** boys' fashions country chronologies

Boys' Fashion Chronologies: Country Trends

Figure 1.--No country took to photography as energetically and rpidly as America. Thus we have a larger and more extensive 19th century photographic record forcAmerica than any other country. America generally followed European clothing trend. The Fauntleroy suit in the 1880s was the first important American contribution to boys' fashions, rather ironic in that the major American contribution to fashion has been casual, informal clothing. Notice the embroidery work on the boy's velvet cut-away Fauntleroy jacket. The portrait was taken at the Eddy's Studio in Winoma, Wisconsin. The mount style suggests the early 1900s.

Many readers are interested in fashion trends concerning specific countries. HBC has prepared chronologies for many countries. Here our readers have assisted with infomation and images. Most of these country chronologies are for countries in North America and Europe. HBC is an American-based site and American images are particularly plentiful. Thus our American chronology is especially detailed. We also have chronologies for the more important European countries. We have quite a bit of information on England, Frabce, Germany, and Italy. We have less detailed information about other comtries, although we have some information on Japan. Some European countries have been especially important in the world of fashion. Italy was particully important in the medieval era as was France. Britain which developed a huge fabric industry as part of the Industrial Revolution became particularly important in male fashion. Grance became especially importantin the women's fashion world beginning in the 18th century. Germany also developed a large clothing industry and influenced fashion throughout Central and Eastern Europe. America for many years fillowed European trends. America's first major fashion contribution was the Fauntleroy suit which appeared in the 1880s. in the 20th century had a major influence on the casual fashions tht became popular after World War II. These are some of the larger countries and fortunately there is a wealth of photographic evidence avilabke for fashion researchers. As HBC develops we are gradully adding chronology pages on many smaller countries as well.




Japan until the Menji Restoration (1867) was a largely feudal society. We do not have much information on clothing before the Menji Restoration, but it was traditional costumes that were as far as we can tell largely unchanged over hundreds of years. Japanese people today dress up in these traditional outfits, but it should be remembered that the traditional outfits worn by most Japanese people were much more plain than the fancy costimes and bright colors commonly worn today. After the Menji Restoration you begin to see Western dress, especially in the cities. To some extent it was seen as an aspect of moderniization. Western-style school uniforms were adopted for the new national school system. It was not until after World war II that Western dress became widely worn in the countryside. Even though Japan was occupied by the Americans, European-style clothes became very popular for children in Japan. The short pants Japanese boys wore became destinctive by the 1970s. Beginning in the 1990s, Japanese children began to wear many of the same stules popular in American and Europe. Traditional clothes have not disappeared in Japan and are often worn by children for special occassions.

America, North


American boys' fashions basically followed European fashions. Most boys' clothing looked to Europe for inspiration, but often developed along different lines. One of the first true American boys' fashions was the Little Lord Fauntlerou suit (1880s), but it was inspired by European styles. After World War I, American boys fashions began to develop very differently than European fashions. American boys never wore short pants to the extent that they were worn in Europe. American boys first wore knickersand later long pants instead of shorts. Snekers were an American inspiration. Eventually after World War II, it was American casual boys' fashiions that began to influence European and other countries. Jeans and baseball caps were especially importnt.


HBC has only limited information on Canadian boy's clothing trends. At this time we have virtually no information on the 19th century. After the turn of the century knickers began to replace kneepants. In the 20th century the trend has been primarily a shift from English and French fashions to American styles. Canadian boys in the inter-war period wore varied styles, including short pants, knickers, and long pants. Reflectibng the English and French influence, short pants were worn by some boys, but not nearly as commonly as in Europe--probably due to the severe winters. After World War II, HBC has noticed little difference between Canadian and American fashions. Canadian boys in the late 20th century appear to dress little different than American boys. The major difference is that warm weather summer fashions are less common in Canada than in America.



HBC seeks to focus primarily on the modern era in its clothing and historical assessments. We have, however, development some limited information on boys' clothing during earlier periods. Modern specialized boys styles in many way began in England during the late 18th century. European and American boys' styles were largely determined in England and to a lesser extent France during the 19th century. Major fashions such as sailor suits, kilts, Eton suits, Norfolk jackets, short pants, and others were all English creations. English styles continued to be important until after World War II (1939-45) when American fashions began the globilization of boys' fashions.


The fashion industry was important in France even in the 18th century. It was after the mid-19th century, however, that the industry began to explode. There were in 1850 about 25 Parisian dressmakers and ready to wear (confection) houses. That had increased four fold to 800 by 1863 and 1,090 by 1870. This was partly due to the expanding bourgeois and increasingly wealth of late 19th century France. More consumers with available disposable income could support the expanding industry. In addition, technological improvements were reducing the real costs of material and garments. Individuals beyond a handful of rich artistocrats and merchants who formerly might have had only a few changes of clothes, might now have a whole wardrobe. Not only could more people afford more clothes, but the clothes were increasingly well made and fitted. The poorly fitted garments of the early and mid-19th century, by the 1870s had become increasingly well-tailored garments. The look of fashionably dressed childern in the 1870s and especially the 1880s contrasts dramatically to the poorly fitted baggy garments still common in the 1850s and even the 1860s. By the 1870s kneepants were becoming increasingly common in France. Knickers were also worn, but not so commonly. After the turn of the century sort pants were commonly worn and this did not begin until the 1960s. Today French boys have adopted the same pan-European style of jeans and other casual clothes.


The following basic chronology is available on German boys' clothes. There have been times that boys clothong had many similarities througout Europe. At ther times there were destinctive national styles. Germany has never been considered a focal point of fashion. The country was in fact was in fact one of the more important counties affecting boys's fasgions, but this hasd varied significantly over time. At this time, HBC has only limited information on the 19th century. Hopefully our German readers cam help develop information in this era. As we have observed in other other European coubties, there has been a destinctive bluring of national styles beginning in the 1960s. Even so, some German styles have enfured. We have begun to collect, however, considerable information on 20th century styles. HBC has been developed primarily through assessing available images, in part because HBC has not yet found any historical accounts addressing German boys' clothes.


HBC has very limited chronological information on Itlaian boys' clothing. Our information begins in the 19th century, but we eventually want to develop information from paintings with boys clothing from eraly centuries. We notice most of the styles wore in other European countries like France and Britain. Italian boys appear to have worn tunic suits in the mid-19th century. We note velvet suits with knicker-length pants. Some boys wore belts over their tunics. Collars and bows were small until the 1870s. Shoes and stockings seem fancier than in Britain and America. Fauntleroy and sailor suits became popular in the late 19th century. Many boys wore wide-brimmed sailor hats. School children commonlu wore smocks, but I am not sure just when that began. I am not sure how common smocks were outside of school. Short pants became common after World War I and were commonly worn by Italian boys through the 1950s. Kneesocks and long stockings were not as common in Italy, especially southern Italy, presumably vecause of the climate. Long pants began to become more common in the 1960s.


HBC has begun to develop some chronolgical information about Russian boys' clothes, although our information is still quite limited. Our Russian readers have provided us some interesting information to begin building a basic chronology. Russia in the early 19th century was the most backward country in Europe. It's huge reserves of manpower and the force of the Russian winter helped to defeat Napoleon and reverse the course of European history. The great bulk of the Russian people were mired in the feudal system. They were serfs on huge landed estates with no contact with western thought and culture. Their labor supported a wealthy airistocracy which prefered to speak Russian and in fact looked with distain on the culture and people of their own country. The middle class which proved the back bone of Western European nations was very small and less important in Russia. Boys clothing reflected these dichotomies. French fashions in the late 19th Century were popular with aristocratic and affluent middle class families. This was an interesting development as France under Napoleon invaded Russian and occupied with considerable brutality much of European Russia. one=the-less French culture in the late 19th century was dominate among the elite. Many spoke French at home rather than Russian. Dress styles were similar to those of France. Like French boys, little Russian boys also wore dresses. Peasant boys wore a tunic outfit that buttoned tightly around the neck. This style was also worn by boys from wealthy families and was the inspiration for the Russian blouse in Europe amd America. Little boys continued to wear dresses after the turn of the Century, but this fashion was passing and for the most part relatively young boys wore dresses. Sailor suits were popular for boys. The Czarevitch Alexis almost always wore sailor suits, until World War I began (1914). Then he mostly wore army uniforms. Many other arristocratic and wealthy boys, as well as middle class boys, also wore sailor suits, but this was a realtively small part of the population. The sailor suit was probably a reflection of the German influence. Even before the Russian Revolution, Russia except for the elite was a basically closed society. Fashionable clothes were not generally available to Soviet citizens and restrictions on foreign publications and travel restricted the spread of European fashion trends. After kneepants had passed out of style in the 1910s, Soviet boys mostly wore long pants. Knickers were never popular in the Soviet Union. Boys did wear shorts, but mostly during the summer. Russian boys like boys in Scandinavia, Poland, and Germany continued to wear long stockings after kneesocks had become more common in Europe. Since the end of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russian boys have begun increasingly to dress like boys in the rest of Western Europe.



Australia was colonized in the second half of the 19th Century. At first it was a prison colony. By the 1860s large numbers of English colonists were arrtiving to take advantage of the the vast expanses of inexpenive land. As a result, the photographic record provides an almost complete record of fashions. Austrlian boys fashions in the early 20th century wore quite similar clothes to English boys. Notfolk suits with Eton collars were common, usually kneepants and knicker suits. Shirt pants became increasingly common in the 1910s. ustralian boys continued to wear mostly short pants after World War II. Clothing styles became much more casual after the War. The style of shorts worn during the 1940s and 50s were mostly the English style, rather baggy shorts worn at knee length. Flannel shorts were the most common, but after the war khaki shorts also becam popular, especially for summer wear. Increasingly by the 1960s American styles began to appear. The style of short pants began to change in the 1960s. The shorter style continental shorts became more stylish. American jeans appeared in the 1960s and proved very popular, but could not be worn at school or for any special occasion. Older boys began to wear long pants more commonly to school and for various occasions.

New Zealand

Significan European immigration bergan in the mid 19th century. Thuus European fashions in New Zealand have a very limited history beginning at this time. Chronological fashion trends have generally followed English trends. The only major difference was that in the mild New Zealand climate that it was more common for boys to go barefoot. Ecven so except for footwear, New Zealand boys tended to wear clothes more in keeping with the English climate than the New Zealand climate. This trend continued well into the 20th century. Boys at the turn of the century generally wore kneepants or knickers with long dark stockings. Sailor suits were very popular for primart school children. By the 1910s, shortpants and knickers were more common.The war experienced introduced New Zealanders to Americans for the first time. This widened their perspectives of many New Zealanders. British fashions dominated until the 1960s when American blue jeans and "T"-shirts began to appear. American-style casual clothes appealed to the more casual New Zealand outlook and reflect the gradual movement away from Britain as the British increasinly moved toward Europe and away from its former colonies. New Zealand boys today, except, for their school uniforms, dress almost the same as American boys, jeans, T shirts, baseball caps, and baggy shorts.


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Created: 3:02 AM 3/1/2012
Last updated: 3:02 AM 3/1/2012