*** boys historical clothing: advertisements showing boys' clothing chronology 20th century

Advertisements Featuring Boys' Clothing: Chronology--The 20th Century

sailor suits
Figure 1.-- Bicycles were still relatively expensive in America. In Europe they were more used by adults. World War I was underway in Europe. Inly in America was steel and rubber being used for children's bicycles. Good Housekeeping (November 1916) had an ad for Little Hummer Bikes showing a boy in a sailor suit riding one.

Advertising was in its infancy in the 19th century. It was in the 20th century that dvertising became a major part of a modern economy--except after the Russian Revolution in Communist countries. These clothing appearing in these ads is another useful reflection on contemporary styles. Readers must use some judgement in assessing these ads. Because these ads are designed to reflect facorably on the person making a purchase, this reflected the choice of how the children in the ads were costumed. We want to assess this in more detail, but first want to archive more actual advertisements.

The 1900s

The illustrations used in 19th century advertising was mostly illusdtrated with basic line drawings. Advances in lithography revolutionized advertizing in the 1900s. Halftones could now be reproduced. Photographs could now be printed at reasonable cost and without preparing an engraving. This also meant that much more elaborate drawings and oher art work could be incorporated into advertizements. We see wonderfully illustrated advertisemets in the better magazines. And even in newspapers the quality of illustrations was dramatically improved. As lithographic technology was still being developed, there were substsantial variations in different publicatioins. Interestingly, some of the brands we see advertized still are popular today. The improvements in the quality of the illustrations is helpful for HBC as the clothing is illustrated in much greater detail.

The 1910s

We have been able to find quite a few advertisement from the 1910s, mostly from family-oriented magazines. Many of the ads are American. We are not sure if this comes from our greater access to American material or that the advertising industry was more advanced in America than in other countries.Many of the ads appear to focus on younger children. We note note little boys wearing button-on shorts and older boys wearing kneepants with dark long stockings. Boys are pictured wearing sailor suits.

The 1920s

We still some boys wearing Eton collars and suits in the 1920s. Yonger boys wore a variety of large collars. Some boys still wore sailor suits, but they were not as common as before World War I. Most of the advertisements that we have found are American. We note some ads from the early 1920s wearing kneepants. Most of the ads, however, show boys wearing knickers. Some ads show American boys wearing short pants, but usually only younger boys. We note English ads which are more likely to show boys wearing short pants.

The 1930s

Eton collars in America by the 1930s have almost dissappeared, but younger boys might wear what Americans referred to as Eton suits. These sometimes appear in ads aimed at higher-income clientelle. Sailor suits are still seen, but much less common than earlier. We no longer see kneepants in the 1930s. Most of the American ads we note show younger boys wearing short pants and older boys wearing knickers. Here there is some variation. By the end of the decade we begin to see boys pictured in long pants, especially older boys. Another major shift is in hosiery. Long stockings are still quite common in the early 1930s. By the end of the decade boys are mostly showm wearing kneesocks and ankle socks. Swimsuits are still pictured as including a kind of tank top.

The 1940s

The 1940s begins with America returning to affluence in the early 1940s and then after Pearl Harbor (1941) 4 years of War. This of course significantly affected advrtising. As the economy hifted to war proiduction, advertising as not as important as during an era of producing consumer goods. After the German and Japanese surrender (1945), the United States quickly returned to a peace-time economy and an exposion of advertising as the economy expanded. We have found a range of advertising from the 1940s. Knickers have obviously gone out of fashion. They show younger boys dressing up in Eton suits with actual Etoin collars. School scenes show most boys wearing long pants. "T"shits had become popular. Cun and Boy Scouts appear in a number if adverisements.

The 1950s

The American consumer economy was in full swing by the 1950s as World War II receeded in to the past. Americans moved into the suburbs and the baby boom was in full swing. Most American boys commonly wore jeans and casual clorhes after the War. Thdy still dressed up fpr formal occassions. Hair cuts were short. Advertising tended to enphasize forml clothes, but there were plenty of depictions of casual clothing. Magazine and newspaper advertizing were still the major medium for selling clothes, but television which appeared in the late-1940s became a major force in the 50s.

The 1960s

We notice quite a few pertinent ads during the 1960s. Many were color ads which was becoming more common. Coke and Pepsi ads often featured children. Of course they were important consumers. Notably the children in the ads still are nicely dressed. There were also ads for cars and insurance company. The children in these ads also tended to be neatly dressed. Children were also depicted in casual clothes. The 1960s, however, was the last decade in which children were seen in suits with mothers that had white gloves. This was an indicator that the upper social classes were still setting the fashion trends.

The 1970s

New York Life (1970s: United States)

This is a magazine ad for New York Life, an important national life insuance company. We are not sure in which magazine it appeared, but it looks like it might have been a magazine like The New Yorker. We also do not hae the date, but we would guess the 1970s. We see a mother bringing her son to his first day of school. The idea of course is that life insurance is necessary to protect family security, especially for young children. The boy is picture coming to school in an Eton blazer, plaid short pants, and knee socks. He looks younger than 6 years so this may be Kindergarten rather than 1st Grade which beginning is normally seen as the first day of school. The advertisement appeals to likely life insurance clients. This would mean primarily family in comfortable circumstances. And they would be most likely to dress teir boys in short pants outfits like that. Areader writes, "You do not see too many ads in the 70s with kids wearing short pants dress up outfits and knee socks."

Cheerios (1970s: United States)

Here we have a 1970s General Mills Cheerios magazine ad from an undate magazine, probably something like Good Housekeeping. The ad includes a Betty Crocker recipie for Chewy-Os which sounds like the Cubs Scouts pictured in ad would enjoy. The boys wear the 1970s Cub uniform. This is something the BSA did not often allow. We are guessing that General Mills paid a fee for permission to do so. The ad shows a Cub den and the Den Mother who probably just cooked the Chewy-Os to serve after the den meeting. The ad is also a littlke piece of social history. The Cub sen includes both back and white boys, something that would not hasve been very common in the 1960s. Actually I am not sure how common it would have been in the 1970s as this is magazine ad and not necessarily a photograph of an actual den.

JC Penny Pogo Sticks (1971: United States)

This ad was from a JC Penny 1971 ad for a pogo stick. This was an early toy that was resurected in the the 1970s. It was a very popular toy for both boys and girls in the 70s. The boy in the ad is pictured wearing camp shorts. Unfortunately, we do not have the whole ad.

The 1980s

??? Soup (1980s: Japan)

I am not sure, but I believe thast is is an ad for soup. I do not know the brand name. Presumably it is well known in Japan. Hopefully our Japanese readers will tell us more about the product. I am also unsure about the date, but believe it is probably a 1980s advertisement. I believe that the boys are outfitted in soccer uniforms. Apparently meant to show how the soup can satiate healthy apetites. The short shorts abd kneesocks were very common in Japan at the time.

The 1990s

??? Car (1990s: England)

This image apparently came from an English automobile advertisement. I'm not sure which car it was. The boy apparently is from a prep school and wears a freaditional uniform with a red peaked cap and blazer. This would suggest an up-scale car. School caps by the 1990s had become rather rare, but the long shorts suggedt the ad appears in the late 1990s.


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Created: March 28, 2003
Last updated: 9:09 PM 11/16/2016