Figure 1.--This boy wears ringlet curls with a tunic-like jacket with Norfolk styling. A wide variety of jacket styles were made for boys at the turn of the 20th century as Fauntleroy suits declined in popularity. This boy wears his suit without a fancy collar and with a very modest bow.

Clothing Worn With Boys' Ringlet Curls

American boys with ringlet curls are best known for wearing dresses and velvet Little Lord Faiuntleroy suits. Curls with Fautleroy suits and kilts were in fact very popular before the tirn of the century. It was not just boys in kilts and Fauntleroy suits, however, that were kept in long hair and curls. Boys in fact wore a wide variety of different styles of clothing with ringlet curls. Many boys still in dresses and kilts wore ringlets before they were breeched. There were even Fauntleroy styled dresses for mothers who liked the Fauntleroy look, but did not think their boys were quite ready for breeching. Some mothers refused to cut their son's curls long after they were breeched and had passed into sailor and other boyish styles. It was particularly common for boys to wear sailor suits with ringlets--primarily because so many boys wore sailor suits. Boys after the turn of the century began wearing plainer suits than Fauuntleroy suits so many boys would wear these new styled suots with curls. Some of the common suits and garments worn by boys during the l9th and early 20th century are listed here along with details as to how common it was to wear ringlet curls sith these styles and garments. In many cases full details have not been assessed.


Boys wearing ringlet curls do not appear to have commonly worn caps. Such headgear seems to have more commonly been for older boys, at least boys dressed in more mature styles. Boys in curls, however, did wear hats. A hat has a full brim and not a partial brim like a cap. The most common style for boys in curls appears to have been sailor hats with large brims, often with elastic chin straps. It should be noted that hats at the time were not optionla gear. Adults and children did not c ommonly leave home without donning an appropr iate hat.


Some boys while still in dresses did not have enough hair to curl. Other mothers cut their son's hair before breeching him. Interestingly, HBC has noted relatively surprisngly few boys wearing ringlet curls with dresses. This may in part be sue to the difficulty of identifying the gender of such boys with any degree of certainty.


HBC believes that many boys with ringlet curls wore smocks at informal wear at home. Relatively few photographs exist, however, to demonstrate that as the boys would have been dressed in their best formal clothes for a portrait.

Kilt Suits

Kilt suits were one of the most popular styles foe young American boys in the late 19th century. As a result, large numbers of boys in curls were photographed wearing kilt suits.

Highland Kilts

The Highland kilt was not nearly as popular in America as the kilt suit. Also older boys might wear a Higland suit than a kilt suit. This it was less common for boys to wear ringlets with Highland kilts.

Skeleton Suits

I have not noted boys wearing ringlet curls with skeleton sduits. These suits passed out of fashion befores boys began wearing ringlets. Many boys wore skeleton suits with long hair, bit it was not curled. The most common hair style was shortvhair, especially after the turn of the 19th century.

Fauntleroy Suits

Perhaps the style most associated with ringlet cirls is the Fauntleroy suit. Large numbers of American boys wore their fancy Fauntleroy suits with ringlet cirls. This includd both actual formal Little Lord Faiuntleroy suits and a variery of other suits with Fauntleroy styling. Despite the association, however, most boys who wore Fauntleoy suits did not have the added indiginy to bear of also wearng ringlets. Based on the available photographic record, HBC estimates thar the number of boys wearing ringlets with Fauntleroy suits was 10-20 percent with the percentage falling for the older boys.

Sailor Suit

Probably the most common outfit for boys wearing ringlets was the sailor suit. This seem particularly true of American boys. We are less sure of European boys. This is not because of any association between ringlets and sailor suits. In fact, most boys considered the sailor suit as a definite improvement over the Fauntleroy suit and some other juvenile outfits. Rather the reason so many boys were photographed with ringlet curls and sailor suits is probably a simple reflection of the great popularity of the sailor suit and the number of boys that wore them. Here we note not only regular sailor suits, but at the turn of the 20th century sailo-styled tunics were also popular. Many of the images of boys with ringlets were dated from about 1880-1910. Thisis of course also the period in which the Fauntleroy suit was most common.

Buster Brown Suits

Buster Brown suits were very popular in America at the turn of the century, but the popular hair style for them were Dutch Boy bangs rather than ringlet curls. By the tirn of the 20th century when Buster Brown suits became popular, ringlet curls were beginning to be replaced by bangsd and hair cut well above the shoulders. Some boys, however, did wear therir Buster Brown suits with ringlets.

Tunic Suit

American boys who still had long hair were most likely to wear it in ringlets. This was most common in the late 1880s and 1890s, and still not uncommon in the 1900s. Ringlet curls for boys became much less common in the 1910s and rarely seen by the 1920s. This is a very similar time frame for tunic suits. As a result, a substantail number of images of American boys in rinlet curls are seen wearing tunics. This is especially true of turn of the century images. The tunic was an extremely popular garmennt. Most noys wearing tunics did not have ringlets, but the tunic was so widely worn that there are still a sizeable number of images of boys in tunics wearing ringlets.

Juvenile Suits

At the turn of the century a number of new suit styles appeared for boys. Many aappeared to combine a shortened tunic look with other styles such as the popular Norfolk styling. Boys wearing these jackets in the late 1890s or early 1900s night wear ringlet curls, although ringlets had begun to become less common by the 1910s.

Boys' Suits

Many boys began wearing suits with jackets styled like their fathers somw where between the age of 10 and 13cyears of age. Eton and Norfolk style jackets were particularly popular for boys in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. While some boys might continue wearing large floppy bows with these suits, usually the had their hair cut short. While the jacket styles were more mature, boys commonly wore their suits with kneepants or knoclers.


Nabigate Related HBC Pages
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[Return to the Main curl page]
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Created: May 1, 2000
Last edited: 3:56 AM 9/27/2004