American Mail Order Catalogs with Boys Clothings: 1904

Figure 1.--Here we see some of the boys' clothing offered by Spiegel Cooper in 1904. This ad for Norfolk suits and other styles of boys' suits is from The Youth's Companion (March 17, 1904, p. 139). The sizes are from 7 to 17 years for most. Little boys' suits come in sizes from 2 1/2 to 7 years of age.

We note younger boys wearing tunic suits called Russian blouse suits. Blouses were very common. Older boys wore single breasted, double breasted, and Norfolk suits. Spiegel offered keepants suits in sizes up to age 17. Boys generally wore straight-leg knee pants, but knickers were not unknown. Some youths wore long pants, but the conventions here varied from family to family with a varriety of demographic and social-class factors involved. Most children wore long stockings and we see various types of stocking supporters.

Skirted Garments

Some little boys still wore skirted garments in 1903, both dresses and kilt suits but this was much less common than in the 1890s. One of the most popular styles for younger boys were tunic suits. Some were called Russian blouse suits.


We notice a short blurp in the New York Times (May 20, 1904) which seems to describe rompers as if they were an inovative garment. This was in the "In the shops" section. This was not an advertisemnt, but describing trendy new merchandise. It read, "Rompers for children are pinaforelike garments, but wth an extra long band around the lower edges of the skirt, turing up under the dress skirts. There are little petticias and buttons around the waust. The children can play in the dust with these and still keepo fresh and clean when the romper is removed. The garments come in blue and white, pink and white plaids, and other simple designs of wash materials. They cost 39, 49, and 75 cents." There was no accompanying illusrtration.

Blouses and Waists

We note a range of blouses and waists for boys. Some were made with large collars and sailor back flaps. Others were made with smaller pointed collars. Both blouses and waists were made without shirt tails. The difference between blouses and waists is not clearly defined. Blouses are usually for younger boys and done in a variety of juvenile styles. Blouses might butoon on to the waist band, but some blouced over the waist. Waists were usually done in more mature styles. They always buttoned on to the pants (trousers) at the waist.


Fauntleroy Suits

Younger boys for dress occassions boys might still wear Fauntleroy suits.

Sailor Suits

The sailor suit continued to be a populasr style for boys. Sailor suits were made for boys age 3-10 years.


Suits were a very importsant part of a boy's wardrobe in the 1900s. Older boys wore single breasted, double breasted, and Norfolk suits. We see some knicker suits, but kneepants were the most common for boys. Spiegel Cooper offered keepants suits in various materials offering suits in sizes up to age 17. We note a newspaper ad by Hennessy's clothing store in Butte, Montana offering boys' and youths' suits in sizes up to 20 years. A subscription to The American Boy was offered as an enducement to customers. We notice a Putnam & Sons ad in the local newspaperduring 1904. Their offerings included Norfolk, Eton, and double-breasted suits. Putnam & Sons was a boys' outfitters in Lowell, Massahusetts. Their ad is interesting because it shows a store advertising an entire boy's outfit including just about everything but shoes and stockings.


We notice a varierty of sweaters offered for sale, both cotton and wool. A popular style at the turn-of-the-century was turtle necks which were reffered to as roll-neck sweaters.


We notice a range of coats for boys. There were still cape coats for boys. Reefer coats were available for both younger and older boys. There were a range of different overcoat styles.


Straight-leg Knee pants were the standard type of trousers for boys. Hennessy's clothing store in Butte, Montana offered youths' trousrs in sizes 15-20 years along with suits. We think they meant long trousers, but the ad copy is not detailed.


Most American children in 1904 wore long stockings. Long stockings were not thevonly hiosiery, but they were by far the most common type of hosiery. Long stockings were almost universal for boys and girls of all ages. Most school-age boys wore long stockings, primarily with knee poants. The most common color at the time was black. Some younger boys wore white long stockings when they dressed up, but the great majority of boys wiore black long stockings. We also notice white three-quater socks worn by younger boys during the summer. Many children went barefoot during the summer, especially in rural areas and the South.

Iron Clad Boys' Stockings

We note two ads for Iron Clad Boy's stockings which appeared in The Youth's Companion (March 17, 1904, p. 139 and August 16, 1904, p. 391). They were long stockings. These advertisements emphasized durability since boys who wore knee pants had to way long stockings with them. The knees were particularly vulnerable to wear. Iron Clads were made also for Men, Women, and Girls, but the advertisements tend to emphasize the stockings for boys for whom special types were manufactured. "Triple Leg, Heel, and Toe" were featured. The color was universally black. No other colors were offered by this company.

Tan stockings

HBC has followed the change in the popular color of boys' long stockings from darker shades (black, dark brown) to tan and beige. We noticed that the new fashion caught on in the 1920s when we begin to see tan and lighter shades being sold and illustrated in the mail order catalogues. By serendipity, I just came across a notice in a Wannamaker's advertisement for "children's long stockings" made of cotton in the Philadelphia Inquirer for April 28, 1904. The ad states, "Good tan long stockings are scarce" and "importers are rushing orders to Europe" because the domestic manufacturers can't satisfy the demand. Perhaps the fact that it was April accounts for the new fashion for tan long stockings (black was the standard color, especially during the winter).


We do not yet have detailed information about underwear offered in 1903 catalogs. Many underwear garments look old-fashjioned and are no longer worn today. We do note garments like union suits, combination belt, and hose supporter. An important role of underwear at the turn-of-the-century was to support other garments.

Stocking Supporters

American boys commonly bwore long stockings throughout the 1900s with both knee pants and knickers. Younger boys might wear socks, but most boys wore long stockings. This was a major differenve between Ameeica and Eutope where socks were much more common, especially during the summer. As long stockings were so widely worn in America, devices to hold them up were needed and a range of such devices were available in 1904. we note various types of stocking suppoters developed in the late-19th century. By the 1900s, a varirty of stocking supporters were available to mothers. We note a suspender waist in 1904. We are not sure precisely when suspender waists first appeared, but this is the earliest one we have found so far. We also notice advertisements for McKay's Common Sense Waists and Hose Supporters for boys and girls. We note advertisement for Ideal Waists in the magazines. We note features that we have not adequately addressed before such as removable elastic suspenders". We note a newspaper advertisement for the well-known M Waist (manufactured by Minneapolis Knitting Works).

Complete Outfits

Occassioinaly we find advertisement by retailers offering complete outfits. These are very valuable because they offer a few of a variety of popular styles and garments. Putnam & Sons was a boys' outfitters in Lowell, Massahusetts. Their ad is interesting because it shows a store advertising an entire boy's outfit including not only just suits, but also "fittings"--just about everything but shoes and stockings.

Age Factors

One interesting factor to observe in old catalogs and catalogs is the age groupings. Modern age groups are generally pre school children, ages 2-6, primary school children (6-12), and teen agers (12-18). These are approximations and there are vaiations, but these generally are the basic groupings. We note sailor suits done for ages 3-10. Note that Sears offered boys kneepants suits for boys from age 8-15, a quite different age grouping than modern suit age sizing.


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Created: 6:07 AM 1/16/2005
Last updated: 11:59 PM 2/25/2011