Belgian Boys Clothes: Individual Experiences

Figure 1.--ThisBelgian boy was named Jean D. He was born in 1913. He looks about 6 years old in his portrait which was taken about 1919 after the end of World War I. Sailor suits were the oufits preferred by his mother.

HBC has few specific details on individual Belgian boys, other than the royal family. Given that French and Belgian clothing clothing styles have been very similar, readers interested in Belgium may want to persuse the more numerous accounts HBC has collected on French boyhood. We will also include our analysis of some portraits as well as published accounts of Belgian boyhood that we have found.

The 19th Century

Unidentified Brussels boy (about 1870)

We have no information on this unidentified Belgian boy, except that he was from Brussels. The fancy suit suggests to us that we was from an affluent family. He looks to be about 10 years old. We believe that the portrait was probably taken in the late 1860s or early 70s. Notice his bowler (derby) hat. The suit is a little difficult to describe. We think it was a cut-away jacket. It seemns to be decorated with buttons. He wears white or light-coloted ribbed stockings. Early knee pants tended to be longer lengths like this.

The 20th Century

Jean D. (1913- )

Unfortunately we have no written information about this boy, other than his mame is Jean D. and he was born in 1913. His name of course uggests that he came from the French speaking community in Belgium. We do have, however, several different portaits his parents had taken. The portraits show how Jean was dressed from a toddler to a young teenager. We suspect that he was a only child as old of the portraits are only of Jean by himself. While the portraits are undated, w can guess when they were taken as we know that he wa birn in 1913. One thing is for sure, the oufits his mother peferred were sailor suits.

Ernest Claes

Ernest Claes wrote the Belgian classic De Witte". The book is published in Dutch which is spoken in Belgian Flanders. A German reader reports seeing the second film of "De Witte van Sichem" (1979) with Eric Clerckx as Witte. (The First one was filmed in 1934 featuring Jefke (Jozef) Bruyninckx. The main character can be described as a rebell or as Mr. Holmstrom in The Moving Picture Boy puts it "a sort of accident-prone Huck Finn. The book went into a 125 editions by 1997 (first published in 1920).

Dutch Boy in Belgium (1960s)

Just months after leaving the Congo, I was enrolled in a secondary school in Antwerp, Belgium. In the Congo, of course, I and my friends wore short pants all the time in the hot tropical climate. Our Antwerp school had a uniform, but it was no longer strictly enforced. I was the youngest of my class and one of seven or eight boys who were still wearing short pants. I generally wore lederhosen.

American Boy in Europe (1960s)

The strongest memories that I have about the clothes I wore as a boy was the short pants I wore as a little boy. After an embarassing experience as a younger boy in Wyoming, I was a little shy about wearing short pants. While I still wore shorts for play and casual wear, I never thought as a 12 year-old ready to begin 7th grade that I would ever dress up in short pants and knee socks. That was, however. before my dad got a job in Paris and I found myself in Europe. After the school year finished in June 1964, we left Hawaii and took off for Europe. We spent the entire summer of 1964 touring Scandinavia, the Low Countries, and the British Isles before settling down in Paris. Every where we went, I saw European boys in short pants--often strikingly short and sometimes with knee socks, neckties and jackets.

British Boy in Belgium (1970s)

It's fascinating how clothing styles have changed since I went to scholl. I attended both English and Belgian schools in the 1970s.


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Created: January 5, 2002
Last updated: March 9, 2003