* United States boys clothes: suits chrnology 20th century








United States Boys' Suits: Chronology--The 20th Century


Figure 1.--Norfolks suits were extremely popular for American boys in the early 20th century. This boy had his portrait taken in Boston. It is undated, but we would guess it was taken about 1910.

After the turn of the 20th century, knickers began replacing knee pants, especially after the 1900s. Norfolk suits were very popular in the early 20th century. We also see sack suits made in th single and double-breasted styles. Fauntleroy suits were still worn at the turn of the century by younger boys, but went out of style in the 1910s. Sailor suits were still popular in the early 20th century. After World War I, short pants suits appeared, but knicker suits were much more common. Thge Eton suit made without lapels became a popular style for younger boys. Dark blue or black suits became classic conventions. Afrer World War II long pants suits became increasingly common. Boys also wore sports jackets and blazers. Sports jackets with contrasting material were popular in the 1940s and early 50s. Preppy blazers became increasingly popular in the 1960s. The increasingly popular more casual life style by the 1970s meant boys were wearing suits less and less commonly.

The 1900s

Norfolk suits were very popular in the early 20th century. Eton suits were less common, although we see boys with Eton collrs. We also see sack suits made in both the single and double breasted styles. After the turn of the 20th century, knickers began replacing kneepants, although kneepants were still very common in the 1900s. They were dominant in the early 1900s, but gradually we see more knickrs as the decade progressed. Knee pants were worn throughout the 1990s, but by the end of the decade we commonly see older boys wearing both knee pants and knickers. Youngr boys seem more liklely to wear knee pants. Fauntleroy suits were still worn at the turn of the century by younger boys, but went out of style in the 1910s. Sailor suits were still popular in the early 20th century.

The 1910s

We notice different suit jacket styles for boys in the 1910s. Norfolk jackets continued to be popular in the 1910s. We see boyth single- and double-breasted jackets. Double-breasted jackets seem particularly popular. Knicker pants for suits became increasingly popular in the very late-1900s and were dominant in the 1910s. Most of the suits we see in the 1910s while having varied jacket styles almost always had knicker pants. Some mostly younger boys wore knee pants outfits like sailor suits or Oliver Twist, but knicker suits were much more common for school age boys. Knicker suits became the almost universal style for American boys during the 1910s. This was not the case in Europe and began the development of very different clothing trends in America and Europe. We see some knicker suits in Europe, but knee pants and short pants were more common. A few American boys began wearing knicker suits with knee socks. We see some examples of this in the photographic record, but long stockings were much more common. The vast majority of American boys wore black long stockings. There were other colors, but the photographic record shows that back was the standard color when wearing suits.

The 1920s

We still see Norfolk styled jackets in the early 1920s. After World War I, short pants suits appeared, but knicker suits were much more common. Short pants suits were mostly worn by younger boys or boys from affluent families. The great majority of boys wore knicker suits. We note some knee pants suits for younger boys in the very early 20s, but theu quicjly wentbout of style. The Eton suit made without lapels became a popular style for younger boys. Dark blue or black suits became classic conventions. We see fewer boys wearing suits in the 920s, although they were still very common. This was part of the great informality in America following the War. We even see some boys wearing opeb-collar shorts with suits in the 20s. We see boys mostly wearing long stockings with suits, but some boys wore knee socks.

The 1930s

American boys still commonly wore suits at the beginning of the decade, but notcas common as in the 1930s. Younger boys might wear Eton suits in the 1930s. Some had matching caps. This style was most popular among affluent families. We note older voys wearing both single- and double-breasted jackets. This was the last decade that the double-breasted jacket was a major style for boys. We see sports jackets beginning to become popular. We see boys wearing short pants, knickers, and long pants suits. Knickers suits were still common in the early-30s. Thy were worn less with long stockings as brightly patterened knee socks became popular. After mid-decade we begin to see more boys wearing long pants suits. Some boys wore short pnts suits, mostly younger boys. There was also a social-claas element. Short oants suits were more common with affluent Americans than knicker suits. By the end of the decade, knicker suits were rapidly going out of style. Suits overall were declining in popularity. They were no longer worn to school except at some private schools.

The 1940s

The principal suit style in the 1940s was the single-breasted jacket. We still see the double-breasted jacket, but World War II affected the productioj of double-breasted jackets--like knickers hey equired extra material. Boys at the beginning of the decade wore short pants, knickers, and long pants suits. Knicker suits quickly dissappeared during the War (1941-45). We still see some after the War, but no longer were they very common. After World War II long pants suits became increasingly common. Some yonger boys still wore short pants suits. Boys also wore sports jackets and blazers. Sports jackets with contrasting material pannels were popular in the 1940s and early-50s. Lapels in the 1940s tended to be very wide. A reader writes, "I like the more subdued clothing styles of the 1940s. (No Zoot suits, slouch hats, or pegged pants, please.) I have some typically '40s patterns ties, but if I wear one, I put a solid color vest sweater over it. I recently came by a three button, chocolate brown, window-pane pattern sport coat (light blue and red worked into the material.) Don't know if it's a 1940s or early-'50s. There's no back vent in it. I'd never noticed in old films that men's suit coats had no back vent in the 1930s, '40s, and into the mid-1950s. I've even come across a white-linen, double-breasted boys' short trousers suit. I hadn't seen many of these suits in a double-breasted style." We notice boys wearing suits with open sprts collars.

The 1950s

Suits were still standard for boys dresing up. And there were still quite a few dress up occasions. There were, however, sharp age differences. Eton suits continued to be the standard for younger boys, especially boys from affluent families. . We notice, however, major changes in suits during the 1950s. Suits at the beginning of the decade had wide lapels, but by the end of the decade lapels had become much more narrow. You still see the contrasting material sports jackets in the early and mid-decde, but by the end of the decade jackets had a more classic look. Dark suits were the most common, although some boys had light-colored suits or sports jackets for Easter and summer wear. Blazers were becoming incereasingly common as an alternative tomsports jackets. Some younger boys wore short pants suits, usually with ankle socks. This was most common among well-to-do families. Most boys wore long pants suits. Catholic boys might have white suits, often short patrts suits, for First Communion.

The 1960s

Boys still commonly wore suits when dressing up in the 1960s, although some fornall formal occasiins were becoming informal. Suits were worn for occasions like theater, concerts, church, weddings, special family occasions, and other important events. Younger boys were commonly allowed to dress less formally, but they also had suits for special occassions. Except at private schools, boys no longer wore suits to school. Single-breasted jackets were standard. Double-breasted jackets wrre seem as old fashioned, but made a minor comeback at the end of the decde into the 70s. We note narrow lapels for both suits and sports jsckets in the 60s, sandwiched between the 50s and 70s whenwhen wider lapels were fashionable. Preppy blazers became increasingly popular in the 1960s. A blue flannel blazerand grey slacks were a stanfdard to wear instead of a suit. Blazers and slacks with bow ties were acceptable for formal occasions, Boys still wore sports jackets to some extent. Most boys wore long pants suits. Here social class was a factor. A few mostly wealthy boys still wore short pants suits which were still available in sizes up to about 10 years old, but most boys by that age were wearing long pants suits. Short pants suits wre more acceptable for younger boys. Even young boys wearing short pants could be teased by other boys wearing long pants. Short pants suits could be acceptable in wealthu northeastern communities where boys attended private school, but were nt common among more average income groups. Increasingly these short pants suits were Eton suits. The Eton suit for little boys which first appeared in the 1920s was the standard dress wear for little boys. The Eton jacket worn by American boys was a short, collarless jacket, in various materials. It was usually worn with short pants. Black, navy and grey were popiular colors. It was no longer mostly worn by boys from affluent families, but rather a widely accepted style. The better made Eton suits generally had suspender shorts. The shorts worns with American Eton suits tended to be cut shorter than those for a regular short pants suit for an older boy. Short pants suits with lapel jackets were still avilable for boys in the younger primary years. The age range heregradually shited as the decade ptofressed. We note primary boys waring suits with bow ties. While still worn, suits were less commonly worn as casual styles made increasing inroads. A factor here was the growth of the suburbs which were becoming n ibreasingg factor in family life. Sunburban life led to greater informality.

The 1970s

We see fewer boys wearing suits in the 1870s. The increasingly popular more casual life style by the 1970s meant boys were wearing suits less and less commonly. Some boys wore vests rather than a suit jcket.





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Created: 3:19 AM 4/3/2005
Last updated: 11:36 PM 1/1/2017