Norman Rockwell: Saturday Evening Post Covers Illustrating Boys' Fashions

Figure 1.--This Rockwell Saturday Evening Post cover was entitled "Vacation" and shows a boy celebrating on the last day of chool. Notice the suspenders, knickers, and bare feet.

Rockwell sold his first cover painting to the Saturday Evening Post in 1916 and ended up doing over 300 more. The early Post covers provide fascinating glimpses of children clothes. Rockwell was fascinated by children and many of the covered addressed their foibles and nicely illustrated their clothing. The Post covers include all areas of Americana, including presidential portraits. Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson sat for him for portraits. He also painted other world figures, including Nassar of Egypt and Nehru of India.

A helpful HBC contributor has nicely cataloges the Rockwell Saturday Evening Post cocers with information about boys clothing. He notes that, "I did not try to include every single cover which has a boy in it. For example, "A Day in the Life of a Boy" does not appear, because it, and other covers I haven't put in here, do not show enough costume details to be interesting. I also exclude a few showing boys on the borderline of adulthood wearing clearly adult outfits.

The Post

The Saturday Evening Post was the most popular American magazine in the first half of the 20th century. The Post included political cartoons, artwork, literary works, and much more. Although mundane at the time, even the advertisements ,ake issues of the Post fascinating to modern readers.

The Covers

Here is the details on the covers provided by the HBC contributor. The chronological organization provides a useful time line reflecting fashion chnges and can be compared with the chronological information available on U.S. boys clothing.

The 1910s

Knickers were of course the most common clothes worn by American boys in the 1910s.

The 1920s

The 1920s was Rockwell's most productive period in ternms of providing Post covers with images of boys' clothing. Knickers continue to dominate boys clothing in the 1920s. Sailor suits and even occasional Fauntleroy style influences are still seen.

The 1930s

Rockwell continues to dominate Post covers and many show boys' clothing. Knickers are still the primary dress, but several younger boys are shown in short pants. Despite the terrible Depression, the look of his drawings vary little from the prosperous 1920s. Younger boys begin to appear in long pants.

The 1940s

The number of Rockwell Post covers falls substantially in the 1940s. Boys are still depicted as wearing knickers, but they are much less common than in previous decades. Few covers depict boys' clothing in the first half of the decade, no doubt the country's ocupation with World War II. He begins to draw more covers with boys beginning in 1945 as the War begins to wind down. Long pants are clearly becoming the predominate dress for American boys, although there is only an inkling pf this because there are sdo few drawings. Several of the younger boys wear short pants.

The 1950s

Rockwell painted several interesting covers, but far fewer than the more productive 1920s and 30s. Knickers have disappeared. Notably a boys wears a short pants suit to church in 1953, but by 1959 a boy attending church is wearing long pants.

The 1960s

There were no pertinent Post covers during the 1960s. In fact the Post seized publishing in 196?.

The 1970s

One final Rockwell Post cover appeared in Summer 1971 "A Visit With Norman Rockwell". It did not depict 1970s clothes. After the fall and rise of the Post, this was the first new cover. A boy, perhaps 11, is dressed up as a SEP newsboy of the 20s or 30s (he has a 70s hairstyle). He is modelling for Rockwell, with whom he is chatting as a sketch for a painting takes form on the easel. Boy sears a SEP newsbag, sleeveless sweater over heavy brown shirt, grey tie, grey plaid knickers, dark stockings, ankle-high buckle brown shoes.

Post Covers

Rockwell was not, of course, the only illustrator that did Post covers. He was the most important and his illustrations most commonly dealt with chikdren and depicted clothing trends. Many other illustrators also did the covers. Click here for a general discussion of Post covers.


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Created: January 1, 2000
Last updated: 3:08 PM 12/9/2004