*** boys clothes: Greece


Greek boys' clothes
Figure 1.--This Greek boy was photographed about 1975 preparing fo a special family occassion. Boys at the time commonly wore short pants suits for specially occasions. This boy was 10 years old and the suit was available up to size 14.

Greece is of course of great importance in history. It was essentially in Greece where the West began. The basic Western outlook and philospy was born in Greece and continues to be at the heart of Western culture today. HBC has not yet been able to collect much information on the clothing worn by Greek boys. We have little historic information on Greece. We do note that the warm Medditeranean climate of Greece is an imprtant factors as was centuries of rule by the Ottoman Turks. After independence in the 19th centurty, European fashions began to have greater influence. This has been especially true since World War I (1914-18). One reader tells us that boys in Greece used to dress up for formal occasions, but this is now less common. The Greeks do have very distinctive kilt folk costumes.


Greece geographically and historically is where Euripe begins. Across the Dardenneles is Anatolia--the peninsular projection of Asia. But more importantly it is the closest point to the the Fertile Cressent, the craddle of civiilization. Greece is a small country, even by European standards. The limited agriculrure potential, also linited the population that could be supported. Surprisingly, Greece has the longest coastline in Europe because the coast is so irregular, rather wrikled and is nearly bisected by the Cornith Gulf, a narrow, deep inlet of the Ionia Sea. This of course along with the mountneous terrane limiting agrculture, let to a maritime orientaton which would play a huge role in the country's history economy. If you are goung to be a trading people, it helps to be close to a rich people with a taste for luxurious goods. This location for much of histoty, the world's richest couhntry, was a major economic assett. Greece has rocky soil, rugged mountains, forests, and lakes, but the country is perhaps best known for msny islands dotting the sparling blue Aegean Sea to the east. The rest bof the coast overlooks the Mediterranean Sea in the south, and the Ionian Sea in the west. There are three geographic regions: the mainland, the islands, and Peloponnese (the peninsula to the south of the mainland. The primary mountain range is the Pindus. It is especially noted for a dramatic, deep gorge -- the Vikos Gorge, dropping some 3,600 feet (1,100 meters). The highest peak is of course Mount Olympus rising to 9,570 feet (2,917 meters) above sea level. It was seen as the home of the gods.


Greece is a small country at the tip of the Balkn Peninsula. These remarkable people may have had a greater impact on human history than any other prople. Greek history begins with the appearance of primitive Greeks tribes known as the Pelasgian (10,000-3,000 BC). They populated Thrace, Argos, Crete, and Halkidiki. e know little about them, but they are mentioned in the accounts of Homer, Herodotus, and Thucydides. The Golden age of Greece centered in Athens brought us great treasures of art, architecture, and literature (500-300 BC). Greece's most stunning achievement was philosophy. For the first time in recorded history, men began to discuss the basic question of who man is and the nature of esistence rather than just accepting religious kant. While the glorues f Athens are best remembered, ironically Sparta provided a template for modern totalitarianism. Alexander the Great was a Macedonian, but spread Greek ideas or Helenism beyond the narrow confines of Greece itself. Christianity developed in the Helenistic-influenced Roman world. The Greeks inspired the Romans which like Greece was a civilization that came to be based on slavery. The Byzantines carried the classical tradition through the Medieval erra where it played a critical role in the Renaissance. The Byzantines also laid the foundations for Orthodox Christianity. The Ottoman Turks finally captured Constantinople (1453). Greece for four centuries was ruled by the Ottomans. One of the results of the French Revolution was the stiring of nationalist sentiment in the Balkans. The Greek ReVOlt was the beginning of the creation of an independent Greece, although it required the intervention of the Great Powers.


Greece was conquered by the Ottoman Empire (15th century) and was thus out of the European mainstream. Greece achieved its independence (1820s). It was a small, largely agricultural country with only a small industrial sector. This continued into the 20th century. The economy was devestated by World War II and the German occupation which caused a deadly famine. The economy was further damaged by a Communist onspired civil war. Greece benefitted from a recovering European economy. Greece became a popular tourist destinatiin and tourism became an important part of the Greek economy. Socialist political parties and polticans exposing socialist principles have been important in post-War Greece. They have offered the Greek people an extensive social welfare system, winning elections by making entoicing promises. The welfare system constructed as a result was so costly, however, that the Greek economy could simply not support it. This is a problem other European countries are facing. As Prime Minister Thatcher explained in the 1980s, Socialist ecomomies fail when they run out of other people's money to redistribute. This finally occurred in Greece in 2010. The problen was felayed for many years because as a member of the Euro zone, Greece could for many years could borrow money at rates similar to more finncially responsible countries like Germany. The statistics are staggering. The Greek defecit was 13 percent of GDP and the overall national debt waa 115 percent of GDP. About 60 percent of employment is in the non-productive public sector who have generous benefits. Lenders realizing that the current situation is unsustainable stopped lending to Greece and interest rates available to the Government increased to a prohibitive 17 percent. With the Euro in freefall, the Europeans with IMP assistance came up with a $0.95 trillion bailout program. It is unclear if even this huge intervention will solve the problem and it looks increasingly like the debt will have to be restructers, essentialy meaning Greece will default on part of the debt. It will also mean that Greece will have to make substantial cuts in its welfare system.


HBC at this times has some limited information on historic Greek boys' clothing. We do note that the warm Medditeranean climate of Greece is an imprtant factors as was centuries of rule by the Ottoman Turks. After independence in the 19th centurty, European fashions began to have greater influence. This has been especially true since World War I (1914-18). We have little information on fashion trends in the 19th century. Nor do we have any information on early 20th century clothing. The 1930s was surprisingly a period of wealth and stability for Greece. It is often mockingly called "belle epoque". Sailor suits were very popular for boys at that time. Two things that one must consider when it come to boys clothing in Greece during the 1940s is that climate and economics. The climate was (and still is) very warm especially in the southern part of Greece. Greece was also a very poor country at the time, as it struggled with the Nazi occupation (1941-44) and the bloody civil war with the Communists (1944-49). Boys wore very cheap and minimal clothing like short pants and sandals. The same trend of short pants up untill 14 years of age was kept during the 1950s. But it was obvious that during these years people could afford some better clothing for their children. In general the clothing was the same but it was better in quality. Big changes occured during the 1960s. In Athens and other big cities, rich and bourgeois families started dressing their boys in clothes that had more joyous colors. The 1970s in Greece were very fashionable for the adults who chose to dress their children equally fashionable. Some boys wore bell bottoms or (fancy) jeams. Also at that time children started to wear more often sneakers and sport socks instead of dress socks. Boys during the 1980s wore a lot cotton sport uniforms, with matched trousers and tops during winter at school or jeans/cotl� trousers in semi-formal occasions. The shoes were most of the time sneakers or other "made in Greece" leather shoes. The socks were mostly sport type. Blue jeans became the most popular item of clothing for boys during the 1990s. A typical 10 year old boy would be seen in jeans during winter and in shorts during summer. As boys become older they tend to abandon shorts in favor of jeans.



The Greek urban middle class has dressed much as their counterparts in Western Europe beginning with independene in the 1820s. The Greek monarchy, chosen from other countries, was caeryainly an important factor in popularizing Western styles and garments. The peasantry in the rural areas and small villages which constituted much of the population continued to wear traditional clothing through much of the 19th century. We do not yet have details on these traditional garment styles, but eventually hope to add a section on them. Western garments became increasingly common in the countryside in the 20th century, especially after World War I. The sailor suit was a popular garment in Greece as in much of the rest of Europe. Some school children wore smocks. By the 1920s, short pants were becoing increasingly ciommon in Greece, a trend that pesisted throughthe 1960s. Some younger boys appear to have worn rompers, but this appears to have been primarily boys from affluent families. Greek boys still wear shorts, but now mostly as casualwear in the summer.

Hair Styles

HBC notes many historic paintings and photographs of Greek boys in the 19th and early 20th century with short hair cuts or clossed-cropped hair. We do not note younger boys with lng hair as was common in many European countries and America in the late 19th abd early 20th century, but our knowledge of Greek hair styles are still very limited. We note that boys in several other countries often appear with extrenmely short hair or actuall shave heads (Austria, Germany, Russsia, Turkey, and other countries). We are not sure about the origins of this style in Greece. Presumably both fashion and hygine were factors. We are unsure how other factors such as Ottoman rule and the German and Danish royal dynasties were an influence here. Short hair appaers to have beern very common until after World War II. A HBC reader reports, "The haircuts were short in 19th century because of fashion but they were required in school after 1940s. and up until the 70s."


HBC has not yet been able to collect much information on the clothing worn by Greek boys. One reader tells us that boys in Greece used to dress up for formal occasions, but this is now less common. The Greeks do have very distinctive kilt folk costumes.


Here we will follow family fashions over time. HBC has decided to also gather information on entire families. One of the limitations of HBC is that too often we just view boys' clothing without the context of what the rest of the family was wearng. This will help to compare trends in boys' clothing with that worn by mothers, fathers, and sisters. These images will help also help highlight differences in both age and gender appropriate clothing. Here we will collect information about specific families over time as well as individual images of unidentified families to show glimses of Greek families in various historical periods.


Greece is a small country, but there traditionally have been meant destinctive regional differences. Some important regions are northern Greece, the Aegean Islands, and Crete. These differencs today are most apparent in folk costumes. Traditional fashions tended to persist in the rural areas and small villages. After World War II these differences began to decline. Today with television and modern media, there are few differences, except in folk costumes among clothing styles in different regions.

Institutional Clothing

I dont think that Greece ever adopted a strict school uniform rule. School uniforms were actually banned in 1982. But even before children didnt wear strict school uniforms. In the 1960s and 70s the uniform was comprised of something like a blue overal. I am not sure about that but the uniform surely didnt look like those of the U.K. or other european schools. During the 1930s and 40s (or something like that) boys of school age had to wear a special hat with an owl badge on it. It looked like a cop cap and they should wear it at all times even outside school, even at play. If a teacher caught them not wearing it they would be punished next day at school. A HBC reader reports, "The only personal memory of school uniform I have is at parade days". Schools and the military do a parade twice a year. At Independence Day (March 25) and Ochi Day ("No Day," remembering the Greek resistance of World War II, October 28). Students of 5th and 6th grade of elementary schools and selected students of high schools do a parade on those two days. All students must wear a uniform which is determined by the board of the school. The uniform items must be always blue and white. A HBC reader reports, "I had to parade as a 5th and 6th grader at October 28. I remember my school's uniform was consisted of short blue shorts, black or blue shoes, white dress kneesocks, a white sweater and the school's badge. I remember that it felt weird having to wear shorts during a chilly October morning." At that time (late 80s) most elementary school had uniforms with shorts. Nowdays its very rare to find a school with a short pants parade uniform even if it is an elementary school. Orphanages have also played an important role on the 20th century.

Youth Groups

Greece was one of the first countries to form a Scouting troop. The first Scout group was organized in 1910. Greek Scouts are considered very traditional (old fashioned) and close to the principles laid by Baden Powell. Their uniforms have changed a little since the 1940s and all boys of all ages wear khaki shorts and shirt and brown knee socks. Sometimes even adult scouts (as old as 50) wear shorts. We do not know of any other important Greek uniformed youth group with the exception of the Ethniki Organosi Neolaias (EON--National Organization of Youth) which operated from 1936-40.


HBC has only limited information on the Greek movie industry. We do have some information on some individual Greek films. Movie depictions through the 1970s commonly show Greek boys wearing short pants and often sandals, although kneesocks were not as common as in many other European countries. The shorts were often quite short. One film which occurs to stared Haley Mills, but the title doesn't come to mind just now. There are, however, many other examples. Several interesting films were made in the 1990s. Ta delfinakia tou Amvrakikou ("The Little Dolphins of Amvrakikos Bay") is set in the 1930s and shows boys wearing sailor suits. O psylos ("The Flea") is set in a small mountain village during the 1950s and shows a boy wearing short trousers, sweater, boots, and knee socks. I piso porta ("Backdoor") is set during the late 1960s in Athens. It shows a boy wearing shorts, shirt and white dress socks.


Literature describe boy clothes (especially childrens books). One of the most famous books for children is "Trelantonis" (Crazy Anthony) by Penelope Delta, first published in 1932. Delta wrote books for children that had historical settings. O Trelantonis is set in Greece during the 1910s. The main character is Antonis a very mischevious 10-year-old boy. According to the descriptions in the book and the various drawing Antonis is always dressed in a sailor suit with short pants just below the knee. His little brother Alexandros (about five years old) still wears dresses. His older cousin Giannis (about 12year old) wears a sailor suit with long trousers. His other two cousins aged 5-9 years old wear sailor suits with shorts.

Folk Costume

A kilt like costume was worn mainly in the central and southern regions of Greece. The costume derives its name from the pleated white skirt (foustanela) made of many triangular shaped pieces of cloth sewn together diagonally. The foustanela was worn by the Greek fighters of the 1821 revolution and today it serves as the official uniform of the Evzones, Greece�s Presidential Guard, who can be seen guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Athens. The foustanela skirt consists of 400 pleats symbolizing the years during which Greece was under Ottoman rule. The remainder of the costume is composed of a white shirt with very wide flowing sleeves, an embroidered woolen vest, a sash worn around the waist, and shoes (tsarouhia) with large pompons.


There are two important minorities in Greece which have in the past worn destinctine dress. The Jewish community was very important prior to the German invasion in 1941 after which many Greek Jews were deported to NAZI death camps. There was also a Muslim minority resulting from years of Ottoman rule. Many Turks in Greece were excanged with Greeks in Turkey during the 1920s in forced repatriations. There continyes, however to be a small Turkusg minority in Greece.


Photography was first perfected in France. Greece was one of the first foreign countries that French photographers visited to take their pictures. In 1839, Joly de Lotbiniere took the first photographs of Acropolis. Since the mid-1800s Greek photographers started making their own pictures. The first was Filippos Margaritis who also photographed the first royal family of Greece. During the first half of the 20th Century there were numerous photographers in Greece that they had studios in the big cities. Almost all prosperous families of these times had their portraits and childrens portraits taken. The most famous photographer of early 20th century is Periklis Diamantopoulos. In the 1910s through the 30s many photographers started to take pictures of important events such as Wars, demostrations and other political events. At the same time many Greek photographers started taking the first artistic pictures.


A HBC reader tells us that there are at least four important Greek artists that have produced important portraits of boys illustrating historical clothing fashions. HBC is less familar with Greek art than that of some other European countries. HBC readers, however, have provided information on a number of important Greek artists that have provided imaages of Greek boys and their clothing over time. We are just beginning to research these artists


Boys have been photographed both at work and at play showing varying fashions over time. Boys have traditionally learned craft like shoe repair (tsagaris). Poor boys have earned money shining shoes. Images exists of boys playing games. Greek boys have been photographed with bicycles, marbles, group games like hide and seek, hopscotch, and other unique games like "kotsia". This is played with the knee bones of the sheep (after the sheep is eaten during Easter). At "kathara Deftera" all children (mostly the boys) fly a kite. Many Greek boys until the economy became more prosperous in the 1960s couldn't afford football balls. Often they would make do with sheep bladders. Other activities include music and dance.


Large numbers of Greeks immigrated to the United States in the late 19th and early 20th century. The United States was the primary destination, but other countries immograted to Germany, Canada, South Africa and Australia. Immigration is not a new development in Geece, evn in the ancient world the Greks spread out throughout the ancient world.

Individual Accounts

Antonis Benakis (1870s-80s)

Greek children's writer Penelope Delta remembers growing up in a well to do family during the 1870s-80s. She and her brother Antonis were close in age and devoted to each other. As a boy Antonis commonly wore sailor suits and became the inspiration for "Trelantonis" (Crazy Antonis). I'm not sure what Antonis thought of the depiction in his sister's book.

Greek boy in America (1940s)

My parents were from Europe and very traditionally oriented. I remember my first pair of knickers very well, but unfortunately I didn't get to wear them very long. I wore short pants all through elementary school. I also had blue and white sailor suits. My parents immigrated from Greece to America in 1925. Both were old fashion in the custom and culture of Europe. Mother was from Sparta and Dad was from Corinth.

Kostas (1980s)

A HBC reader tells us that he has some personal memmories. Some are very funny. Like when he had to wear a smock in 1986 in a private school. His father also told him that he used to make money by building kites and selling them the days before Kathara Deftera. He have also some interview from famous Greeks that used to be members of EON.


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Created: October 1, 2001
Last updated: 9:39 PM 3/15/2022