American Boy: Knickers Suit (about 1915)

Figure 1.--This American boy is on his front porch. He looks like he may be off to a music recital. He wears a double-breasted knickers suit. The photograph looks like it was taken about 1915. He wears high-top shoes with long black stockings. Image courtesy ofthe CF collection.

This American boy is on his front porch. The front porch was very important in the America of the early 20th century. The photograph was purchased in Nevada, but of course that does not mean that the photograph was taken there. The picture is a postcard but with no designation of origin or location. I would tend to date this portrait about 1915. He weas a double-breasted knickers suit. Note the knickers. Thy are bloused over the hem where they buckle or button. It makes it difficult to tell if he is wearing above- or below-the-knee knickers. We believe that these are probably below-the-knee knickers. A HBC reader, however, writes, "I think the blousing of the knickers is too high to be below the knee since the line between the trousers and the stockings is just at about knee level, which would be impossible if the knickers were fastened below the knee." He wears high-top shoes with long black stockings. The knickers worn with long black stockings suggest that it was probably taken before the 1920s. The jacket is double-breasted. I'm a litte uncertain as to the boy's age. I would guess that he is about 15-16 years old. A HBC reader writes to say that he thinks the boy is 1 or 2 yerars older. Families varied at the time. Some boys this age were wearing longpants, but there were many families that insisted in knickers for even older boys. He is surely a highschool student. Note the detachable rounded starched collar that he wears and grown-up necktie. In fact he is dressed very much as an adult except for the knickers and long black stockings, which of course are for boys under 19 or 20. By the mid-20s and surely the 30s, boys this age would have worn long trousrs. The shallow crowned hat with wide brim suggests the American West, although one can't be sure. He seems to be carrying a violin or other musical instrument together with a rolled up leather folder containing his music. The boy looks like he is off to a music recital. I doubt if it is just a music lesson, he is too dressed up fot that. Perhaps he is a member of a youth orchestra and had his picture taken after or before a concert. He is very elegantly dressed for a formal occasion. Note the white handkerchief in his breast pocket. His hair is carefully combed.


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Created: October 6, 2003
Last edited: October 6, 2003