English Boys' Clothes: Personal Experiences during the 1940s

Figure 1.--

Some interesting details are available on specific families as well as articles from fashion magazines. We have also added some historical accounts as well as published memoirs. We have also included named portraits, even though there is often little information available. HBC's English readers are encouraged to provide HBC information about their personal experiences or historical accounts with which they are familiar. These personal accounts add greatly to the other information HBC has garnered from fashion magazines, catalogs, and available images. Often the personal perspective is not avialable from these other sources. Thus these personal accounts are a very important part of HBC. HBC has commpiled a list of 1940s experiences from both literary sources and accounts provided by readers. These include both war-time accounts of life on the home front as well as well as life in post-war England where economic conditions were still difficult.

Michael Caine (1933- )

Film star Micahel Caine or Maurice as he was then called at the time was evacuated from London during World War II. He was not well treated and his mother had to resuce him.

Alexander Mosley (1939?- )

Diana Mitford, one of the noted Mitford sisters (Nancy, Unity, Diana, Deco, and ???). Diana had two sons, Alexander and Max. A 1941 photograph image here shows the two boys and their nanny. Alexander is about 2.5 years and Max, 14 months. Alexander wears a very short dresses without socks and the strap shoes or sandals which were commonly worn by British boys for school or summer play wear. The ones for boys almost always had the center "T" bar or two double straps. Only girls and very small boys wore the Mary Jane style single strap. Alexander does not appear to be wearing a smock, but rather a dress like a small girl might wear. Max's outfit is harder to make out, but he looks more like a gender-less baby rather than a little girl. Dresses for boys had passed out of fassion after World War I, but small boys in Europe were still sometimes dressed in dresses or more commonly smocks as late as the 1950s. This was especially true of artistocratic and wealthy families. Wealthy children raised by nannies were often still often dresses in traditional clothes and because they had limited contact with other children, there clothing could sometimes be different than the mainstream fashions worn by most boys from less affluent families. This often changed abruptly when the boys at about 8 years old wre sent off to their boarding preparatory schools.

Harry Smith (1939-40)

Harry Smith remembers his and his brother's evacuation in 1939 and living away from his mum as an evacuee in the early 1940s.

Evacuation to America (1940)

A few years after the peaceful 1936 scene in our back garden later London was targeted by the Luftwaffe. My brother and I were evacuated to America. Our little sister was deemed to young to accompany us. My brother and I were evacuated to the USA in August 1940. This was only days before the first raids on London. We went by train to London to Liverpool. We were in a group called the 'Transcriptors'. The name was given as we were sponsored by the Boston Transcript Newspaper. Our welfare was under the supervision of the American Committe for the Evacuation of Children.

Colin (early-1940s)

Our reader tells us, "This is a photograph of me on the left anf mny brother. It was taken during the early-1940s in England. I think my mum wanted a little girl. She certainly dressed me up in fancy clothes, for those days. We were dressed up for a wedding, but i dont remember much about it." Well you know Colin, mums have all kinds of ideas. Some rather enjoying dressung younger children up like little girld so dolls. This was more prevalent in the 19th century before boys' fashion conventions were more standardized. In the case here, the wedding outfits seem fairly standard for a formal wedding.


Here we will add brief accounts that we acquire that are not detailed enough for a full page. Readers are encouraged to sibmit more detgailed accounts, but it is not necessary if they prefer just to send along brief sniptes that we will archive here.

A Wartime Childhood

I was a wartime child and well remember some of the odd clothes I was made to wear as I was growing up during the 1940s and 50s. Clothes rationing was in force and therefore appropriate dress was not always easy to find or afford. Thinking back to those long distant days I suppose my parents did a good job in clothing us children in very difficult circumstances--at least we had something to wear.

Another Wartime Childhood

I was born in 1939. I don't know whether it was the austerity of the War period and the time after the war when materials were still not available or whether it was simply that boys were still boys and not 'young men'. Today we seem to go out of our way to make boys them seem older--in my view, todays' modern fashions are simply a way to get them to spend more on clothes and other fashion accessories. The market rules not parents.

Barbara: Leggings (1940s)

Barbara tells us about her experiences with leggings (githers). "I was looking on Google to see what there was re gaiters as I`m trying to put my mothers side of the family into a real life story for my family. Gaiters were part of it. I was born in 1937, in South East England. My Mum came from the North of England [Lancashire]. I now realise that many of the clothes my sister and I wore came from Mums relatives and were handed down to us during and after World War II. Mums half-sister is only 5 years. older than me so I was first in line for her blouses and dresses. Always old fashioned by the time I wore them! She`s recently reminded me about wearing gaiters.Mind you, I think we knew them as leggings."


I want to thank you for your splendid web-site, especially for the pages dealing with corduroy which I remember wearing as a boy. They were available in many glorious colors. I also had a cord bomber jacket. I remember that my first pair of long trousers were cords. The cords I wore as a boy have now been replaced with denim. Corduroy is still available, but the quality is not a patch on the corduroy that was around i the 1940s and 50s.

The 1940 House

HBC readers interested in 1940s Britain may want to look at the actual recreation of a 1940s house, one in a series of television programs aimed at showing real people trying to live in an actual period house and funishings and dressing in 1940s style homes.

Roger (1940s-50s)

I was born in England in 1941 and had a fairly normal English boyhood. I have quite a lot of photographs. It seems to me looking at them that what boys wore then was not a lot different from what they wear now. I especially remember a sailor suit I wore as a little boy. I have a photograph probably taken on my 4th or 5th birthday. And I guess the sheath knife was a birthday present. Boys that age would never be given a present like that today. It wasn't unusual at the time. Like every other small boy at the time, I wore a knife all the time. Going out without one would have been like not putting on your pants. We wore them in school too. Yet we never stabbed each other, and I only once ever badly cut myself. I still have a scar on my left knee. I guess I was wearing shorts at the time. I loved the sailor suit. We lived near a port and during and just after the War I saw lots of tough looking Popeye characters wearing them. Also mine had a whistle which I went around blowing and driving adults mad. Mysteriously the pea disappeared from it overnight and it wouldn't work any more. My dad said I must have worn it out. I have photographs in school attire and one of what I wore when I wasnít at school. They show what a middle class British boy wore then.


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Created: March 9, 1999
Last updated:1: 8:09 PM 10/24/2014