The underwear American boys wore was undergoing substantial changes in the early-1930s. Many boys continued to wear older styles of underwear, but modern-looking styles were becoming available. We continue to see summer and winter styles of underwear. We see Sears offering some of these new styles. As children still wore long stockings we still see underwaists and other types of support garments like waist union suits. We still styles for boys and girls, but children's underwear was becoming increasingly gender specific.
We note a Sears page for summer underwear. This is a very useful Sears ad (Spring and Summer catalog, p. 287) illustrating the wide variety of boys' summer underwear in 1931. Here we see the new
sleeveless knit undershirts worn with broadcloth striped shorts that button in front with three buttons. We also see various types of summer union suits for boys, all with short legs. One model is made of mesh fabric (cf. the Porosknit ads in the 1910s) and is sleeveless,
another is a slip-on style with no buttons except at the shoulder, and still another is a BVD style of union suit (sleeveless) with buttons all the way down the front (a junior version of adult men's underwear). Two styles of knit union suits with short legs are also illustrated, one with short sleeves and one sleeveless. In addition Sears also had a knitted summer waist union suit (sleeveless with short legs) with reinforcing straps, waist buttons, and metal pin tubes for fastening hose supporters. Although the new two-piece summer underwear for boys was just beginning to be an option, the dominant style (as shown by the greater number of styles offered) was still the union suit, either in a knitted or non-knitted version. The age levels for most of these union suits depend on chest measurement from 24 to 34 inches. Notice that we have the precursors of modern boxers, but there are not yet any briefs offered. They were being introduced by Jockey and not yet available through Sears.
Ward's had an ad for garter waists from the Spring and Summer catalog for 1931, p. 90. Garter waists are still a prominently advertised item even in the summer. Many mothers seem to have insisted on long stockings for boys and girls for reasons of formality. Boys wore long stockings with short pants but could also wear them with knickers for a smoother and more dressy look than that produced by the sporty patterned knee socks, which had a way of falling down. The sizes are for boys and girls from 2 to 12 years. The adjustable shoulder garters are made in three lengths to accommodate children, misses (older teenage girls) and adult women.
This newspaper advertisement offered a waist union suits in the Lowell, Masschussetts Lowell Sun on October 2, 1931. These are for the new "shortee" style union suits with abbreviated legs (like briefs) that were convenient for boys and girls whose shorts were getting shorter and dresses quite brief. The model shows the style very clearly--here a girl; but the identical suit was also worn by boys except that a mottled color of gray was recommended for boys instead of white (for girls). Suits with ankle-length legs (the more traditional kind of waist suits) were also available of course. The "random" color for boys was somewhat splotchy but imitated the color that many adult men wore for their union suits and was considered a masculine color. We notice the regular waist features here--reinforcement straps over the shoulder, waist buttons for trousers or skirts, and supporter tabs for attaching pin-on garters. The ad appeared at the beginning of October when mothers were buying winter underwear for their children. It was also only a little after the opening of school when mothers had been buying school clothes for their kids. The brand is "Pearl"--a name well-known for children's underwaists. The manufacturer has transferred the same features as recognized in Pearl Waits to the waist union suits. Pearl Waists and waist union suits were widely sold and advertised throughout the United States, but the place of manufacture is never mentioned, so we don't know much about the company.
The ad text read, "Special Purchase & Sale. Children's Bleached & Random Fleeced Waist Union Suits. The nationally famous "Pearl Waist" high neck and Dutch neck [cut lower so that underwear wouldn't show if collars were left
open or dresses worn low] HEAVY WEIGHT union suits for boys and girls. Sizes 2 to 12. Short and long sleeves--ankle and shortee length. Splendid quality with buttons and garter loops on taped straps. Bleached for girls. Random for boys."
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