United States Boys' Clothes: Individual Experiences in the 1930s

We do not have very many personal contribtions from readrs for the 1930s. We have collected a few accounts from HBC readers during the 1930s. Sadly we have just lost one of our most generous and knowledgeable readers, Charles, to help tell us about the 1930s. We are adding some family snaphors ans well as well as biographies and literary pieces. We still see flat caps, although they were no longer dominant anf had largely disappared by the late-30s. Button-on outfits were ppular for school-age boys. Knickers which dominated the 1910s and 20s are still very important in the 30s, especially the early-30s. Most boys recall wearing knickers. Knickers were commonly worn in the 1920s and continued to be worn in the 1930s, although fewer older boys wore them. Corduroy knockers were common for school wear. Here social class, seasonal, and regional factors were also involved. And families varied as to age and fashion conventions. There were substantial regional differeces. One reader rembers feeling out of place wearing short pants in kindergarden. Oher readers remember wearing short pats to kindergarden and elementary (primary) school. This was more common in the South than North. One reader recalls wearing short pants for Cubs,but the knicker uniform was more common as they were for Scouting. Jeans were not yet veryimportant. We see youngr boy wearing short panrs. Older boys mightwear them during the summer and lng pants become oncrasingly importan. Boys commonly wore knee socks with knickers and long stocings were declining n populrity. Ankle socjswere becoming increasingly popular. Boys mostly wore leather shoes, but sneakers were becoming more popular for casual wear after school. Many boys wore kneesocks, but long stockings were also worn.

The 1930s: Kindergarten

I remember walking to the door of the kindergarten classroom and spying Bully sitting over there -giggling and joking with all the other kids. Laughter shook off the walls all around, but it was somehow different from yesterday's shrieks (instigated by Bully) when everyone had stared at me because Mother had forced me to wear short pants to kindergarten. It was late in March and all the boys in class now were wearing knickers - that wondrous spring 1933 preparation .for fall's initiation into real public school, but Mother had pushed me into short pants and I had tasted for the first time, yesterday, ridicule and mortification - and a strange, bitter memory. But today was entirely different.

Figure 1.--Here we see John in 1931 with his older brother. Note the great train toy they are ridfing on. I'm not sure if that is an engineer play hat or a hat John's brother usually wore.

1934: Unidentified Brothers

These brothers in this 1934 family snapshot show a commom family convention. The younger boy wears short pants and the older boy wears rather full-cut knickers. They look to be about 8-11 years old. both boys wear paterened knee socks rather than long stockings. Given the family car in the background, they seem to on a family outing of some kind, prhaps a summer vacation. By the 1930s road were improving and some families had egun the readition of a family summer road trip. A reader writes, "If you look at the older boy wearring knickers he seems to have a web belt over the regular belt that holds up his Knickers. I thought maybe it was a shirt, it could be very bold looking under shorts (they were popular then per a Best & Co. 1929 ad). He also wears a v-neck sweater and his shirt is buttoned all the way to the top collar. Some mothers insisted on this. He has dark sneakers. By the 1930s, boys wore their knckers below the knee and many had knit bottoms closures. The knit closures covered the top of his patterned socks, alhough here the boy's knickers are so baggy it is hard totel. The younger boy is wearing a shirt with a ports collar and short pants without a belt. They don't seem to be button-on shorts which were widely worn at the time. Rather funny the one boy has two belts and his little brother dos not have one.

The 1930s: John

Here are the pictures I said I would send. The pictures show my older brother and I with our mother. I was born in July 1930 and my brother in 1927, so that should help giving the age of the pictures. Of course there is no doubt of the year in the picture with the goat cart and license plate. Note the picture in my bib overalls and the worn out toes of the shoes. Kids at this age usually stopped their tricycles by dragging their toes on the sidewalk. There is a of my mother and I. There is a picture of my June 1936 kindergarten graduation. I have included one more picture of my mother at age 19 mounted on a calendar. Love those curls.

The 1930s: Lenny

This American boy was named Lenny. We do not know his last name. Here he is shown with his alto sax wearing a knickers suit which was very common in the 1930s. Notice the patterened kneesocks.

The Late 1930s: Knickers and Shorts

My parents were from Europe and very traditionally oriented. I remember my first pair of knickers very well, but unfortunately I didn't get to wear them very long. I wore short pants all through elementary school. I also had blue and white sailor suits.

1930s: Wally Cox

Irecall reading an autbiography by Wally Cox. His mother dressed him in short pants for school. He remberswabnting o wear knickes like the other boys, but is mothr would not budge. I think this asthe30s, but could have been the 20s.

The Late 1930s: Charles

I am particularly fascinated by HBC's treatment, both foreign and domestic, of the subject of boys wearing long stockings with hose supporters. I hope I can make a minor contribution to your information on this topic based on my boyhood experiences and subsequent study and perhaps correct a few misconceptions. When mentioning specific HBC web pages, I give the precise references in a series of footnotes at the end of this letter. I number the illustrations I have enclosed, designating them Fig. 1, Fig. 2, Fig. 3 etc.


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Created: 9:42 PM 7/16/2005
Last updated: 2:58 AM 3/22/2014