Australian Boys' Clothes: Chronology


Figure 1.--This was an Australian photo postcard taken at a studio in Sydney. It is undated, but looks to habebeen taken in the late 1910s. A reader writes, "Is the boy’s entire outfit made from wool?. It appears that the jacket is wool (maybe knit) and the short pants may also be the same." HBC does not believe so, but it is difficult to make out details in the image.

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.

The 17th Century

The Australian continent was discovered by European navigators in the early 17th century. Several explorers reported finding Australia. The first is believed to be the Dutch navigator Willem Janszoon (1606). The Dutch were active in the islands north of Australia--modern Indonesia. Janszoon sailed the Duyfken into the Gulf of Carpentaria. Other explorers reached different spots along the coast. The primary European interest at the tme was trade with China. This there was no attempt to found settlements or colonize the vast unmapped land. Other Dutch explorers and countries from other countries. Australia became known as New Holland. While there was no attempt at colonization, by the end of the century, much of the coastv had been chartered.

The 18th Century

British Royal Navy Lieutenant James Cook who charted the east coast of Australia, making first landfall at Botany Bay (April 29, 1770). Cook sailed northwards and before departing landed on Possession Island in the Torres Strait off Cape York (August 22, 1770}. Here Cook formally claimed the eastern coastline for the British Crown, naming it New South Wales. The diffeence between Cook and previous explorrs is that British emogration ensued. Reports from Cook's expedition caused great interest when they reached Britain. Americans will instantly recognize that the Cook expedition occurred just before the American Revolution (1776-83). England was at the time heavily populated in terms of the economic system. The American colonies had provided an outlet where the poor and landless could seek a future in a colony with virtually limitless land. The Revolution complicated this and Australia provided an alerntive at the same tome that Britain lost America. An immediae problem seized upon by British authoritoes was penal overcrowding. The colonization of Australia began with a little fleet which sailed from Portsmouth destined for Botony Bay (May 13, 1787). Thus while the coloization of Australia began in the late 18th century, very small numbers of colonists were involved.

The 19th Century

The colonization of Australia began in the late 18th century. At first it was a prison colony.Rather small numbers of people were involved in the late 18th and early 19th century. By mid-century a substantial colonial population had developed. This mean that tht Australia throughtout the 19th century had a population with very strong family and cultural ties to Britain. One impact of this was that Australian children basically wore the same fashion as worn in England, with some concessions to climate. By the 1860s large numbers of English colonists were arrtiving to take advantage of the the vast expanses of inexpenive land. The clothes worn by Australian boys were basically the same as the styles worn by English boys at the time. We notice younger boys fancy suits ith cut-away jackets and bloomer knickers. We also notice Fauntleroy suits, but sailor suits were more common. The one significant difference that we have noted was that Australian boys commonly went barefoot. Both Australian and English boys in the late 19th Century mostly wore kneepants. English boys wore them with long stockings and shoes. For much of the year it was to cold to go barefoot, which was considered a sign of poverty. In the more benign Australian climate, however, it was much more common to go barefoot. Boys in the country almost alweays did so and it was even common in the growing towns. In Australia it was not considered such a sign of poverty, altough the really well to do insisted on long stockings and shoes for their children.

The 20th Century

Much more information is available on on Australian boys clothing during the 20th century, although our Austra archive is still relatively limited. Austrlian boys fashions in the early 20th century wore quite similar clothes to English boys. Styles set in England were basically imported from the mother country. Australia became a nattion in 1901, now celebrated as Federation Day. Ties with the United Kingdom were still quite close and the dominance of English fashion, despite the quite different climate, is a good example of it. State schools at the time did not have uniforms. A younger boy migt have worn a sailor suit and cap--probably with kneepants and long above the knee stockings. Notfolk suits with Eton collars were common for older boys, usually kneepants and knicker suits. HBC has little information on Australia during the inter-war years. We do have an advertisement from a Sydney newspaoer detailing the boys' clothes a retailer offered in 1938: Juvenile clothing. From what we can tell, styles were very similar tio England, except that more Australian children went barefoot. HBC has collected some information on Australian boys' wear during post-World War II period. Australian boys continued to wear mostly short pants after World War II. The style of shorts worn during the 1940s and 50s were mostly the English style, rather baggy shorts worn at knee length. The style of short pants began to change in the 1960s. The shorter style continental shorts became more stylish. Jeans appeared in the 1960s and proved very popular, but could not be worn at school or for any special occasion. Most Australian boys in the 1940s and 50s wore short pants suits. This did not begin to change until the 1960s, although many boys still wore short pants suits in the 60s. A lot of Australian schools required school uniforms. Many still do, but the styles began to become more casual. Little information developed yet. Australian sources during the 1990s report a growing concern with exposure to the sun which has been reflected in fashions.

The 21st Century

No information developed yet.

Personal Experiences

The 1910s: Short pants (The Lamberts)

The 1960s: Short pants and Catholic schools

The 1970s: School and home clothes

The 1970s: Suits and uniforms

The 1980s-90s: Australia and the Ozone Hole









HBC






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Crerated: March 15, 1998
Last updated: 2:23 AM 8/18/2015