*** boys clothes: German family trends 20th century

German Boys Clothes: Family Trends--The 20th Century

German families 20th century
Figure 1.--We know nothing about this family portrait except that it is German. It is not dated, but looks to us to have been taken in the 1920s. A boy might have worn a sailor suit like this in the 1910s. Notice the kneepants rather than short pants. His parents clothes look like post-World War I clothes to us. The family looks like a prosperous middle-class family. Notice the small size of the family. We have no idea where in German the photograoh was taken. The photogrph has a white border suggesting a post-World War I snapshot, but the pose and background look like a professional portrait.

We have collected numerous images of German families in the 20th century. The images provide a wonderful archive of changing fashions and styles, not only for boys, but for the other members of the family as well. We note many German boys in the early 20th century wearing sailor suits. Tunics were also worn. Norfolk suits were popular with younger boys. Long stockings were commonly worn, especially during the Winter months. After World War I, short pants and kneesocks become more common. We see many boys wearing open collar shirts even with suits during the inter-War era. Until after World War II, German boys wore destinctive styles. Geradually by the 1970s, German boys are increasingly wearing pan-European styles. By the ednd of the century, boys in Germany and other European countres can no longer be easily identified by the clothes they wear.

The 1900s

We note German boys in family portaits commonly wearing salilor suits with sailor hats and caps. . Younger boys might wear tunic suits in different styles. We note several different styles. Older boys wore different styles of sack suits. Norfolk suits were especially common. Kneepants and long stockings were very common. Younger boys commonly had close cropped hair. Girls commonly wore hair bows or tams and berets. Some even wore beretts with hair bows. White or light color dresses were popular, but we also see colored dresses. Gils also wore sailor dresses. Some had wide lace collars. Dark long stockings were common. Both boys and girls wore high-top shoes.

The 1910s

We have quite a number of German family images from the 1910s. Some are formal portraits and others informal snapshots providing a good overview of how the whole faily would have dressed in the 1910s. Formal clothes were still the standard convention. Dressing children in coordinated styles was popular. Younger boys wore sailor hats and cps. Older boys might wear flat caps or military-style school caps. A lot of younger boys wore tunic suits and sailor suits. Norfolk suits were very popular. There were a range of collar and toe styles. We note older boys wearing both kneepants suits and long pants suits. Both socks and long stockings were common. Girls still wore dresses. Pinafores were still common.

The 1920s

We have collected images from several German families during the 1920s. Yonger boys might wear button-on styles. We note that sailor suits wee still very popular, especially for middle-class families. The sailor suit styles were much more traditional thann the variety of styles noted before World War I. We note boys wearing the new sports collars as early as 1920. We also note that kneepants were gradually giving way to short pants. We notice H-bar shorts for younger boys. Long stockings were still very common, but mny boys were also wearing kneesocks. High-top shoes were still common, but we see some boys wearing strap shoes. The girls all wear dresses. We note several girls with pigtails. Boys have short hair cuts, but the very short-cropped styles common in the early 20th century were somewhat less common in the 1920s.

The 1930s

Younger boys might wear button-on outfits as well as suspender or H-bar shorts. We see German boys still wearing sailor suits, especially in the early 1930s. Sailor suits were especially common in middle-class families. The Schiller collar was still popular in the early 1930s, but the popularity declined later in the decade. It was popularity the dress children in the family alike. Long stockings were very common for cold-weather wear for both boys and girls. After the NAZI take-over we see more and more children wearing Hitler Youth uniforms. We see relatively few family photographs with the children in their uniforms. We are not sure if that was uncommon or stemming from the fact that after the War many families destoyed photographs that would suggest a NAZI connection.

The 1940s

German family life and clothing trends in the 1940s was dominated by World war II and its aftermath. The principal impact at first was concription and the activation of reservists. This mean that fathers and brothers were away at the front. The campaihns at first were short and caualties almost unbelievally light, but this changed with the invasion of the Soviet Union (June 1941). When the war began to turn against Germany. the NAZIs increased conscription and eventually at the end of the war began drafting teenagers (16 year olds) and older men. Austerity was not a first a factor in Germany. In fact with success on the battlefield, the Germans could loot food and consumer goods and ship it to the Reich. The Armistice with France place stiff reparations on France which the French began paying off in consumer goods like fashionable clothing. This also changed as the War turned ahainst German. The NAZIs adopted a policy of Total War and shortanges began to appear on the Home Front. German industry and large cities were destroyed by the Allied strategic bombing campaign. Thus by the end of the War the German people were bginning to starve and consumer goods like clothes were virtually unobtainable. The immediate post-War years were very difficult for German families. This did not begin to change until the Marshall Plan (1948) began to stimulate the European economy and the German Economic Miracle was launched.

The 1950s

Unidentified Family (early 1950s)

A photograph from the early 1950s shows a German mother and her three sons. We would guess that they are a middle-class family. All three boys wear some kind of suspender shorts amd long stocking.

The 1960s

Germany by the 1960s had largely recovered from the disaster of Wor;d War II, at least Western Germany. The German Economic Miracle transformed West German and by the 1960s wee the most prosperous country in Europe--much more prosperous than before the War. German families had considerable disposable income, including income for fashionablr clothing. Major shifts were occurring in popular styles. The sailor suit that was so common before the War had completely disappeared. Clothing was becoming increasingly casual. We still see some boys wearing suits, but they were not commonly worn to school any more. Short pants were still common at the beginning of the decade, but were declinung in popularity by the end of the decade, becoming casual summmer wear. Knee socks for boys declined sharply in popularity. American styles like "T" shirts, colorful shirts, anf jeans become very popular. The popularity of jeans affects leaderhosen which were once popular for casual wear.

The 1970s


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Created: April 21, 2002
Last updated: 9:21 PM 4/24/2009