Biographical Details on Boys' Clothing Styles: Ordinary People--Chronologial Listings--20th Century


Figure 5.--A HBC reader has provided us a remarkable series of photographs showing how Herbert and Kurt Hender were dressed at different ages in the 1920s. Their mother clealy liked sailor suits, although they were not always dressed in them. We do not know much about the family except that they were from Dusseldorf and were a very affluent family. The boys were dressed very smartly and they even had a nurse to take care of them. There is a set of seven photographs showing rgie clothing and hair styles at different times in the 1920s. Image courtesy of the MD collection.

The HBC biography section is for people or families that have achieved some degree of notariety or fame. HBC readers in many cases have submitted family portraits. HBC has until now not added them to the biography section. We believe now that this is a mistake. Many of the HBC readers contributing family portraits can also provide details about the boy and him family. This background information help us to assess social trends and put the fashions involved in perspective. This is just why the biographical section is an important part of HBC. As a result, HBC has decided to create pages for these relatively unknown people, when some basic family data is available. Incidentally if you find a relative here, please do tell us somehing about him. Here we are listing these biographies alpahabetically to facilitate assessments of clothing styles during specific periods. We have coloected numerous images of boys from many coubtries during the 1900s. This includes boy from different social classes and of various ages.

The 1900s

Yonger boys might still wear dresses, but this was much less common than in the 1890s. The same was true of long hair and in America ringlet curls. Many boys wore bangs. Tunics were very popular abd done in various styles, like Buster Brown outfits. Boys wore a range of suits. There were juvenile styles for younger boys. Faunrleroy suits were declinng in popularity. Sailor suits were very popular. Here the expansion of national navies as part of the international arms race. The Royal Navt uniform was still the standard, but we see many boys wearing variations on the standard unifirm. Norfokls suits were very popular. Many boys wore Eton collars. Most boys wore knee pants or other shortened-length psnys like knickers or bloomer knickers. American boys commonly wore long stockings, although younger boys might wear socks. The same was true in Europe, but long stockings were much more ciommon in northern Europe than southern Europe. Hugh-top shoes were still common, but we see low-cut shoes as well. Yoinger children might wear strap shoes. We begin seeing some boys wearing sandals. We note costumes and ethnic outfits,

The 1910s

We no longer see younger boys commonly wearing dressess, although it was no unknown--especially for very young boys. Many boys did wear tunic suits. Fancy suits like Fauntleroy suits declined in popularity. We do still see sailor suits beibng commonly worn. The Boy Scouts seem to have had a major impact on boys; clothing as knee pants and long stockings seem to have given way to short pants and kneesocks, although this varied from country to country/. American trends departmted from Europe. American boys did not take to short pants and knickers were nuch more common and they were mostly worn with long stockings. Eton collars were still worn when drssing up, but not quite so commonly as in the 1900s. Boys no longer wore bows like they did in the 1900s and ties became more common. Norfolk styling contibued to be popular. World War I erupted in Europe (1914-18). This had a huge impact on national economies affecting the clothing industry and fashion. One of those impacts was that clothing styles were simplified as both an economy measure and an impact of the social climate. This was a trend which continued into the 1920s. We see boys wearing ethic costumes.

The 1920s


Hender, Herbert and Kurt (Germany, the 1920s)

A HBC reader has provided us a remarkable series of photographs showing how Herbert and Kurt Hender were dressed at different ages in the 1920s. Their mother clealy liked sailor suits, although they were not always dressed in them. We do not know much about the family except that they were from Dusseldorf and were a very affluent family. The boys were dressed very smartly and they even had a nurse to take care of them.

McGinley, Hugh Patrick (United States, 1922)

Hugh Patrick McGinley was born April 5, 1922. He was photographed at avout age 2 years wearing a boy dress, a very plain long sleeved dress with a Peter Pan collar. This shows that wile outfitting boys in dresses declined after World War I (1914-18), the custom did continue into the 1920s.

Taylor, Atril (United States, 1926)

Atril D. Taylor had his portrait taken in 1926. He was 3 years old, but must have been close to his fourth birthday. He wears a short pants outfit with kneesocks. His shirt is the open-collar style so popular in the 1920s and 30s.

Unidentified brother and children (United States, late 1920s)

This American brother and sister were probably photographed in the late 1920s. The children's first names are written on the back, but unfortunately cropped, so we are unsure about them, but we do know thet are 7 and 9 years old. They are ???audie 9 years old and ????y Ruth 7 yeats old. We know their grandmother's name was Harris. So their last name nay be Harris, although we do noy know if she was the maternal or paternal grandmother. The portrait is not dated, but we know it would have been taken in 1926 or later because it has square boxes in the AZO stamp box. The children's clothing suggest that the portrait was taken in the late 1920s. The early 30s is possible, but the late 20s seem most likely. The little girls short dress conforms this time period as well as the boys above the knees knickers worn with kneesocks.

Smith, Emerson Albin (Canada, 1920s)

A HBC reader has provided information about a very interesting book of letters written by Nellie R. Campbell from Maine. She married a man called George Campbell and moved to the prairies of Canada, living on a farm in Saskatchewan near Saskatoon where she also taught in a rural grade school. She wrote a very informative series of letters from Saskatchewan to her relatives in New England, extending over the period 1920 to 1944. These have been published in a book entitled "Loving Yours, Nellie: Letters Home and Published Articles" edited by Sandra Hyslop and Pat Klassen (Victoria, B.C.: Trafford, 2004). Nellie and George adopted an orphan boy in the mid-1920s named Emerson Albin Smith and reared and educated him. The attached photo shows Emerson after his adoption in November, 1925, when he was about three and a half years old.

The 1930s


Jack and Santa (United States, 1930)

By the 1920s after World War I, a potrait with Santa had become a standard ritual for American children. Ribbed stockings seemed most popular for winter wear. This American photo postcard was taken December 18, 1930. The boy's name was Jack. The card was sent to grandma. Jack wears a long-sleeve white shirt and tie. Even though it is December, it is not wearing a sweater or jacket. Presumably he had a coat which he took off for the portrait. He has self-belted dark short pants and light-colored long stockings with low-cut oxford shoes. Ribbed stockings seemed most popular for winter wear.

Unidentified Boy (United States, 1936)

Here we hve a portrait from the E.R. Deats Studio, Philadelphia. It appears that an oil painting, perhaps based on a photograph. It shows a boy reading a Disney Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck book. The oil is signed Frederick Gill 1936. I thought at first that this was the boy's name, but it must be the artist's name. The boy wears a dark short pnts suit with a sports collar.

The 1940s


The 1950s


Unidentified Boy (United States, 1952)

This American boydid his First Communion in 1952. Unfortunately that is all we know about him. Dad took his photograph outside their home, presumably before driving to church for the ceremony. He wears a white floppy bow. This had been common earlier, but we rarely see it after the early 50s. Boys were more likely to wear bow ties or neckties. The boy wears a long pants suit as was becoming common in America.

Unidentified Boy (1955)

Here we see an unidentified boy, presumably American, all dressed up for a Pan Am flight in 1955. He wears a short pants outfit. Notice the white gloves and elegant overcoat, both suggesting he came from a well-to-do family. There looks to be a foreign influence. Long stockings were not very common in America by the 1950s. Perhaps he was living in Europe. Pan Am had largely international routes. We think he is an American boy because the snapshot was located in America. We know nothing about this boy's family. The air flight and the clothing, however, suggest thst he came from a rather affluent, conservative family. Most people could not afford to fly in the 1950s, especially to fly their children.






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Created: November 4, 2002
Last updated: 9:21 PM 2/13/2012