What has happened to boys' clothes?

Figure 1.--.

One visitor to HBC asks:

Do you have any idea who manufactures and/or sells little boys Eton suits (short jackets with no lapels, short pants and shirts with Peter Pan collars)? I would like my 5-year-old nephew to wear such a Eton suit for my wedding. I have searched the internet for stores in the United States and England, but have had no luck in finding a store that sells these suits. If you know of no manufactures or retailers that still sell them, please let me know. Do you know where I might find a pattern for my seamstress? By the way, what has happened to little boys' formal wear in recent years? Everything that I see in stores is atrocious!

- Caroline

This of course is an interesting question how did we get from the smark nicely tailored short pants suits boys once wore to the baggy jeans and over-sized "T" shorts and the general abhorance of dress-up clothes currently in vogue.

There are usually no clear answers as to what causes fashions to change. There are several factors that may be at play here. While speculative they at leasr offer some food for thought. Let me know if any thing occurs to you.

Casual Era

Casual clothes have become the in fashion for both adults and children since the 1940s. It is part of a general shift in life style accompanying the move to the suburbs since World War II (1941-45). Boys now wear casual clothes to ecents like church, bith day parties, and other events where they once dressed up. Thus the modern boy has less need for formal clothes than wa once the case.

Increasing Influence of Children

Boys now have a much greater say in the clothes they wear, even relatively young boys. Mothers now have much less say in the matter. The fancy stylish clothes that some mothers would prefer are a difficult sell for many boys. The modern wants comfortable, casual clothes. They generally dislike formal clothes of any kind. If they do have to dress up they want styles like their fathers. Boys also do not like clothes that resemble clothes that little boys or girls might wear. Even if the fashions were initially boys' fashions, once they become girls fashions they become anathema to boys. Thus dressy short pants, kneesocks (especially white kneesocks), Peter Pan collards, and closed toe sandals are all fashions modern boys now dislike.

Gender Identification

Modern parents are much more intent on using clothes to identify young children. Boys and girls as infants and even todlers used to be dressed alike. There are strict color rules for babies. Baby boys clothes are now blue. A boy would never be dressed in pink.

Older boys are as quickly as possible dressed like little men in adult suits. There appears to be a desire to establish a boy's masculinity as soon as possible. This is quite interesting as the same does not appear to be true for girls, who now commonly wear jeans and long pants from an early age. The reason for this desire to establish a boys' masulinity at as early an age as possible is an interesting devlopment in itself.

Christopher Wagner


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Created: March 17, 1999
Last updated: July 17, 1999