Boys' Tunic Suits: Hair Styles

Figure 1.--This 4 year old American boy wears a striped summer sailor tunic. The photograph was probably taken about 1910. He wears long ringlet curls and an unusually large hair boy for a boy. Ringlet curls for boys were at the time declining in popularity.

As with dresses, mothers varied greatly as to the hair style of boys in turn of the century tunic suits. Boys in tunic suits wore hair styles ranging from long ringlet curls to crew cuts and even shaved heads. Some mothers refused to have their boys' hair cut upon breeching. Thus some boys continued to wear long hair with breeches, even ringlet curls. Most boys wearing tunics in the late 19th and early 20th Century appear to have had their curls cut and wore short hair. But there were many mothers who just could not bare to cut their sons's hair yet.


Tunic suits were for many boys the first suit they got upon breeching. The different styles of tunic suits during their height of popularity were a transition between the dresses worn by little boys and the suits worn by older boys. They probably appealed to many mothers because they looked like dresses, except the boy wore knee-length knickers underneath. The tunic suit was popular just as the fashion of outfiting little boys in dresses was declining. The fashion was still common, but increasingly for younger boys. Thus boys in an earlier era that might have worn dresses and kilt suits at 5 and 6 years of age, instead wore tunic suits. Many of the boys had their curls cut before breeching as younger boys. Quite a number, however, still wore long curls after breeching.


Boys at the turn of the century generally wore tunic suits from about 4-7 years of age, although there was not set age. I need to look a little more carefully at this by assessing clothing adds.

Figure 2.--This little boy in the early 1920s wears bangs with a part. Tunic suits were going out of style by this time. It appears to be a play suit.


The tunic suit appeared in the late 1890s and was popular into the 1910s. They were still seen occasiinally seen in the early 1920s, but had virtually disappeared by mid-decade. The hair styles worn are primarily a reflection of the popular styles during this period.

Tunics suits changed in the 1910s and early 1920s. The tunics became shorter, often made tomlook like long shirts or jackets. Some were worn with kneesocks rather than long stockings.


The popularity of tunic suits varied widely from country to country. I believe they were most popular in America and France, and perhaps Italy. The style appears to have been less popular in England. I do not know about Germany. The hair styles worn with tunuc suits varied somewhat by country.

Hair Styles

There was no standard hair style associated with tunic suits. Some mothers refused to have their boys' hair cut upon breeching. Thus some boys continued to wear long hair with breeches, even ringlet curls. Most boys wearing tunics in the late 19th and early 20th Century appear to have had their curls cut and wore short hair. But there were many mothers who just could not bare to cut their sons's hair yet.

Shaved heads

Some boys had their heads shaved. This was a common style for school boys in Germany and Russia. American boys might have their heads shaved for summer comfort, especially in the South. I do not think shaved heads were very common in England, Italy, or France, although boys ininstitutions, especially in Belgium and France, appear to have had their hair shaved. Some American boys wearing tunic suits did have their hair shaved, but very close cropped hair was more common. I think many mothers considered shaved hair to severe for younger boys.

Short hair

Somewhat more common in America wasd close cropped hair. Quite a few images exist of American boys during the summer wearing tunic suits with short cropped hair.

Figure 3.--This French boy wears a tunic suit, with a ruffled white sailor colar and short pants rather than knickers. The image was probably taken in the 1010s. He has a regular, aparted hair style.

Regular parted hair

The most common hair style for boys in tunics was a regular length cut. This was true in America, France, andother countries wear tunic suits wereworn. The hair usually had side parts as te center parts of te early 20th Century was primarily seen as a style for older boys and men. The boys with this hair style are generally the older boys wearing tunics. They generally are boys from about 5-7 years of age, perhaps even 8 years old.

Buster Brown bangs

One especially popular style for American boys in tunics were Buster Brown bangs. This hair style is one of the most recgnizable boyhood hair fashions of turn of the century America. It was undoubtedly popularized by the Buster Browm series in the Sunday funny pages, one of the first comic strips. I do not think the style was quite as popular before the comic strip. I believe Nuster Brown bangs were less common in Europe. Buster Brown bangs were of course most associated with the Buster Brown tunic suits, however many boys wearing sailor tunics also wore Buster Brown bangs. Actually as the sailor tunics appear to have been more common than Buster Brown suits, probably more boys wear Buster Brown bangs with sailor tunics.

Figure 4.--This boy probably photographed about 1920 wears an outfit that appears to have some of the styling as a tunic suit, but the tunic appears to have ecolved into a jacket-like garment. He wears a longish over the ears hair style.

Medium-length hair

The younger boys wearing tunic suits might wear their hair longer than older boys. Some boys wi\ore it over their ears, but not down to their shoulders. Many of these boys had naturally curly hair. Others had their hair curled or wore it uncurled.

Long uncurled hair

Long hair for boys began to decline in popularity after the turn of the century. Even so many mothers still refused to cut their son's hair after breeching. Thus quite a few boys, especially in the 1900s wore tunics with long hair.

HBC believes that long uncurled was paticularly common in France wear boys less commonly wore ringlets, but rather long uncurled hair. This is just an initial assessment. As in many fashions assessed in HBC, I have little writen information to go on and often try to assess fashion trends by analizing available images. In many instances the number of such images are limited and not such small numbers of observations are often not valid for firmmconclusions. Based on the few French photographic images I have seen. One knowledgeable HBC contributor is less sure of this assessment. He comments, "I don't think there is any basis for this belief. They may not have worn ringlet curls but this is probably because French mothers were into more fashionable hair styles."


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.

Hair bows

Some mothers were not satisfied with long hair, but even added hair bows. I think this was probably for special occasions such as formal events or a photograph. I think that they were not normally worn for every day wear. This style was most common in France, but some American boys also wore hair bows. They appear to have been most common with boys wearing Fauntleroy suits in the late 19th Century. Some boys wearing tunics at the turn of the century also wore hairbows with their long hair, both uncurled and culed. The above image of the boy in a tunic suit and ringlets with a hairbow is an American boy who had just turned 4 years old (figure 1). I know that girls sometimes wore this type of outfit. This one is even worn with a little locket. However, this is a boy. On the front of the postcard is written: "J. Laurence Geissler. Almost 4 years old". He looks older than 4. He was probably just breeched. This may be his first pair of pants, which could be the reason for the photo. I thought a first that Laurence might be a girls' name but its gender is male and is an alternate spelling of Lawrence. Also, I have never heard of a girl referred to by her first initial. I do not know if the hairbow was just added for the photo or if he commonly wore it.

Other Styles

Christopher Wagner

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Created: August 14, 1999
Last updated: February 23, 2000