*** Historical Boys Clothing

The transition from elegant velvet Little Lord Fauntleroy suits, kilts, sailor suits, and dressy short pants to casual sweat shirts and blue jeans or baggy trousers for boys is an interesting study in social history. A boy of today who wears trendy, comfortable fashions that he usually helps select could hardly recognise his counterpart of 100 years past. In an earlier era, he might have found himself outfitted in a delicate lace collar and fancy velvet knee pants, sailor suits or kilts. Even older boys would usually wear an Eton collar, large bows and long stockings. Parents at the time dressed formally and insisted that their children also dress smartly to reflect well on the family, and to demonstrate their often hard-won social status. Gradually styles changed in the mid 20th Century to more practical soft collars, short trousers and knickers, before the modern incarnation of sneakers, baggy jeans, label t-shirts and sweats . Our HBC website should charm anyone susceptible to the enchantment and beauty of childhood. It is also designed to be a storehouse of ideas and inspiration for those concerned with fashion and design and those interested children historical experiences from ancient times to our modern age.

The fashions discussed and illustrated on our HBC (histclo.com) web site are fascinating windows to past eras. Fashions are constantly changing, although at a variable rate over time. Fashions reflect social attitudes, and are particularably useful because they are an observable phenomenon while the underlying social attitudes are not as readily observeable. Fashion reflects the modes and manners of the times in which they were made and worn. A careful assessment of those clothes can provide much additional information, including details on family life, evolving concepts of childhood, differing attitudes toward boys and girls, the status of children, and many other topics of social interest. The clothes illustrated in this web site should delight the eye and more importantly touch the heart. The more modern 20th Century fashions may even help you recall some associations with your childhood--hopefully bringing back many happy memories. Boys’ clothes have been fabricated from a wide range of materials: elegant brocades, plush velvets, lustrous silks, as well as taffetas, satins, printed, striped and flowered cottons and laces are but a few among the fancy stuffs of which these clothes were made. The luxurious materials supplemented the more common cotton, linen, and wool fabrics used in everyday wear. HBC (histclo.com) surveys the styles worn through history from every day’s casual to Sunday’s-best as well as christenings, school and party suits—down to every last detail such as coats, caps, hosiery, and shoes.

Little Lord Fauntleroy
Figure 1.--Mothers in the late 19th century dressed their boys in Little Lord Fauntleroy suits, fancy velvet suits with lace collars. Often the boys had curls or long hair and to balance such fancy outfits they would have their picture taken with decidedly boyish artifacts such as a toy cannon, or in this case an early tricycle.

Parents, especially mothers, used to choose their sons' clothing until they were older teenagers; children had little choice in matters of fashion. Actually, boys until recently may have sneered at the very concept of boys' fashions as much as they objected to the items selected for them. Children, especially wealthy children, were often dressed in fancy, formal clothes—even for play. Modern children would find clothing common a century ago highly restrictive and uncomfortable. It would certainly inhibit an active child who wanted to enjoy the playground in the contemporary scene. Today, even very young children have a great deal of say in how they dress, many demanding expensive designer clothing. Children are major arbiters of fashion in the world today, and even very young boys have considerable influence as to which clothes are purchased for them. Boys no longer sneer at fashion as they once did. Many are now as concerned with fashion as the girls. With considerable disposable income, either through allowances, or for teenagers, part-time jobs, expensive design has become commonplace. The fashion industry understands this very well and eagerly seeks to supply these youth with what they desire. Informal styles are now in vogue with children rarely dressing up and, in many cases, only under considerable duress.

Our HBC website takes a look at the development of boys clothes over the past 500 years, from 1500 to date. We are working on the ancient world and middle ages, but our focus is on the modern world. In some ways boys' fashions have made a stylistic full circle. Children for much of history, as late as the 17th century, wore clothes just like their parents with no consideration to childhood. Then special juvenile styles began to appear during the late-18th century. Age graded clothing was standard during the 19th century and first half of the 20th century. Children have returned to dressing in increasingly adult styles since the 1960s. And many adults have taken to wearing the casual styles preferred by children.

HBC is not just a fashion site. We seek also to record the connexions between changing fashions and larger social changes which they may reflect. We attempt to capture what the parents and the boys themselves thought of the fashions of the day. There frequently was some disparity between what mothers and boys have wanted. Trendy fashions were not always popular with boys when the trends were mostly set by their doting mothers. Only in the modern era have boys generally gotten their way and set their own distinctive fashion trends.

HBC is still under construction. In fact, our site is in a perpetual state of construction as visitors contribute their personal experiences and expertise. We invite you to provide your own historical and fashion insights as you visit the various pages—even if it is only a sentence or two. Many readers think they have nothing of vsalue to contribute. But in fact every reader has something to add because we are interested in in personal experiences. We would be especially interested in any memories you might have about your boyhood clothes and experiences concerning those clothes. Please let us know if you have any comments or additional information to add. The possibilities are endless. Perhaps you are knowledgeable about a specific style or period. And surely you know something about current fashions. Maybe you have read a biography with interesting details about how a famous person was dressed as a child. Or perhaps you recall a movie or television show accurately depicting period dress. Any of this would make an interesting addition to our web site.

Welcome to HBC. There are currently about 25,000 pages and more than 30,000 black and white and color images in the HBC complex. Most have never before been published. We have endeavoured to illustrate the historical context with actual images of the time. In many cases historical information is lacking and the images themselves have been utilized to assess fashion trends. We invite our readers to comment on these images and contribute whatever insights you may be able to offer. Such comments, even very brief ones, have made a substantial contribution to building to our site.