Personal Experiences: Monthomery Wards 1955 Catalog

Figure 1.--A HBC reader remembers the suspender jeans that one boy wore in kindigarden.

Montgomery Ward Fall Sales Catalog

While renovating his house, a HBC reader has found an old Montgomery Wards sale catalog that had fallen into a wall. On the cover it says "This Book is in Effect Until October 31, 1955". He scanned the pages of boys' wear. HBC has reviewed the various pages and that assessment is available in our 1955 American catalog section. Readers who want a clearer view can see them at 1955 catalog.

Personal Recollections

Although that era is at the earliest limits of my conscious memory, the clothing depicted is consistent with what I remember, and what family photographs show. I have some photographs of me at the age of three taken in the Summer of 1956 dressed almost exactly as shown in item 'E' on page 28, right down to the extremely deep cuffs in my jeans. I was very cute. Suspender jeans for younger boys was a style that didn't last to the end of the decade. I know this from the fact that I remember being surprised when a boy wore suspender pants to kindergarten in 1958-59.

The "California style" slacks described on pages page 29 and page 30 is a style that I was never aware of. By the time that I had any fashion awareness they were hopelessly outdated. So too were the deeply cuffed jeans; if a boy wore jeans like that in the mid-60s he'd be asked if he was expecting rain.

The little girls' pants on pages page 36 and page 38 all have side zippers. I guess that the idea of girls wearing pants was still new enough that people thought that they needed to make feminizing changes. These days it's hard to find a schoolgirl who *isn't* wearing pants, so side zippers are no longer seen.

Of all of the underpants on pages page 44 and page 45, none are boxers. Boxers were only worn by old guys.

In the two pages of "Frontier Duds for Young Davy Crockett Fans", I don't see a single trademark notice - not even for the coonskin cap! What a very different world that was.

HBC Recollections

One of the HBC readers was a little older. The fashions noted bring back many memories indeed of my boyhood clothes and experiences. Some of the stripped "T"-shirts pictured are just like the ones I wore--including the long sleeved versions for fall wear. I don't recall the pink shirts that Wards offered--in fact I think that we boys would have been taking our live in our hands if we had worn pink shirts to school. Thuis was the prepy period, however, and pastel shirts xwere part of it, so perhaps they were acceptable among a more genteel class of boys. I note there was even a pair of pink pants offered. Here I think that even northeaster preppies would have drawn the line. The jeans I do call. We all wore them in elementary school--but they were not allowed in high school. I don't remember suspender jeans--but I was about 12 years old at the time and may not have recalled what the younger boys were wearing. What I remember best is the jeans with flannel lining and the way we boys ALWAYS turned up the cuffs of our blue jeans (my dad called them overalls) like real cowboys. At least we thought that real cowboys wore the like that--they did in the movies and television. I also remembered the socks we wore the argules and stripped types in particular. When we began high school, we wore the slacks also pictured in this Wards catalog. I remember light blue, black, and khaki ones I wore.

Reader Reflections

I will spend a great deal of time reviewing much of what has been written. Concerning page 29 and deep cuff jeans. I remember wearing them as well as my friends and older brothers. My mother loved them because they allowed for growth and the cuffs could be lowered as we grew. No one I knew was ever made fun for wearing them. I also remember that at some point people just stopped wearing them. I want to say it was sometime prior to 1970 and after 1965 but at the moment I cannot be more precise.

Reader Reflections: John

The Montgomery Ward catalog brings back some memories. You're exactly right that the popularity of "Davy Crockett" accounts for the popularity of the coonskin caps. They were a national fad. I remember having one, though I had no notion whether an animal had sacrificed its pelt for the cap, nor whether the fur was synthetic! Like other kids, I was just glad to have a cap like this one.

My older brother and I both wore white tank top undershirts and briefs. Collared shirts in bright plaids or with stripes were well liked for school. When the weather turned warm, short sleeves were an option, but for much of the school year long sleeves were more common. The HBC contributor who does not remember pink shirts is right in his assessment; my brother and I would never have worn pink shirts, let alone pink pants. Did any boys willingly wear pink? Why was this color even used?

The colors associated with 1950's cars, appliances, and even clothes include bold, solid yellows, pinks, and turquoises, often paired with black. This is just a guess, but maybe pink was offered as an option by boys apparel makers, though it seems doubtful it was well received.

In cool and cold weather I remember wearing corduroy long trousers and jeans. The corduroy trousers I remember best were dark brown with cuffs - cuffs, I remember caught a lot of lint and also dirt from outdoor play! Many boys in the '50's rolled the ends of their jeans' legs into cuffs.

With my cords and jeans I remember wearing some brown leather lace-up shoes and B.F. Goodrich sneakers. A brand of sneakers often advertised on the "Mickey Mouse Club Show" - an afternoon favorite - were called "Flyers"; supposedly, they enabled the wearer to run faster. Couldn't prove that by me!

Another cold weather cap I remember was shaped like a baseball cap and was made of imitation leather. It was lined with synthetic fur and had fur-lined flaps to cover the ears. Even on the coldest days, for some reason, I didn't like to cover my ears with those flaps.

My brother and I both had gabardine jackets and somewhat heavier, lined winter coats. One particular jacket stands out, however, when I was about 5 or 6, my brother and I both received "Korean" jackets. They were made of a shiny satin material; the colors were blue, gold, red, and white. There was a tiger's head on the back of it, and somewhere something about Korea, including that nation's flag. At the time my grandfather was in the Air Force, and he was stationed in Japan, and I think he sent us our jackets. I really liked that jacket.

My older brother never wore shorts when I was growing up. Neither did his friends, except once or twice when they were in high school going to picnic on a nearby lake. For little boys like me, however, shorts were summer wear. When I was about 4 to 5, I wore shorts with an elasticized waistband. They were very lightweight and comfortable. When I was a little older, 6 or 7, in summers it took me less than a minute to dress. I changed from pajamas to a white cotton T shirt, briefs, and a khaki camp shorts or walk shorts, and usually went barefoot. Dressing up - to go to visit my Dad's office, to go see a film, or for a visit - would mean a collared short sleeve shirt, walk shorts, crew socks, and something like my brown leather lace-ups, polished to be sure!

Flannel Lined Jeans

HBC does not recall seeing flannel lined jeans after the 1960s. A HBC. Apparently they never totally disappeared, but were never as popular as in the 1950s. HBC reader Jon Wagner tells HBC that until 2000 she found them at Cabela's, but they din't have them in 2001.

Christopher Wagner

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Created: December 12, 2001
Last updated: December 13, 2001