*** military uniforms: influence on boys' clothing

Military Uniforms: Influence on Boys Clothes

Figure 1.--This CDV portrait shows an unidentified boy wearing a military styled jacket. Here military style elements were not just incorporated into a child's gsrment, but the boy wears what is a garment based on a military style. I believe this would be described as a Hussar jacket although not as ornate as worn in the mikitary. . It was perhsps influenced by the Crimean War. The horizonal elements are called frogging. The CDV has no studio marks. We suspect it was American, probably taken in the 1870s.

Military uniforms have had an important impact on boys clothes. Often there were differences between what the parents, especially the mother, wanted their sons to wear and what the boys themselves wanted to wear. The use of military styles for boys appears to have bridged that gap, at least until the mid-20th century when sailor suits became associated with very young children or even girls--making them unacceptable to most boys. Here we want to assess both the uniform styles that became popular and the ways these military styles were used on boys clothing.

Service Styles

The two basic types of uniforms have been army and nval uniforms. The different army units (cavalry, grebnadiers, artillery, infantry, etc.) might have quite differently styled uniforms. Modern Air Force uniforms are generally quite similar to army styles.

Naval uniforms

The most important military-style uniform, of course, was the sailor suit and sailor hat popularized by Queen Victoria when she began dressing the young princes in them during the mid-19th century. The designs for boys' sailor suits varied greatly, many employed knee pants or even skirts and others were veray fanciful. Most true sailor suits followed the uniform designs of the natiional navies.

Army uniforms

Army uniforms had much less influence on boys' style. I'm not sure why sailor suits were considered acceptable boys wear, but not army uniforms. Victoria did not dress the princes in army uniforms, but more than that must be involved. Boys did wear army uniforms at military schools and academies in Germany, Austria, and America. Fancy dressoutfits have sometimes used military themes. After the Civil War, brightly colored Zouave outfits with billowing bloomer pants or skirts for younger boys were very popular. Choir groups like the Vienna Choir Boys wore army uniforms before World War I. But clearly army uniforms had much less impact than naval uniforms. Some elements of uniforms, such as sashes have appeared on boys' outfits such as Little Lord Fauntleroy suits. Some boys outfits also employed military-style buttons.

Uniform Trends

HBC thought that some basic information about military uniform trends might help to put some of the changes in boys' uniforms and eventually non-uniform fashions in perspective. There appear to have been inluences back and forth between military and civilian dress.

Clothing Trends

We see military styles and detailing appearing on all kinds of men and boys clothing. This was most pronounced during and after wars. We note all kinds of head-wear, coats, jackets, shirts, pants, and other garments that were influenced by military uniforms. Sometimes we see whole uniforms adopted for boys. Caps in particular were introduced for boys. We see both army and sailor caps becoming popular. Some were actual military styles and not just garments with military style elements. Other garments were more likely to be ordinary clothing with military style elements. We note these military style elements during both the 19th and 20th century. We believe this occurred earlier, but we have much more information on more recent times. We also see elements from military uniforms adopted and incorporated into garments. We notice elements such as braiding, buttoning, epaulets, flap pockets, frogging, sashes, stripe detailing, tassels, and other items becoming popular decorative items on boys clothing. This was most common with wars of some importance, often popular wars. Ironically, although the Vietnam War became very unpopular in America, Vietnam uniform items had considerable fashion influence. We later sea distinctive military camouflage being used for children's clothing. We also see it on girls clothing, although this was much less common. Sailor styling had the largest impact on girls clothing.


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Created: September 4, 1998
Last updated: 11:15 PM 9/25/2022