Figure 1.--This photograph is undated, but looks like England, probably London, during the 1950s. The boys here wear what look like play clothes, perhaps over the weekend or duriung the summer. Note the plymsols and grey socks that the boy on the left is wearing. I believe that the boy on the right is wearing sandals, but the photograph is not real clear.
One major change in the post-World war II era is that boys began acquiring larger wardrobes. Before the War many boys had one set of best clothes and another set of clothes for school. Play clothes were generally just worn out school clothes. There were not a lot of specilised casual or play clothes. This changed after the War, especially by the 1950s. Families varied as to what boys did after school. Many boys just kept on their school uniform, taking off their tie and blazer if their school required them. Other mums insisted that boys change out of their school uniform to make sure their school clothes were kept in good condition. More casual clothes were worn during the weekends and furing the summer. Immediately after the War, a boys play clothes reflected his schools clothes in part play clothes were commonly his old school clothes. Thus boys who wore shorts to school commonly had shorts for play. By the 1960s, many boys who wore short pants to school had long pants for play, often jeans.
This image here is unidentified. It look English to us, but some readrs believe that it is Dutch.
The photograph is undated, but looks like England, probanly London, during the 1950s (figure 1). The boys here wear what look like play clothes, perhaps over the weekend or duriung the summer. Note the plymsols and grey socks that the boy on the left is wearing. I believe that the boy on the right is wearing sandals, but the photograph is not real clear. This image is interesting because it shows that English boys by the mid-50s were wearing shorter cut short pants. Unfortunately the image is not dated. A reader writes, "Are you sure that's England? I didn't think that English boys began wearing short-cut short panrs until the 1960s." A British reader writes, "I agree it is early 1950s. The architechure does suggest London. The lines behind the boys are not railroad lines but tram lines. London got rid of its tram system by about 1956. These factures suggest sometime between 1953 to 1956." HBC believes both the architecture and the boys black plymsols and grey sock clearly mean that this is n an English image. As to the date, it looks like the mid to late 50s to us, but the British reader's reference to the tram lines is helpful. I'm not sure that while tam service was ended, that all the tram rails were removed by 1956 wch could mean that the image is from thelte 50s or even early 60s. Our reader tells us, "The tram lines might not have been removed quickly but they would have been overgrown with weeds and would have looked disused. The ones in the picture look to be still in use. Also in the background are bikes. I would think that they belong to the children in the picture. Had the track not been in use they would have brought then nearer to were they played not left them by the house walls. On the other hand the boys might live locally and they have left their bikes near to where they live. The puzzling thing is that there are three sets of
track built as track and not into the road as lots of tram lines were. The track in Blackpool, Lancashire is similar to railway lines when it passes through land which is not part of the road."
Another reader thinks that this image is Dutch. "I agree that this photograph was taken in the 1950s, but I do think this picture has been taken in Holland. The architecture is very typical of Dutch working class districts and the boys. I am far from an expert on British boys' clothes but they too look a lot more like Dutch boys than like English boys to me. I would say Rotterdam or The Hague. The tram lines wouldn' t be a problem. Both cities have had and indeed still have a tramway system. For comparison I note a photograph that can be dated and located to Amsterdam April or May 1959." A Dutch reader writes, "This looks like Holland to me also. Not only the houses, but especially the parked bicycles on the left in front of the house. Also the two front doors next to each other are typical. I am sure that one of them says "bis" behind the
number (for example: 18 bis). That means that one of the doors leads to the apartment upstairs. The doors are identical though, but Dutch people know which one is for the place below or the one upstairs. The boys could be anything in Western Europe, but they also look Dutch to me." A French reader writes, "
Maybe this Duch reader is right. Refering at the head of the boys, they seems more German-Duch type than English. Since a very long time , the Eglish people are living alone on their island , without much mixing , the result is many English have the same type of head ; rather different as these boys ; but attention it is a general rule that admits a lot of exception." An English reader writes, "Spotting Bis! Somebody has a keen eyesight but it looks like the Dutch reader could be right. The three lane tramlines have been a problem and it fits better if its Holland because these places never got rid of
their tram system. On reflection the shorts may not have been such a
tight fit at the time in England.
An English teacher discussed this image wth other teachers, "My colleagues all disagreed with me that the photograph shows somewhere in England. The points that they say indicate a continental setting are the architecture of
the buildings. These are Victorian. Tenaments rather than terraced houses. Indicative of a dock land habitat.The roofs are not typical of England. There
are 3 floors to the houses. The curtains are closed, the television/radio masts attached to the roofs. The lack of a road and tramlines that seem to be in use.
The fair hair of the boys. The shortness of the short pants. The boy on the right whose trousers are ragged and wores sandles the fastening is not English,
neither is the style of ankle sock. The location suggested Northern France to one teacher. Other teachers thought Eastern Germany and one teacher thought the Czeck Republic. All thought the image was taken early 1960. Well that's what they thought. I'd go for northern France rather than East Germany because of the cycles in the back ground. Would East Germans have had modern
cycles then? The time was of the Berlin Wall and escapes to Western Germany."
One major change in the post-World war II era is that boys began acquiring larger wardrobes. Before the War many boys had one set of best clothes and another set of clothes for school.
Play clothes before World War II were often just worn out school clothes. There were not a lot of specilised casual or play clothes. This changed after the War, especially by the 1950s. Families varied as to what boys did after school. Immediately after the War, a boy's play clothes reflected his schools clothes in part play clothes were commonly his old school clothes. Thus boys who wore shorts to school commonly had shorts for play. By the 1960s, many boys who wore short pants to school had long pants for play, often jeans. The concept of play clothes varied from family to family. One major factor here was family affluence. One reader tells us, "Boys in 1950 did wear short pants up to about 13 or
14. They were various lengths. For me 'play clothes' were not always bought specially but clothes that were either old or too colourful to be schoolwear or because my parents thought they were just not suitable for school.' You go to learn, not play' Dad's quote and he believed that the type of clothes you wore helped shape your behaviour thus clothes which
promoted learning were for school and other garments that helped you to get in the mood for play and helped you 'play well' could be worn. My first pair of jeans came from a friends mum whose son had outgrown them. Ths considered play wear or clothes to help in household chores."
Many boys just kept on their school uniform, taking off their tie and blazer if their school required them. Other mums insisted that boys change out of their school uniform to make sure their school clothes were kept in good condition.
More casual clothes were worn during the weekends and during the summer. A British reader tells us, "New clothes were bought during June for the summer holiday which took place in July. This consisted of a blazer, new short panted suit, a pair of short pants separate to the suit and a couple of pairs of kahki shorts. white and coloured cotton shirts, T-shirts, white ankle socks and knee socks. Footwear: sandles and and other lightweight summer footwear. Raimwear were plastic pacamacs. These folded up into small packs and kept in your blazer pocket and used should you be out when it rained. This can be seen here on the boy at the right (figure 1). I only wore plimsols occasionally because I uncomfortable. Thesewere mostly worn in school gym lessons. These clothes were kept so that they could first be worn on holiday. It was a nice feeling to have new clothes each day of the holiday. Afterwards these summer clothes would become the play clothes I would wear for the rest of the long summer
vacation. The white shirts and trousers would them become school wear. The suit would be kept for Sunday and special occasions. The previous years suit would become school wear. The old school wear would then become playclothes.
Our British reader tells us, "Towards the end of August I'd be bought back to school
wear: heavy duty shoes, overcoat, more shirts, and a jersey. However there was not such a dividing line between school clothes and play clothes because I would come home from school and play with my friends without changing into play clothes much to my parents
annoyance. Play clothes were something I'd wear more at the weekend and school holidays."
Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Return to the Main English post-World war II chronology page]
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Clothing styles] [Countries] [Topics]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Satellite sites] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]