*** Canadian boys clothes

Canadian Boys' Clothes

Canadian knicker suit
Figure 1.--These Canadian brothers in the 1910s wear Norfolk-style above the knees knicker suits with long dark stockings, popular styles at the time.

HBC has begun to collect some information on Canadian boys wear. Canada is a bicultural country with both English anf French influences. The French have, however, had only limited influences on boy's fashions in Canada. Rather the dominate influences have been the climate and America. 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 knee pants. 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.

Background: French and English Canada

Canada was of course founded as a French colony in the 16th century. The original French colony was centered on the fur trade, but in the 18th century, the French and English struggled over control of North America. The French loss of Quebec in the French and Indian War (7 Years War) sealed the future of Canada and in fact North America as an English-speaking cultural area. At the time of Confederation (1867) , there were 3.25 million people settled in the provinces that comprised Canada. Over the next three decades hundreds of thousands more arrived. Few of these immigrants came from France or learned French as their new language. Most settled in Anglo-Canada. This imigration significantly diluted the French propotion of Canada's population. The Catholic share of the population, however, was not diluted because of the large number of Irish immigrants. The leadership in Canada, however, continued to be dominated by English, Protestant Canadians. The French in Canada were thus relegated a second-class role and until after World War II were generally descriminated against, in large measure explaining current Quebec demands for independence. The French in Quebec maintained their cultural and longuistic identity and this has included differences in clothing trends, French Canadians being more influenced by France than English-Canadians.


Canada was settled by a diverse group of Native Americans, some adapting to extrodinarily difficult climatic conditions. The country was colonized by the French as New France and to a lesser extent around Hudson Bay the English. The French sent te first large group of settlers (17th century). The French lost Canada, however, during the French and Indian Wars and in the peace neogitiations were more concerned with Caribbean sugar islands (1760s). The Canadians including the still strongly French populatin stayed loyal to Britain during the American Revolution (1770s). The status of Canada was a question in the War of 1812 between America and Britain. That was the last time invading armies crossed the border. The American and Canadian border developed into thelongest de-militarized border in the world. The British administered Canada as a group of separate colonies. The separate colonies were federated and achieved dominin status (19th century). British Candians gradually dominated the colony and the French became second-class citzens even in Quebec. Canada played an important role in both World Wars, loyally supporting Britain. After Dunkirk the First Canadian Division was the only fullu equipped division prepared to resist a NAZI invasion. The Canadians played a major role in the Battle of the Atlantic gauarding convoy. The Canadian Army played an important role in the liberation of France. Despite Canada's role in liberating France, French Canadians were not enthusistic about the war effort. Cnada was a staunch American ally in the Cold War. Canada in the post-War era has addressed the grevinces of the French minority. It is today a respected independent bilingual, multicultural federation.


The Canadian and American economies have many similarities with adjacent gepgraphies, similar ethnic mix, and cultural similarities. The largely English legal and political foundation is important, although differences developed after the Revolution (18th century). And Canafa has an important French-speaking minority in Quebec. Canada has both important agricultural and industrial components and heart of the economy is the extraction of natural resources, both renewble and non-renewable. Canada in the early-20th century began to build an important industrial sector, largely linked to the United States. American automobile opened subsidiaries in Canada. This industrial development allowed Canada to build one of the largest navies (in terms of vessels) which played a key role in defeating the German U-boat menace in the North Atlantic during World War II. Admiral Dönitz planned to fight the British Royal Navy and eventually the U.S. Navy, but did not even think the Canadians had a navy or could build one. Canada after World War II followed the European welfare state model. A range of entitlements and social benefits were financed by massive defecit spending. The defecits reached such levels that they were adversely affecting the economy (1990s). The Canadian dollar fell way below parity into the 70s in exchange rates. Unintended consequences also caused priblems. Generous unemployment benefits were one of the problems. Designed to protect workers from unemployment, they actually raised unemployment rates. Many workers found that they could get by working only a few months out of the year. Conservative goverments implemented arange of reforms which lowered unemployment. lowered business tax rates, and sharply reduced deficit spending and debt. The Canadin dollarnot only recovered bu exceeded parity with the U.S. Navy. A major reason for this was the strength of raw material exports, especilly oil to the United States. The fall in oil prices has severely affected the Canadian economy, especilly because much of the Canadian oil is hight cost production. This has resulted in a precipitous fall of the Canadian dollar since 2014.


There are several important influences on Canadian boys' wear that have to be considered in any assessment of Canadian clothing styles. One HBC reader opines that Canadian styles may have initially been quite regionalized, due both to climatic and ethnic diversity. English clothing styles were very influential in Canada which of course was an English colony and refused to join the American colonists in the American Revolution (1776-83). Presumably the English influence in the 19th and even early 20th Century was the most important. There is also a destinct Scottish influence in the maritimes, especially Nova Scotia. Any anlaysis of Canadian fashions will have to address those differences. French Canadians located mostly in Quebec are Canada's primary ethnic minority. The French are mostly not recent immigrants from France, byt rather the discendents of the French population from the 18th Century when France was still a French colony. There apperas to have been little contact between French Canadians and France after the English seized Canada from France.

The Climate

One factor which has to be considered in Canada is the weather. The winters are much more severe in Canada than n England and France. While shortpants were worn in Canada, they were never as popular as in England and France. Presumably Canadian mothers, like American mothers, did not think that short pants were appropriate winter wear in severe weather conditions.


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.

Canadian long stockings
Figure 2.--This French Canadian boy wears a short pants suit with long stockings in the 1950s. Note the beret that he is also wearing.


The climate in Canada has of course affected the clothing to a substantial extent warm coats and sweaters have been worn for much of the year. Canadian boys, howvever, wore the garments worn in England and France during the 19th century. After World War I, American fashions became increasingly common. We have little information on headwear, but suspect that cold weather hats were especially important. Suit in particular were primarily Bristish styles. Knickers were very common in the 1920s and 30s, but by the 1940s long pants became inceasingly important. Boys that wore short pants commonly wore them with kneesocks or even long stockings. Modern Canadian fashions are today little different than American fashions, although the summer clothes are somewhat less common because of the climate.


Another interesting fashion topic is color. Unfortunately we still know very little about color in Canadian fashions. Not only is our Canadian photographic archive limited, but we ha very little information on Cannadia art. And period paintings is an important part of color information, especially before the advent of photography. Of course erarly photography was black nd white, but colorized images are useful if not the same as actual color photography. We suspct that Canadian color trends are very similar to American trends, but this need to be confirmed. British colot trends may also be important. This all is, however, impossible to address in any detail without asubstantial Canadian archive which we do not yet have. Our preliminary assesment is that Canadian color trends are very similar to those in the United States. This is, however, a topic that requires a great deal of additional work and building our archive.

Hair Styles

As far as we can tell, Canadian boys have worn the same basic hair styles as American boys. We can not differentiate between American and Canadian images by just looking at the hair styles. Aerican and We can detect no significan differences, however, our information is very limited and mostly pertains to the 20th century. There appears to have been some French influence among French Camdian boys, but even here the basic fashion inluence appears to be American. We have begun to collect information on both hair styles and parts. And hopefully our Canadian readers will offer their insights.


Canadian boys wear summer clothes (T-shirts, shorts, sandals) are worn from June to September in Canada. Long pants, sweaters and jackets are worn the rest of the year in Canada. Rubber boots are worn in rain and mud, and almost all of the time in the Spring, and warm winter boots are worn in the snow. Two-piece snow suits are also very popular with younger boys--these come with a jacket and snow pants that go over regular pants.


The standard holidays including New Year, Valentine Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas are important in Canada. Particularly notable is Rememberence Day whuch honors Canadian veteransm but iun many ways marks when Canada emerged as a nation on the world stage. Interestingly, Queen Victoria's birthday (largely forgotten in England) is celebrated in Canada. The Queen ruled Britain and the Empire longer than any other monarch, from 1837-1901. The Queen was born on May 24, but the celebration is the Monday preceeding May 25. One important holiday is the Feast of St. John the Baptist (June 24). This is more than a religious holiday and is a kinf of French Candian national celebration. The primary national holiday is Canada (Confederation) Day and celebrated on July 1. Canadians celebrate it like July 4 in America, but it is not an independence day because the Canadians did not join the American colonists in the Revolutionary War. Rather the Candians celebrate the day the different British North American provinces were combined to form Canada. Canada Day until 1981 was called Dominion Day because on July 1, 1867 the provinces of British North America merged as the Dominion of Canada, a title which Canada still has officially. While Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving like Americans, they celebrate on a different day--the second Monday in October, perhaps because the harvest comes earlier in Canada. (That is the date Columbus Day is held in America.) Rememberence Day began as Armistice Day to honor the sacrifice orginally in World War and gradually expanded to World War II and other veteranss (Noember 11). Perhaps more than Canada Day, however, it is essentially began as a World War I mremenberence and began the transitiin from colony to nation. Cnanada For children of course the most important holiday is Christmas (December 25).

Regional Trends

Canada is composed of several distinct regions. First there are the easterly maritimes, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Second, there is Quebec, the center of French culture where many but apparently not a majority would like to leave English-dominated Canada and form there own country. Canadian reader has provided us an assessment of Quebec cultural trends. While Quebec is a majority-French speaking province, a French Canadian reader reminds us that there are English speakers in the province as well. At Port Daniel in Gaspesia lived English-speaking people. They were for the most part fishermen. Many came from the Channel Islnds (Guernesey and Jersey). Some families like the Robin spoke French even if protestants. Third there is Ontario--the tradituonal English center. Fourth there is the plains provinces, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Albeta, and the Pacific coast province of British Colombia. HBC believes that there there have been some regional diferences on these between these areas, but does not know enough yet about Canada to identify them. Since World War II, however, these regional differences have largely disappeared.


The first Canadians were the Native Americans. They like the other groups to follow were immigrants, but of course preceeded the Europeans by several centuries. The various tribes were related to those of the northern United States and the Great Plains. The major difference were the Alieut peopke of northeastern Canada. Native Amnericans comprise a larger portion of the Canadian population than the American popuilation. Canada like America is a nation of immigrants. Unfortunately I do not yet have much information on Canadian immigration. Many of the groups that came to America also went to Canada. There are, however, differences in the ethnic mix. The most important gruups are the English, French, Scottish, Irish, and German. The most notable difference with Anerica is the importance of the French population. The Germabs are important, but not as important as in merica. The Irish are an even more important group in Canada than in Ametica, but are primarely Protestant. Hispanics are not a major population group, a major difference which has developed in recent years.. We do not yet have detailed information on the Canadian pattern, but this is a topic we hope to persue.


Our family section provideds a great deal of fashion and sociological data. We now have family sections for several coyntries. These family sections help to put boy's fashions in a better context to see how the father, mother, and sisters were dressed. In some cases the photographs will even include the grandparents. It is interesting to see how the fashions of the other members of the family changed along with the boys over time. These family pages provide useful insights into family life and how Canadians lived over time. One interesting observation is how family sizes changed over time. The family images provide insights that individual portraits do not. We will organize these images by decades. We have only a few decade pages at this time. But we are gradually adding more pages. Our archive is still limited, but we urge Canadian readers to contribute their family images.


We do not yet have much information on Canadian institutions except schools. The most important institutiions affecting children of course are the schools which are also the major activity for children. We do not yet have any information on orphanages. We do have a little information on sanatoria.


Photography was invented in Europe and quickly made its way across the North Atlantic. Major developments also occurred in Canada. At this time we do not know if photography developed any differently in Canada than in other countries. This topic is of interest to HBC because often formats, cases, cards, and frames can hrlp date images. We have begun to work on this tgopic in the main photographic secfion of HBC, but zt this tome have very little country-specific information on Canada. e also hope to develop some information on Canadian photographers.


HBC is always looking for sources of information, especially on line sources. This will allowed HBC readers interested in certain subjects to pursue their intersts in detaila nd then hopefully rerport some of their findings back to HBC. A reader has pointed out a valuable source of information on Canada. "I found a quite interesting site of the National Canadian (Quebec) Library. It's mainly in French, but there is a English summary and numerous old pictures of the French Canadian way of life in past years.

Personal Experiences

We have begun to collect information about individual Canadian boys. Here some readers have contributed information about their experiences. We have also added some accounts we have developed from available images. Hopefully our Canadian readers will help us develop information for this section. Here the individual entries cover a cross section of social class, and ethnic background over time. Many of the entries here are historic, but we encourage readers to add their personal accounts here.


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Created: September 18, 1998
Last updated: 7:28 AM 3/9/2022