German Boys' Clothes: Personal Experiences

Figure 1.--This German photograph is undated. HBC would guess it was taken in the 1900s, in part because of the Eton collar. The Eton collar was not as common in Germany as in England, but it was worn by some German boys.

HBC has received a few accounts about German boys or foreign boys in Germany. These accounts provide a great deal of useful information needed to build our German section. Hopefully German readers will provide some additional accounts. Unfortunately we have at this time few accounts from German boys in Germany. We have noted a great many German visitors to HBC and we hope that some will eventually submit some personal accounts. A German reader has suggested including published books about childhood which provide much needed details about boyhood experiences even though clothing may only be mentioned tagently. This is particularly important for earlier periods beyond the age range of HBC contributors.

Brief Accounts

HBC has noted or has been sent a number of very short refferences about the individual experiences of German boys regarding their clothes.

The 1870s

Johann Stueck (1877)

A HBC reader tells us, "This is my grandfather, Johann Christoph Friedrich Stueck, who was born in Kassel, Germany, 1865. He was the owner of Stueck's Hotel in Kassel. He later settled in Wiesbaden, where he married Marie Schramm and bought the Beausite Hotel. My nephew in Holland sent me these old pictures of my grand-parents. This picture was taken when he was perhaps 12 years old. I thought it looks interesting as far as the clothes are concerned."

The 1880s

The 1890s

The 1900s

Mahlke, Kurt (1900)

Here we have a portrait of 4-year old Kurt Mahlke in 1900. The portrait was taken in Neustettin, Pomerania. Unfortunately that is all we know about Kurt. There are, however, some interesting aspects of his clothing. Kurt wears a plain kneepanhts sailor suit. The sailor suit was a popular choice for German boys at the turn of-the-20th century as was his cropped hair. There are some interesting aspects to his outfit.

Hans G. Benz (Early 20th century)

Hans G. Benz wrote Gute Nacht Jakob describing childhood in Berlin before World War I. It deals in particular with the relationship of the author to a [jicksaw? jigsaw] that he kept.

Josef Eberle (1901-86)

Josef Eberle was a noted journalist and writer. He is best known as a journlist. He was not allowed to work by the NAZIs, but became the editor of a major German newspaper after the War. As a boy Josef remembers wearing white sailor suits as a boy. He describes how he and the other boys used to get their white sailor suits dirty during festivities. He also apparently wore Swabian folk costume, presumably on special occassions.

Figure 2.--Another popular boyhood account is Erich Kästners Als ich ein kleiner Junge war. He has some marvelous accounts about Dutch boyhood.

Erich Kästners (Early 20th century)

Another popular boyhood account is Erich Kästners Als ich ein kleiner Junge war. That would translate as, ("When I was a little boy"). The book describes his childhood in Dresden until 1914. He has some marvelous accounts about German boyhood. At the age of 3 years, he was taken to the photographer by his mother. He had to wear a sailor dress with white pique collar (a stiff thing that looks like rhombic or lines made out of cotton. It's produced through special weaving). He also wore black ichy stockings made out of wool, and laced shoes. He had to wear garters as well to keep his stockings up, but they always fell down anyway. He didn't like it at all. The photographer said cheese, but he had to help Erich by waving a jumping jack. At the age of 7 or 8 years he wore a velvet suit for special events.

The 1910s

Stefan Andres (1910-17)

Stefan Andres described the clothes he wore as a boy in a book about his childhood in Brunnen. A German reader tells us, "Until the age of 4 years he wore dresses. Later he wore short trousers under his dresses, because he longed for them a lot. Later he wore so called "Klappenhosen" trousers that you could open separately at the back and naturally at the front, too. I'm not sure how these may have looked like, but I think they had a "Latz" English "bib" that you could open backwards. He had to wear a smock apron, too. He didn't like this, because other boys didn't wear them. Around 10 years he wore long trousers, as his elder brother had done before him. At first communion he wore a black hat, a bunch of white flowers, a candle with a white handkerchief with "Spitzen", black Knöpfschuhe (shoes with laces or buttons) and he had an hymnal (hymn book). He wore unlike other boys short trousers. Possibly all in black, as the suit was made from his fathers sundays best suit who had died shortly before." [Stefan Andres, Der Knabe im Brunnen.]

The 1920s

Many German boys still wore suits, although they were not as popular a in the 1910s. Middle-class German boys still commonly wore sailor suits in the 1920s, but they were less common for working-class boys. We see many boys wearing sweaters. Quite a number of boys wore sweaters rather than suits to school, especially in primary school. We see more suits in secondary school. Short pants became standard for German boys in the 1920s. We still see knee pants in the early 1920s, but most boys wore short pants by the end of the decade. Older boys night wear knickers. We notice both knee socks and long stockings worn with short pants. The choice was often seasonal. Many boys still wore high-top shoes although we begin to see more low-cut shoes during the 20s. Bangs were popular hair cuts for boys.

Figure 3.--Here we see a boy from a family album. I'm not sure what the sign says, but he looks older than the boys just beginning school. He wears a sweater, short pants, and long stockings.

The 1930s

We Have achived quite a number of pages showing the experiences of German boys in the 1930s. The boys wear quite a range of outfits. Suits were becoming less common than in the 1920s. Many boys wore sweaters to school. Most boys wore short pants, but older boys might wear knickers or long pants. Sailor suits were still popular in the early 30s. Most boys wore ether kneesocks or long stockings.For many German boys of this period, their participation in youth groups was an important part of their childhood. Youth moveements were well established an diverse in the early 1930s. After the NAZIs seized power, groups were either banned or folded into the Hitler Youth.

The 1940s

The 1940s in Germany as with the rest of Europev was dominated by World War II. Almost all German boys had to join the Hitler Youth and wore the uniform. German fashions were no at first adversely affected, in part because of tghe German exploitation of the occupied countries, Especially important was france. Large shipments of French clothes to the Reich as war reparations meant that fashionable clothing ws readily available. As the War went against the NAZIs this situation changed. The Allied naval blockade affected the availbility of cotton. The Allied air campaign devestated German industry and the tranportation network. The country was left ruined with the cities piles of rubble. Factories were destroyed or closed meaning that clothing was not manufactgured. . Germans were impoverished, unable to aford clothing and other consumer goods. Many children for several yeas after the War had to make do with the cllothes they had and what ever hand-me-downs were available. Economic conditions did not begin to improve until 1948 in West Germany with the Marshall Plan and the beginning of the German Economic Miracle. East Germany forbidden by Stalin to participare in the Marshall Plan recovered at alower rate. .

The 1950s

We have collected a good bit of information on boys clothing during the 1950s. The photographic record and catalogs provide a great deal of information. We also have acquired information on several individual boys which provide a variety of interesting insights. We see clothing becoming more informal in the 1950s. Boys no longer commonly wore suits to school. We see a range of informal clothes. Many boys wore casual shirts to school with sweaters when the weather got cooler. Boys commonly wore short pants in the early 50s. Lederhosen were popular. We see many boys wearing long pants by the late 50s, especially during the winter. Knee socks also became much less common. We also see teenagers wearing jeans by the late 50s. The German Ecoomic Miracle transformed West Germany. Money was still tight in the early r0s as a result of World War II. By the late 50s, Germans were becoming prosperous, able to afford all kinds of consumer goods, including clothes for thei children.

The 1960s

English boy in Germany (1950s-60s)

An English boy in Germany provides HBC information about his expereinces in Germany during the 1950-60s. He remembers in particular the lederhosen. My father was an English serviceman following the war and I was consequently brought up in military communities throughout the world. During the 1950's we lived mainly in England. As many service men had married German women while serving in Germany following the war even in England many boys wore lederhosen.

American boy in Europe (1960s)

An American boy in Europe provides HBC information about his experiences during the 1960s. The strongest memories that I have about the clothes I wore as a boy was the short pants I wore as a little boy. After an embarassing experience as a younger boy in Wyoming, I was a little shy about wearing short pants. While I still wore shorts for play and casual wear, I never thought as a 12 year-old ready to begin 7th grade that I would ever dress up in short pants and knee socks. That was, however. before my dad got a job in Paris and I found myself in Europe.

Christoph: Lederhosen (1960s)

A German reader recalls his childhood and the lederhosen he wore as a boy. The variety of todays clothing and materials, suitable for all occasions, seasons and weather was not availible in the beginning of the 60s, especially not for children. The conspicuous signs from boys clothing, conditioned by the fashion at that time and the social behavior also in relation to the decades before where short leather trousers (lederhosen) for boys, sometimes worn the year round.

English Boy in Germany (The 1960s)

An English boy and his brothers spent some time in Germany. His father was stationed there with the British military. Most of his time was spent in Germany. While in Germany they took trips to the Netherlands to camp and see the sights. He remembers a bot about how the German and Dutch boys dressed.

English Visitor (1968)

An English reader remembers a trip he made to Germany in 1968. He wa on a swim teaming being hosted by a German swim club. He stayed during the Summer with a German family that had a boy a bit older, but there were boys his age he played with. The boy's father was an avid photographer.

The 1970s

Thomas (1970s)

HBC has very interesting information about boys clothes from German catalogs. My mother in the 1970s ordererd from "Baur", "Wenz", "Otto", and "Quelle". She ordered what she thought would be nice for me and I usually was not consulted. I first saw my new clothes when they arrived in the mail and I had to try them on. Usually it was okay what she ordered (jeans etc), but sometime I was "shocked" over the clothes that i would wear. When a package came I was always a bit nervous over the surprise that might come ....jeans or kniebundhose etc. The "Baur" 1970s catalogs has many sandals for boys there were very open. Many sandals in the early 1970s had very wide stripes and actually looked almost like shoes. These were the ones that I was used to wearing. These were common in the "Quelle" and "Otto" catalogs. So I was a little uneasy when shoes from "Baur" arrived. I must say that I was a bit shocked when I saw what was inside. My mother had ordered sandals that looked qoite different and were very open for me to wear that summer. With my sandals usually wore Kniestrümpfe which mother also ordered from catalogs. On cool days in the winter, mother wanted me to wear Kniebundhosen. She insisted I wear the Kniebundhosen to school and on sundays.

The 1980s

German Boy (1980s)

A German reader tells HBC, "Around 1983, at the age of about four, I wore my first lederhosen suit. My sister had the same one. It consisted of a short, grey raw lederhosen with red and black stripes at the pockets and a dark green halter with a ivory design showing a deer. My second suit, around 1985, consisted of a short, black smooth lederhosen with red stripes at the pockets and a dark halter with an Edelweis design. I can't remember wearing lederhosen at primary or secondary school."

The 1990s

German Boy in Texas (1990s)

A German boy has provided us some information about his experienes in Texas during the 1990s. A German exchange student tells about his experiences at an American school in a conservative American high school. "Hi everybody at home in Germany and the rest of the world. I'd like to show you some pictures and some things about my life as an exchange student in the U.S."

German Boy: Thomas (1990s)

My name is Thomas. I was born in 1982 in the western part of Germany, in a city called Essen. In May 1996 I had my confirmation. I remember the conflict that I had with my parents, because they were a little bit conservative and wanted me to wear a dark suit with a white shirt and black tie. At this time, it wasn`t modern and trendy for the youth, to wear a suit like that. I think it`s the same problem like today. Most boys don`t feal comfortable wearing a suit. This was the case for me. My parents and I reached a compromise. The day of my confirmation was a very hot day in May 1996. I didn`t wear a dark suite. I wore grey trousers with a white short-sleeved shirt, a black tie, black kneesocks and black patent leather shoes. For somewhat of a formal look for the occassion I wore a grey vest.


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Created: November 3, 2001
Last updated: 5:40 PM 11/23/2010