Norman Rockwell: Saturday Evening Post Covers Illustrating Boys' Fashions during the 1940s

Figure 1.--This 1945 Rockwell painting, "The Homecoming G.I." shows that by 1845, many American boys were wearing jeans, then called dunagrees.

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.

HBC Synopsis

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 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.

May 21, 1942 "Devil May Care"

A little boy is sitting at his sister's dressing table, reading, with sheer delight, her diary. He wears a blue-green dress shirt, striped tie, blue knickers, fallen-down blue socks, and brown shoes.

May 26, 1945 "The Homecoming G.I."

The famous painting of a red-haired G.I. returning to an inner city apartment building as its occupants pour out to meet him. They all have red hair showing that it is the family greeting their returned veteran. One is a teenage boy, wearing jeans--it is unclear what kind of shirt he is wearing.

October 13, 1945 "War Stories"

A group of males gather in a local garage and listen to a returning Marine. Two are boys--one wearing a striped t-shirt, shorts, and brown shoes; the other wears a letter sweater over a shirt with a collar--his pants cannot be seen.

September 16, 1946 "Commuters"

A crowd of commuters crowd a train platform as others hurry towards the platform. One buys a paper from a paper boy, wearing striped t-shirt under a brown jacket, and long pants. He wears a cap of some sort.

December 7, 1946 "The Proper Gratuity"

A boy dining alone in a train car examines the bill, trying to determine the proper tip for the waiter, who stands by, amused. He wears a striped suit, and there is just enough detail to tell you he is wearing long pants, though also wearing some rather loud striped socks, and somewhat causal brown shoes.

January 11, 1947 "The Piano Tuner"

A piano tuner does his job as a young boy looks on, wearing a brown and white polo shirt, brown shorts, brown and white socks, brown shoes.

August 16, 1947 "Second Thoughts"

Boy on hands and knees, staring wide eyed over end of high diving board. He wears a gold bathing suit with red outlines of fishes.

August 30, 1947 "Going and Coming"

Another very famous one, showing two views of a family in a car--one on the way to their vacation spot, the other on the way back, much the worse for wear. The two boys are wearing red, white, and blue striped T-shirts. Can't see what they are wearing below that.

October 4, 1948 "The Dugout"

The Chicago Cubs dugout is shown, along with the first two row of (hostile) fans above it. While the fans are jeering, no one in a Chicago uniform shows much emotion except the batboy, who appears to be very upset. He is wearing a standard 40s wool baseball uniform, with three-quarter length gathered pants.

October 30, 1948 "The Great Debate"

Man and woman at the breakfast table are debating so hotly over the presidential election that they don't notice their toddler son (in striped overalls over blue T-shirt) is crying.

December 25, 1948 "The Homecoming"

Classic scene of family gathered to welcome college student son home. The thankful/satisfied look on the mother's face is a classic. Among the members of the family are Norman Rockwell himself, and Grandma Moses. A teenage boy wears a plaid flannel shirt, slacks, and brown shoes. In the foreground, we see a boy of about six, his back to us, wearing a light brown suit with short pants. His shirt collar extends over his suit jacket. He appears to be wearing turnover-top socks with stripes, but the detail is hard to make out just there.

Christopher Wagner

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Created: January 1, 2000
Last updated: Janyuary 1, 2000