German Boys' Clothes: Chronologies -- the 1910s

Figure 1.--These German children attended an urban primary school. They look to be workingclass children. HBC estimates that they were photographed in the late 1910s. Note the variety of clothes. The one consistent fashion is that all of the boys wore kneepants and long stockings.

HBC has only limited information or photographs that can be specifically attributed to the 1910s. Some of the avaialble school photographs, however, do provide some information that is either dated or for which HBC has estimated the dates. Because German schools did not normally require school uniforms, the clothes boys wore to school provide a good cross section of boys wear during this period. We hope to pursue chronological information on clothing in greater detail. Until we are able to do this, available information from school photographs is instructive. We note considerable variation from school to school. This may reflect regional and demographic variables. Some boys wear sailor suits, but they are not as popular as they were in the 1900s. Many boys have suit coats with Norfolk styling.

School Children

Although not very animated, school portraits are useful ways of assessing fashion in any given period. This is especially true in Germany where school children did not normally wear uniforms or smocks (as in France) which covered theor clothes. School portaits at a glance cover the clothing of a substantial number of children in any given location.

Unknown school (about 1913)

This class of primary-age children were photographed in 1913. They wear mostly sailor suits and plain jackets, mostly without bows. Many of the girls wear pinafores.

Unknown school (about 1915)

This class of younger children looks to have been photographed about 1915. They wear mostly smocks and sailor suits, often with large bows.

Unknown school (late 1910s)

This looks to HBC to be a German class photographed in the late 1910s. The early 1920s is a possibility, but the late 1910s looks more likely. The boys wear a wide range of outfits from suits to sweaters and scarves. All of the boys, however, wear knepants and dark long stockings.


German boys didn't have to wear any special uniforms to school, so they wore what ever their parents bought for them. A Polish reader reserching boys clothes in Breslau (now a Polish city) writes, "In magazines from the 1900s there were something like Schulanzugs (clothes considered as more elegant and 'correct' to school) and sailor suits weren't popular within them." This appears to have changed in the 1910s before and during the World War I when sailor suits became more popular. Our Polish reader also tells us, "And in the 1910s, especially before and during the War, military uniforms and sailor suits were very promoted in magazines, so perhaps it had infuence on boys. That may be the reason of popularity of sailor suits in 1910s." [Jankowski]

Young Gentleman (1912)

Individual portraits also provie us useful insights on how boys dressed during any given period. A HBC reader has provided us this posed, but still charming portrait of a German boy abou 10-11 years old out for a stroll in the countryside. He wears a very smart knickers suit and flat cap. It is difficult to make out his tie and shirt collar. He has a walking stick in left hand from which he is has casually suspending his over-coat and he is also carrying container labeled ' Zeppellin II ' -- perhaps this was his lunch box. Of course the Zeppellin was a huge advance in avialtion at the time and still unconnected with warfare. Most German boys would have been very excited about it. The postcard is dated September 22, 1912. It apparently was part of a family collection of photographs of this boy. Particularly striking about the post card is the surrounding Art Deco decoration. It is a cellofix-postcard (patent of Kraft & Steudel 1889 in the German city of Dresden).


Jankowski, Tomasz. E-mail message, April 28, 2003.


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Created: February 4, 2002
Last updated: April 28, 2003