** cold weather clothes

Cold Weather Clothes

Figure 1.--This drawing from a 1876 French fashion magazine shows a boy wearing a paletot. The boy also appears to be wearing leggings.

Cold weather clothing varied substantially from country to country. This of course depends significantly on geography. Thus the prevalence of cild weather gaemnents varied substantially. Children used to have to dress much more warmly than is the case today. Now children bundle up in warm clothing when going outdoors, but may dress like it is the summer indoors thanks to central heating. Quite a bit of information is available on HBC on cold weather garments.


Boys have worn a variety of specialized headwear for cold weather. Fur caps were especially popular in the 19th century. In the 20th century boys have worn stocking caps a variety of cold-weather caps, often with ear flaps.

Coats and Jackets


Boys have worn a wide variety of coats. Perhaps the most common is the overcoat, but other styles have been worn as well. The photographic record of 19th century coats and other outter garments is incomplete. Most photographs in the 19th century were portraits taken in photographic studios. For these portraits, mothers wold remove the coat so that the photograph would show the boy's often fancy suit. Information is available from other sources, but photographs are rare. The photigraphic record becomes must more comolete after the appearance of the Kodak Brownie and amateur snapshots in the 1900s.

Plastic mac/Anorak

The plastic mac and the anorak are similar garments. Both are light-weight rain garments. They are not, however, the same. One reader refers to plastic macs. They were all grey when he was in primary scgool during the 1960s. An anorak ws not a garment commonly worn in America. It was a common garment in Britain. We notice boys wearing brightly colored anoraks in the 1970s and they were more commonly called anoraks. We are unsure as to the precise time line when the the colored ones appeared. The anorak was not a cold-weather garment, but useful on a cool or especially rainy day. It was an extremely light-weight garment and could be rolled up and taken by Cubas and Scouts on trips so they would have something to slip on if it started to rain. (The weather in England and even more so Scotland is highly variable.) A Scotish rreader writes, "The word 'anorak' became a term of abuse in this country recently - surely unique for an item of clothing?. This is not new though - I remember boys wearing anoraks in the 70s and 80s being put down even though they were practical for the rain. Like I said boys we wanted bomber jackets or parkas like shown in the Scottish film "Ratcatcher". Wearing an anorak in the rain was almost as bad as wearing sandals in the Summer (which is why I was surprised James wore them in the film). That's how it was in Glasgow anyway."


A parka is a fur coat cut like a shirt with a hood and commonly worn in northeastern Asia and Alaska. Wool garments marketed as parkas appeared in the late 19th or early 20th century. These garments were made with a detachable hood. I believe the term parka was originally Russian. The parka was adopted by some British and Scottish private schools for winter wear. I first noted this in the 1970s, but presumably it was adopted for schoolwear earlier. American boys were also wearing parkas in the 1970s, but not as school uniforms. There appear to be both a fish tail mod variety and an acrylic snorkel hooded version.


Capes were worn by men and women in the 19th century. Civil War soldiers and calvary troops are sometimes depicted wearing kilts. Capes were also worn by children in the 19th century. HBC has not yet been able to address this topic. It is known that capes were also worn by French school children as late as the 1950s. Capes were worn by children as part of dress outfits in the 19th century. HBC has been unable, however, to investigate this topic yet. French children until relatively recently have worn school capes. HBC believes that they were primarily worn by children attending private boarding schools.


A jacket is a short coat in a variety of styles, but generally opening down the front. It is often not a heavy garment which might be worn in cool, but not cold weather. There are also jackets mafe for cold weather. Often boys will wear heavy jackets during the longer rather than coats cut longer like overcioats.


Quite a range of other garments are associated with cold weather wear.


Knitting is the formation of fabric, such as jersey cloth or hose, by interlacing loops of yarn with hand needles or commercially with powered machienery. Knitwear has become increasingly popular for the modern casual life style. Children have always worn knitwear more than adults. Knitting is a form of weaving.


I have little information about leggings. The first images I have noticed are during the 1880s, but they may have been worn earlier. They were worn with a variety of garments through thr 1940s, but were little worn by the 1950s. The first leggings I have noted were ones by boys wearing Little Lord Fauntleroy suits. The images I have seen show boys wearing leather leggings.

Mittens, ear muffs, gloves, and mufflers

A wide range of garments are almost synomamous with winter clothes. This page will be for all kinds of miscelaneous cold weather wear. HBC has not yet pursued this topic, but it is one project for future attention.


Boys, especially boys, in northern areas wore scarves during the winter. At first they wew stuffed in the collar opening of your jacket. After a while boys would wear them kike a western bandit over their mouths. They were not worn as English school boys did, casuaally more for show than to keep warm. I believe they were also commonly worn in Scandinavia, but have few details at this time.


A sweater is a knitted jacket or jersey worn by adults and children. The term derives from a garment originally worn by adults during erercise sessionsd to induce sweating and reduce weight or for warmth. Sweaters have commonly been worn by European and American boys for several centuries. They are generally made in pullover or cardigan style, with or without sleves. Sweaters were initialy knitted from wool, but now synthetic fibers are also commonly worn.


Generations of Europeamn and Anerican boys grew up wearing long woolen underwear, called long johns, in the winter. It was almost an annual ritual. You knew when winter was approaching when mother brought out the long johns. Then in Spring, you were never quite sure about the end of winter until mother put away the longjohns.


Some hosery is designed particularly for winter, although because it became such an accepted style that it was warm year round.

Long stockings

Boys began wearing long stockings in the second half of the 19th Century. Long stockings were not worn earier as long trousers were often worn. Eben smaller boys before breeching did not need long stockings as hey might wear pantalettes with shorter dresses. As kneepants became increasing common in the 1870s, boys began to wear long stockings. They were held up with a kind of suspanfer waist. Tights were not worn instead they were a pair of long stockings. When the new knicker style became more popular after the turn of the century, long stockings were stil worn as the knickers were worn above the knee. Boys by the 1920s increasingly buckled their knickers below the knee. This tendency and the increasing popularity of short pants caused boys to shift to kneesocks. After the mid-1920s long stockings were not commonly worn in America or Britain, although they did not disappear. They continued to be worn in worn more commonly in Germany, Poland, Switzerland and the Scandinavian countries--although tights were also worn in these countries.


Knee socks, or turn-over-top socks as our British friends refer to them, became popular in the 1920s. They were generally worn in Britain and the continent with short pants of varying length. This was a wide spread fashion, boys of all walks of life (rich, middle class, and poor) wore short pants with knee socks. Often the wealthier British boys were the first to get a long pants suit and thus no longer need knee socks. Knee socks were also worn with knickers in Europe, but by the 1920s, shorts were much more common than knickers. In America the situation was reversed. Some America boys also wore knee socks with shorts, but American boys more commonly knee socks with knickers. In America little boys often wore shorts, some with knee socks, but much less commonly in Europe. The style of wearing knee socks with a short pants suit was much more common among wealthy American families, especially for older boys.


Clothing styles changed little in medieval Europe and styles persisted much longer than is common today. Hoisery similar to tights were commonly worn by men and boys for centuries. Trousers covering the legs were unknown. Instead they wore hose exposing the leg well above the knee. Tights began to be worn in Europe again in the mid-19th century as long stockings began to disappear.

School Wear

School in most northern hemishphere countries begins in the fall and lasts until the beginning of summer. Thus there are a lot of school garments associated with cold weather wear.


Private schoolboys often wore scarves during the winter. The scarves would be in colors matching their uniforms. The most common type of scarve was quite long so it could be wrapped secuely around the neck. It usually had alternating horizontal bands in two colors. There was a fringe on both ends. This style has proved so popular that many scarves for general sale has been produced styled like these scarves.


It was common for English boys to wear balaclavas in the winter, if only going to school but not during weekends. One HBC contributor remembers that his primary school used to have them optional during the 1970s, with colours of either navy blue, black, or grey. They were only worn by primary school age boys but as they declined in popularity, only the youngest of boys used to wear them until there completely disapearence during the early 1980s. The balaclava used to be a full woolen mask with only the face cut out. They would go right down to the bottom of the neck and throat, cover the ears and forhead. Some boys who attanded schools that required caps as part of their uniform used to wear them under their caps.


French school children, both boys and girls, traditionally wore capes in inclement weather. They were worb by both boys and girls. They were mostly worn at private boarding schools where the children wore uniforms. I'm not quite sure, however, why the boys wore capes rather than coats.

Sweaters and Jumpers

The blazer, cap, or tie are generally thought of when the traditional English school uniform comes to mind. It is the jumper or sweater, however, that became the most utilitarian of all school uniform garments. Ties and caps are basically ornametal. The blazer is now worn to school and then generally taken off until it is time to go home. (This was not always the case.) The sweater, however, given the English climate is worn except for a few summer weeks and usually all day long at school. The jumper was initially a basic grey, but many more elaborate styles developed and brighter colors. Some schools in the 1990s have replaced the jumper with sweatshirts.

School long socks

Kneesocks were probably most commonly worn in Britain as part of a school uniform. British schools requiring shorts usually also required the boys to wear kneesocks as part of the uniform. There is some variety here. A few schools ha the boys wearing ankle socks, especially during the summer--often with T strap school sandals. Proper kneesocks (a term not used for boys in Britspeak) were turn-over-top socks or stockings. Schools chose several different styles of kneesocks. Kneesocks were also commonly worn to school in France, Italy, and Germany, but not as part of a uniform. American boys also wore them, but generally with knickers.


The garment most associated with cold weather is wool. It is the most widely worn natural fabric other than cotton. The use of wool predates modern history. It is now considered a fabric for cool weather wear, although even summer suits might now be made of wool blends. Proponents of wool in the 19th century even arfued that wool garments should be worn in the summer.


Cold weather garments have undergone considerable change. Many garments today seen as seasonal garments were once seen as children's clothes an worn year round. Often shirts, jackets, an sweaters were seasonal. The pants a boy wore might be seasonally heavier and made out of different materials, but the style often did not change. Today boys wear short pants during the summer, before World War II (1939-45) shorts, knickers, and earlier kneepants might be worn by boys all year round--whatever the weather. The actual pattern varied from country to country, but the same pattern occurred throughout Europe and North America.

Country Trends

Attitudes toward cold weather gear have varies among countries. Here of course a major factor was climate. A French reader tells us, "An American sociologist, after having lived in Provence for one year was surprised to see kids with bare knees during the Winter while their faces were hidden by scarves. It's true ! During the cold days we had our body very cover , but not specialy our legs. In m experience, if your body is warmly coved , head with bonnet, wool kneesocks, you are able to face the cold winfs and even snow without a problem. I don't remember as a boy being cold during the Winter. Practicly until 13-14 yeras old I rarely dressed in longs , except in Austria where in the mountain it is colder than in France. I believe my brother had the same experience. (We did not always live together.) He practicly never wore long trousers before 13-14 years, althought sometime it snowed a bit several days in Paris. It was widely thought at the time that children for health reasons should be exposed to the open air throughout the year which meant short pants. Nobody was surprised about that, perhaps they were right because we were rarely ill. Today it is the contrary. A lot of babies have their head without hair in open air but they have long pants. In the past time our back was always perfectly coverd and our mothers took care about that. Our short pant had high waist and the little boy with thier rompers had bare legs, but there chest area and heads would be well covered. In play time, the boys jumping and running. In spit of their boisterous play, they keet their upper body coverd."


Navigate related Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site cold weather pages pages:
[Overcoats] [Paletots] [Knits] [Leggings] [Sweaters]

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Created: January 3, 1998
Last updated: 6:56 PM 5/20/2005