American boys began wearing jeans more commonly in the 20th century. We note rural boys wearing overalls to school for the first time in the lste 1900s and it was common by the 1910s. We are unsure why this occurred so suddently at this time. About the same time Kovealls appeared. Thus we see city boys wearing these overall-styled garments as well. City boys did not wear ovealls to school. Boys wore commonly wore corduroy knickers, but after World War II jeans were very commonly worn to elemntary (primary) schools. They were not generally allowed in secondary school which had stricter dress codes until the 1970s. Quite a range of different types of jeans and overalls begin to appear by the 1970s. One common ferature was that until the 1970s and apperance of cut-offs thery were almost always long pants. Bu the 1970s designer jeans began to make their appearance.
We note boys in the 1900s mostly wearing knee pants. Even for play and outings like fishing boys wore knee pants. A good example is two Michign boys returning home from a fishing expedition in 1901. We do not see many boys wearing overalls until close to the end of the decade.
American boys began wearing jeans more commonly in the 20th century. We note rural boys wearing overalls to school for the first time in the late-1900s and it was common by the 1910s. We are unsure why this occurred so suddently at this time. About the same time Kovealls appeared. Levi Strauss brought out Koveralls in 1912, the first ovralls made specifically for children. Thus we see city boys wearing these overall-styled garments as well. City boys did not wear ovealls to school.
Overalls were commonly worn by boys, especially in rural America. They were made in many different colors and material. Many were made with
matching jackets, although the style was generally longer than the popular modern jean jackets. They were still not commonly worn by city boys.
Farm boys wore jeans in the early 30s, but jeans were less common in urban America. Even farm boys, however, began wearing jeams rather than the once pervasive overalls with the bibfronts. Adult farmers generally continued wearing overalls. Most boys wore knickers, especially hard wearing corderoy knickers. The Hollywood westerns began to chage this. Wersterns were tremendously popular in the movies. Most American boys went to the movies on saturday afternoon and Western shoot-them-ups were real favorites. Cowbous always wore jeans, usually cuffed and never overalls with the bid fronts. Even city boys in the 1930s began asking for jeand like their favorite movie cowboy wore.
As knickers disappeared, they were replaced by jeans--but primarily for play clothes. Jeans were quite different than modern jeans. A new pair wasstiff as a board and a boy had to struggle to get his legs in them. Girls, at least city girls, rarely wore them. We still see overalls in rural areas in the early 1940s. They become much less common after World War II (1945) when fashions in rural areas become more similar to those worn by city children. Here we suspect that television was a major factor. The movies showing cowboys wearing jeans were another influence.
Experiences varied in the United States. Many American boys literally grew up in jeans and wore them to elementary (primary) school. Boys often wore them in the heat of the summer thinking that short pants were for fre-school boys. Other boys especially in the South might sear shorts rather than jeans. One HBC reader reports, "I will tell you that as a youngster I did not care for blue jeans as the kids jeans we wore back then were made of a blend of cotton and nylon and had reinforced knees which made them quite hot and sweaty as well as cumbersome, their durability notwithstanding. I was quite active, particularly during the warm summer months, and preferred to wear light cotton shorts and to go barefooted. Still, my mother would have me wear them and so I did, cuffs turned up and all. Like yourself, too, during winter months, my brother and I wore flannel-lined jeans. [Massengale] The major name brands of kids jeans from the 1950s through the 60s were Billy the Kid "Texans" and Farah of Texas "Gold Strikes." Both brands have, if you will pardon the expression, long since "faded" into history. Interestingly, both Farah Mfg. Co. and
Hortex, Inc. (Billy the Kid) shared the same home town of El Paso, Texas, hence the emphasis on these brands as being identified as so-called "Texas jeans" as opposed to "Western jeans." (I anticipate that much of that aspect was due to common knowledge among youth
of that era that cowboys came from Texas and not Montana, Idaho or even California. And which kid, growing up in the fifties, didn't want to be a cowboy?) [Massengale] Billy the Kid jeans were featured in 1950s-60s TV shows. Both Jon Provost in "Lassie" and Johnny Crawford in "The Rifleman" wore Billy the Kid Blue Jeans. Jon Provost completed the 1950s look with black Keds. Johnny Crawford looks very Western, but jeans like that were not worn in the 1870s-80s, rather overalls with the bib front was the available style.
Cut-offs" appear for boys. Tight jeans continued to be popular with teenagers. Slowly they became more fashionable and acceptable at some schools as designer jeans appeared. Jeans become a virtual uniform of the anti-war movement. One reader reports, "When I entered junior high school, we were not permitted to wear "blue jeans" and so I did not even own a pair during that time, nor through high school. Levi Strauss, nevertheless, cleverly introduced their so-called "White Levi's" line of denim jeans in a variety of colors. (The name "White Levi's" referred to the "White Tab" with embroidered black "Levi's" logo). These tended to be acceptable for school wear where "blue jeans" were forbidden and became quite popular, especially up north." [Massengale] Sears sold Toughskins in both regular and cut-off styles. The cut-offs were very popular. A HBC reader from California reports, "In the mid 60's, when I was in Junior High, some boys liked to wear jeans in "pegged" style which was jeans with the legs sewn tight. Some kids would even be seen sewing a pair themselves on the bus going to school because "their mother wouldn't do it" and changing into them after they go to school. Some guys would end up tearing out the stitches when they had to bend down for something because they (or their mother) sewed them too tight." [Morton]
During the seventies, Sears "Toughskins," generally replaced both Farah and BTK as the value leader in durable kids jeans made from blended fibers and having reinforced knees.
A reader reports, "After moving to Florida from Chicago in mid 1969, I quickly discovered that Levi's straight leg corduroy jeans were the "in" thing to wear paired with colorful
"Hang Ten" 100 percent cotton crew neck knit shirts. Hang Ten shirts were generally worn loose and not tucked in. Jeans or slacks were worn so that the bottoms of the pants legs did not touch one's shoes, but would expose one's "Gold Toe" socks that matched the color
of the shirt. Upon entering my freshman year at Florida State University in September of 1969, I purchased my very first pair of Levi's 505 Blue Jeans and I have been in
love with 100% cotton blue jeans ever since. My all time favorites are the original Shrink-To-Fit Levi's 501 Blue Jeans, though I also wear the preshrunk 505s
and Lee Blue Jeans as well. [Massengale]
Worn-looking jeans become popular, even tears and holes become desirable. Bibfront overalls once worn by laborers and then younger boys began to
be worn by boys and girls of all ages. By the late 1980s bibfront overalls with short pants appeared. Jeans began repacing other types of casual pants in the 1980s. [Morton]
The 1990sThe grunge look and hip-hop styles appear. Many boys want large baggy jeans and the baggier the better. There is some disagreement over the origin of
baggy jeans. Some observers seem to think people in the Hip Hop community began to copy the pants that prisoners were issued while they were incarcerated and
thus lend their attire to prison chic? Others are convinced that the baggy jean actually has some roots in the skate/snowboard industry. It just happens that when the
urban hip hop and core skate crowds get together it can be explosive. While still dominate, other types of casual pants were available. Track or sweat pants were
very popular. By the late 1990s corderoy pants regained popularity. Americans in the 1990s could buy all kinds of different brands of jeans, but Levi's are still the most popular. In the 80s they HAD to be 501 button-fly's instead of the zipper fly ones (which weren't cool). Blue Jean shorts were very popular in the 90s (and still are, though not as much as before). They started above the knee and ranged down to the long baggy shorts of the early 2000s. Carpenter style jeans and shorts are still selling today, although their popularity is also fading. The designer style jeans, so popular in the 90s have faded away and the old reliable Levi's and other non-flashy manufacturers such as Lee and Old Navy are the ones that sell. I have even seen cargo-style jean shorts offered in stores. [Morton]
Massengale, Marshall. E-mail, October 2, 2002.
Morton, Craig. E-mail, October 3, 2002.
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