Hans-J: Garments

Figure 1.--Here I am in 1938 with some of my touys. I am wearing my first real suit with a blouse that had a Peter Pan collar.

Our family photographs show me wearing a wide range of clothing and outfits. They are a very good representaion of what a middle class German boy wore before, during, and after World War II. Here are some specific details about the clothes I wore as a boy. My father obviously was rather fond of the sailor style as he bought them and sent them as gifts.


I wore a variety of headwear as a boy. With my Traininganzüge I wore a wollen knitted cap that fitted snugly to the shape of my head. A peak came down in the middle of my forehead. I had uniform cap with my sailor suit. I wore berets a lot as a younger boy. We called them a " Baskenmütze " or Basque cap. My cousins wore various other caps such as a " Tirolerhut " or Alpine cap, often worn with Lederhosen. My cousins also wore Schirmmütze. A "Schirmmütze" is simply a cap (Mütze) with a visor (Schirm). So a baseball cap can be a "Schirmmütze". The Germans usually use it to men a cap that was popular in the 1940s and 50s.


When I was 2¾ years old a photograph in our garden shows me wearing a " Gamaschen ". (The word "Leggings" was unknown at this time. Under the Gamaschen I think I was wearing long stockings.)


We wore various styles of coats and jackets in the Winter.


As a little boy at home playing during the summer in the garden I commonly wore a play dress ( Spielhöschen ). This snapshot shows me wearing a Spielhöschen . These outfits are called rompers in America and barboteuses in France. I am 3 years old in a photograph taken in mid-1938. I'm not sure to what age I wore these outfits. I was no longer wearing them at the time I began school. I'm not sure what color this one was.


Younger boys wore Traininganzüge for play outside in the cold Winter weather. In America they were called a snowsuit. Under a Traininganzug we always wore long stockings. They really covered us up. They were really warm, especially when worn with warm underwear and long stockings. I wore one at age 3 in 1938. It was a dark suit, but I'm not sure what color. outfits. These were not just toddler outfits. We had Trainingsanzüge much longer. There is another picture where I am about 9 years. I also remember still wearing one for school sport in winter when I was about 15. (The gym hall was not heated in 1950.) At that age, however, I was no longer wearing long stockings anymore under them.)


Sweaters were commonly worn in the Fall and Winter, primarily pullovers. The Norwegian ( Norwegermuster ) was the most popular style.

Sailor Suits

I wore several sailor suits when I was a boy. It was my father who bought them for me. My father obviously was rather found of the sailor style as he bought them and sent them as gifts. I had several different sailor suits in both short and long pants. I had dark blue suits in a heavy material for winter. I had another sailor suit for the summer. This was a light-blue suit in a light-weight material with long pants. These sailor suits were used like suits for special occassions rather than play suits. My sailor suits were not precisely styled like German naval uniforms, but rather stylishly rendered in the sailor styles for boys. Many had a lanyard with a thin whistle I greatly enjoyed blowing when allowed.


I wore my first real short pants suit for Christmas 1939 (figure 1). I was 4 3/4 years old. It was reserved for Sunday and special occasions. I remember that it was a light blue-grey with button pants. I wore it with brown long stockings. I also had a sports jacket. A cousin and I had the same sports jackets made to look like double-breasted jacket. There was some velvet at the collar. His sports jacket was made in a different material, at least a different pattern.


We wore long-sleeve shirts most of the year (Fall/Winter/Spring). Only in the warm Summer weather did we wear short-sleeved shirts. Usually they were white or light colors for easy washing. For some reason I remember very clearly that during Winter 1949/50 a school friend received a nice warm shirt from relatives in America. It was a bright yellow--quite unusual at the time. He wore it for the first time in February which is Carnival season (a Catholic festival). I remember we had fun teasing him that it was not proper for a boy in a prestigious school in a town with a strong Protestant tradition (about 3/4s of my classmates were Protestants) to wear Carneval clothes. He was also a Protestant and became very angry. Stuttgart was located in the American occupation zone, and we were much influenced by American clothing. The economy slowly began improving after 1948. By the early 1950s it was possible to buy clothes and consumer goods again. We boys began wearing rather American looking shirts, shirts with patterns such as checks or stripes in a variety of colors. American soldiers when off duty often wore these shirts. My class in Summer 1952 took a 2-week excursion to northern Germany which was in the British occupation zone. People seeing our colored shirts thought we were foreigners.


At my confirmation I got a tie for my suit. Whenever I wore the suit later I did it with the tie.


At home and in school we generally wore short pants. Younger boys also wore long stockings with shorts during the Winter. This varied somewhat depending on one's parents. Some mothers were more protective than others. I never had Bavarian Lederhosen. Sometimes on Sundays for walking with our parents or grand parents we wore our best suits ( Ausgehanzug ) like my sailor suits with long pants. Older boys might have knicker suits. I also always wore short pants as a boy, with very few exceptions up to about 12 years. There were the long pants on my Traininganzüge or snowsuit as did my ski suits. Also some of my sailor suits had long pants. My first real pair of long pants in the real adult style was my Confirmation Suit I got at age 14, but I only wore that for special occassions. Until I was 16 I continued to usually wear short pants at home and at school in summer, knickers in winter. Mother often purchased my shorts a size too big so I could wear them longer.


Long, knitted stockings were worn in the Winter when the temperature fell below 15°-18°C. Usually this meant from October through April which meant more than half the year. My long stockings both woolen and cotton and mostly brown in color. Sometimes one reads that children did not like wearing long stockings. I personally can not recall have any such objections as a boy. I also can't remember boys being teased about wearing them when wearing shorts or when undressing for sports even at age 14. [HBC note: Here the chronological period of the War and post-War era is probably a factor.] We were used to wearing them to keep warm. The only point of discussion that I can recall as a boy was at what temperature wearing long stockings was started as Winter approached or ended after Spring arrived. My last photograph showing me wearing short pants with long stockings was taken in Spring 1946. I was 11 years old. I am wearing a sailor jacket. After that time I had knickers for the cold Winter weather, but I wore long stockings with my knickers until the Winter of 1949/50 when I turned 15 years old.


Our family photographs of course do not show my underwear so I will describe them. Our Summer and Winter underwear were different. I wore a Summer combination ( Hemdhose ) which was open behind and buttoned in the front at the neck down to the legs--like a men's buttoned body of the present time. [HBC note: Still not sure what the last phrase means.] One additional remark about what I called "Hemdhose", Look at your page Hemdhose. The two boys wear what I know to be "Hemdhosen" under the stocking supporters. In the Winter we wore a warm undershirt and a woolen chrocheded " Leibchen " which were used to attach the four straps with buttons to hold up our long stockings. HBC has compiled some details about German Leibchen. We also wore woolen chrochetted short underpants, also fastened to buttons around the waist. The " Leibchen " (or " Leible " as it was called in the south German Swabian dialect). The Leibchen was a child's garment and buttoned in back like a women's bra. They were worn by children up to age 8-10 years. I suppose being back buttoning made it easier for mothers to help dress them. And it made it more difficult for us children to dress ourselves. Older children got buttons on the front of their Leible as they, of course, dressed themselves. There were differences from family to family. The stocking straps I had were small (1/3 inch) rubber bands with button holes every inch. The straps were attached by buttons mother sewed on my stockings. The underwear was made by mother, grandmothers, or aunts every year as we grew older. During the War and in the difficult years following the War, "recycled" material was used. After I turned 15 I began wearing adult-style underwear. No Hemdhose in Summer or Leible in Winter. I had later long underpants only in the Winter for skiing. Now woolen tights are worn for skiing.


Men and boys in the early 20th century wore "Nachthemden" (night shirts). I am not sure when "Schlafanzüge" (pyjamas) began to replace nightsures. As a child I can only remember wearing "Schlafanzüge" (pyjamas). I have a photo standing in front of my bed in a Schlafanzug with my dolls.


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Created: February 24, 2004
Last updated: 9:52 PM 4/2/2005