Figure 1.-- Dennis through the early 1980s would occassionally be pictured in a classic American black short pants suit completed with matching peaked cap. Afterwards he would be pictured in a more casual blazer and shorts when going to church. In the mid-1990s he began wearing long pants to church.
A classic American boyhood character is Dennis the Menace who appeared in the deawings of Hern Ketchum in 1950. Dennis is the once arch-typical blond hair American tyke with with a trade-mark 'cowlick' curl on his forehead. He has an irresistable and adorable
personality. Dennis and his run ins with grumpy old Mr. Wilson have since become a part of our national experience as well as appearing in newspapers all over the world. Dennis' bip-front overalls have changed little over this time, but he no longer dresses up in short pants like he used to.
Cartoonist Hank Ketcham created one of the most enduringly irresistible imps in the world. I've read that Dennis Ketcham the son of Hank Ketcham was estranged from his father. Hank Ketcham named the parents, Henry and Alice, after himself and his wife. There seem to be several cases of children of famous writers
being unhappy that their father based a fictional character on them, such as Christopher Robin Milne. Ketcham turned the active reins of his comic over to longtime assistants Ron Ferdinand and Marcus Hamilton in 1994, he still supervises the work on his favorite kid.
Dennis is the once arch-typical blond hair American tyke with with a trade-mark 'cowlick' curl on his forehead. He has an irresistable and adorable personality.
Dennis the Menace first began to plague his next-door neighbor, Mr. Wilson, in 1950 on the pages of America's newspapers.
Today the comic panel appears in more than 1,000 newspapers in 48 countries and in 19 languages.
Ketcham's brainchild has been the subject of a hit network TV series, starring Jay North, which ran from 1959 to 1963, and still appears on stations around the country. Dennis was played by Jay North. Dennis usually wears bib front overalls in the TV series. On a few rare occasions he appears in a suit, but not short pants even though he started the series at about 6 years of age and often appeared n a short pants suit in the comic. In the cartoon Dennis' mother dresses him up in a jacket with short pants for church and other occasions. One more example how child stars on television in the 1950s and 60s were never pictured in short pants. The series was popular, but I think it never approached the telling insights into childhood that "Leave It to Beaver" attained. Jay was bit to old for the part by the end of the series. Rather disappointing. I never remember seeing any even mildly interesting episodes when I watched it as a boy. But I did see one very episode while it was playing as reruns. Mr. Wilson has a nightmare where he is in school with the children. The boys are all geniuses and wearing very black short pant suits with knee socks. (Typical as the few boys wearing shorts and knee socks on TV were usually in swank private schools or rich, incorrigible children.) Mr. Wilson can't match them, but he is dressed just like them in shorts. You can see Joey's suit. Dennis is, however, wearing a cap and gown and it is not clear what he is wearing. In another episode he wore basketball shorts. They were the short cut style, which reminds one of how basketball shorts have changed. They are now so long and baggy. In another episode, Dennis winds up baby sitting for a visiting French boy, Michel (Petit Michel). Michel is a personable little chap about 9 years old. He wears a very smart short pants suit complete with cap and kneesocks.
A HBC reader reports seeing a 1950s movie (black & white) Dennis the Menace movie. I don't recall seeing one in the 50s, but two were made in the 1990s.
Animated Dennis adventures produced for General Mills aired in
More than 50 million "Dennis" books have been sold, mostly cartoon books.
The half-pint pest has become a popular spokescharacter for many worthy causes throughout the years.
Figure 2.-- Kethum usually drew Dennis with bib-front overalls. In the Sunay colored strips they were always red. Dennis never wore shortalls, but always these bib-front overalls.
Dennis' clotyhing very rarely figured into the plot of the comics. Ketchum almost always drew Dennis in one single outfit--that was bib-front overalls. Dennis usually wore red bib-front overalls and striped T shirt. Only occasionally did he appear in any other outfits. While Dennis usualy wore his overalls, when he was dressed up for church he usually wore a short pants suit and later a blazer and short pants with saddle shoes. Only in the 1990s did he begin wearing long pants to church. His friend Joey, however, always wore shorts.
Ketchum almost alwayd drew Dennis in one single outfit--that was bib-front overalls. Dennis usually wore red bib-front overalls and striped T shirt. The vast majority of Dennis cartoons show him in this outfit. Interestingly he never appeared in the similar shortalls that were popular for boys' his age in the 1950s and 60s. Presumably they were a bit to elegant for the Dennis character. Dennis' bibfront overalls were always red in the Sunady colored comic strips. He never wore any other color. None of the other boys that appeared with Dennis in the enumerable cartoons ever wore these overalls. Dennis always wore non-descript smeakers, usually covered by the overalls.
Dennis is often pictured as dressed up for church in the cartoons. I'm not sure about the eraly years of the strip, but by the 1970s, his Sunday outfit was a classic American black short pants suit completed with matching peaked cap. As the suit was black, it is difficult making out the details. A boy Dennis's age would have worn an Eton suit. Yet except for sometimes being drawn with a short jacket, it generally looks like a regular suit. I do not recall Dennis ever taking out his suit jacket so we do not know if he wore suspender shorts with his suit as would be common with an Eton suit. Dennis would often wear white socks rather than the dressier black kneesocks. He someties wore neck ties, but a string tie was also worn. Later, Dennis would be pictured in a more casual blazer and shorts outfit when going to church. A reader writes, "When I was a boy in the 1960s when I saw Dennis in short pants I thought it was just part of his being a "menace" to wear
shorts when he was supposed to dress up. I associated shorts primarily as casual play wear." Dennis in the mid-1990s he began wearing long pants to church. Commonly with the dressy outfits he would wear saddle shoes, but again I'n not sure about the early years of the strip.
Dennis rarely appeared in any other outfits--except for footed pajamas for bed-time scenes. Very rarely during the summer months Dennis might appear in shorts and go barefoot like Joey.
HBC could not help but notice certain similarities between Dennis and England's Just William. They both symbolize the average boy. William in the 1920s-30s amd Dennis in the 1950s although he is still going strng today in new hands. Both had hard-pressed parents. Dennis had Joey as a best pal and William had the Outlaws. The gratest nemesis that both faced was of coutse the fairer gender--Margatet and Violet Elizabeth Bot. When the Americaan TV sitcom was shown in Britain, it was even shown as Just Dennis.
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