis which cut short his career in sports. The two older boys are wearing the popular sports styled casual clothes of the 1970s and early-80s. They wear polo/golf shiers, short pants, coloful knee-length tube socks, and trendy sneakers. Cooper's socks have broad colored stripes aroung the top whereas Peyton's socks habe light colored bands all up and down. The top bands were the most common. Tube socks became popular because they were worn by both backetball and soccer players.

1980s: Unknown family

Here we see a snapshot from an inexpensivee camera, probably a plastic Brownie populr with teengers producung a low-quality image. . There is no identifying information. The photograph shows four pre-teen and teenage children in the family living room. Te look to be about 11-17 years old. The photograph, based on their clothing, was taken duing the summer. The girls wear blouses and a haltar top and skirts. The boy wears a sport shirt, shirt pants, tube socks and sneakers. It is a fairly standard living room with a house plant. We are not sure about the date, but suspect that the shorter-length tube socks was more likely the 1980s than the 70s.

The 1990s

Unknown Date

Many of our family images are not dated. As a result we can not always include images we have found in our chronology. Most photographs contain a variety of clues that can be useful in dating it. We know many of the clues, but often readers know more than we do and can pick up on one detail or another. We can usually, but not always identify the decade. We thought it might be useful to load some of the images which have caused us some trouble. Hopefully HBC readers can help us date, at least identify the decade so we can place it in our chronology.

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Created: March 12, 1998
Last updated: 7:42 AM 3/13/2020