*** Japanese boys clothes : Western Garments

Japanese Boys' Clothes: Garments

Figure 1.--Japanese boys by the 1950s were commonly wearing much short short pants with a wide vaeiety of shorts. This clothing ad probably dates to the 1980s.

Japanese boys in the 20th century, especially after World War I (1914-18) have generally worn Western clothes. Boys have, however, worn suits much less than American and European boys. Headwear has been different. Few Japanese boys have worn smocks, except for schoolwear. Boys wore a wide range of shirts. Casual "T"-shirts or other casual styles were very popular. Boys commonly wore short pants. Initially long baggy ones, but after Japan's defeat in World War II the European fashion of briefly cut shorts became very popular. Leather shoes have been worn much less than in Europe. Boys generally wore sneakers after World War II, except for very formal occasions.


We have noted a variety of headwear. A reader tells us that much of the cheadwear worn by children are associated with schoowear. Younger children wore a wide range of different hat and cap styles. Baseball caps became very popular with older boys in the post-War era. Boys wore a varity of caps to school both as part of uniforms and at schools which did not require uniforms. They were ofen bright color, a saftey measure to help motorists spot the children walking to school. We note a medim brim hat becoming popular for school wear. It is being worn but bous and girlks, but only for schoolwear. Headwearv un general is not vcommon with Jaopanese children.

Skirted Garments

Japanese boys did not commonly wear Western style skirted garments. It was common in the West for younger boys to werar skirted garments like their sisters through the 19th century. This convention never developed in Japan. By the time Jaopanese children began wearing Western dress to any extebnt , abaically after World War I 1920s), Western boys were no longrr wearing skirted garments. Of course Japanese children did wear traditional garmrnts that were essentially skirted. They did not, however, have the gender assocaation that Western skirted garments had. We see Japanese boys and girls wearing the same robe-like kinomnos. But here we are talking about Western skirted garments. We do see two skirted garmebts in Japan. Er note younger children wearing what looks like a Western skirted garment--the pinafore. We are not entirely sure that this was a Western garment. And as far as we can tell it was only for younger children. And the pinafores we have seen are very plain. We also see a few children weearing smocks, but they do not see very common.


We have little information about Japanese smocks. As far as we can tell, few Japanese boys have worn smocks. The only photograph we have found has been a Japanese boy, probably about 1930 wearing what looks like a smock. The time line here is relatively narrow because until after Wotld War I, Japanese boys mostly wore traditional clothes. The major exception here appears to be schoolwear. We see some modern pre-school children wearing smocks. This appdears to be fairly common in pre-schools. We are not sure about the chronology here. We have yet to see boys wearing smocks, however, in primary school.

Inclement Weather Gear

Here as part of Japanese inclement gear we will include both cold weather garments and rainwear. Japan is locatred on a morth-south axis. Which means roughly the same lattuitude as in British coloniasouth to morthern Mexico. After the Pacific War alns losing Sakalin and the Kurile Islands. the norhern-most territory was lost. This means that the lattitude was reduced to the American Pacific northwest, although the climate in Hokaido is colder than Washington-Oregon. And there is considerable snow in Hokaido during the winter. Moving south the climate in Okinawa is semi-tropical. Thus depending on where you live in Japan, cold weather gear may or may not be needed. Rain gear is needed throughout the Home Islands. The garments and styles we see are basically the same as in the West, including headwear, coats, jackets, sweaters, gloves, and hosiery.


Japanese boys wore traditional clothes in the 19th century. And in the early 20th century as they began to shift to western-style clothes, few boys wore suits. As a result we do not see Jzpanese boys wearing the varied suit styles common in the West during those periods. We do not see Japanese boys wearing suits to any extent yntil after Worlfd war II (1939-45). At this time, Japanese children's clothes becomes much more westernized during the American occupation. This was not something that was imposed on Japan, but the result of Japanese fashion trends. Even so, Japanese boys do not wear suits nearly as commonly as American and European schools. Few Japanese are Christians where they would dress up each Sunday for church. We do see boys wearing suits to weddings. We also see boys wearing suits for special children's festivals. Some boys wore traditional dress, others wear suits. One of the most common reasons for buying a suit is when families apply to private schools to enroll their children and then also at the entrance ceremony. Boys also wore suits to public schools for special occassions. Most boys got new suits for their first day of school when they began First Grade. Suits are also sometimes worn by older boys when they graduate from primary schools as many schools did not have uniforms. Most of the boys, however, wear their new junior high school uniform for the graduation ceremony. For many years short pants suits were popular for pre-teen boys. We notice catalogs in the 2000s offereing tuxedos. We are not sure how common they were. Boys entering secondary schools did not get new suits as the schools almost all have uniforms.


Japanese boys wore a wide range of shirts. We see the same shirts as worrn in the West, at kease after World War I in the 1920s. Before that Japanese boys wore traditional clothing. After the War we see them very rapidly afooting Western dress, especilly in the cities. Casual "T"-shirts or other casual styles have become very popular.


Japanese boys have not worn the wide range of different pants styles as worn in the West. This is largely because Japanese boys for the most part did not wear pants in the 19th century. Only gradually after the Menji Restoration did boys begin wearing pants, primnarily un the 20th century. This occurred first almong elite groups in the major cities and only gradually grew in popularity. School uniform was a major way in which pants were introduced to Japanese boys. Japanese boys beginning in the 1920s have traditionally worn both short and long pants with a sharp age divide. Elementary boys usually wore short pants of varying styles depending on the time period. As soon as they graduated from elementary school at about 12 years of age they immediately syopped wearing short pants. Only in the 1990s have older boys begun wearing shorts, but only casual shorts--never dressy ones. We notice boys athletic wearing trainer pants and jeans in the 1980s.


I am not sure about Jaoanese boy's hosiery in the early 20th century. We know that long stockings were worn in cold weather. After World war II, Japanese boys commonly wore long stockings, especially during cool weather. An example is a younger boy in 1947. They were replaced by tights in the 1950s, although we are not sure about the precise chronology. Knee socks were also popular. Japanese boys often wore white socks, both ankle socks and kneesocks. Tube socks caught on very big in Japan during the late 1970s, reaching a peak of popularity in the mid 80s when the great majority of boys out of uniform wore very short shorts and tube socks, often with even more elaborate stripes than were true in the States. Even boys in school uniforms wore striped tube socks at schools that had no sock uniform requirement. Other than blue jeans (resisted by many schools and many parents), that was the first piece of American boys fashion to catch on big in Japan. Other American styles were to follow in its wake--the baggy casual shorts. In fact, Japanese boys have hung on to tube socks and still wear them with the modern knee length shorts--it looks rather strange in comparison to how Japanese boys used to dress.


We do not know much about Japanese underwear. We are not sure whst kind of undershirt if any was raditiinlly worn in Japan. Undershirts in the 20th century were commonly the singlet-style undershirt. We are not sure about the Japanese term. After World war II, especially by the 1960s we see T-shirts being worn. Traditional male underwear pants are called fundoshi. Until World War II, the fundoshi was the standard form of male underpants. There are several types of fundoshi, including: rokushaku, kuroneko, mokko and etchū. After World War II the Fundoshi rapidky went out of style. This is presumably part of a scomparable shift in many areas for all things Western. Japanese boys and men began wearing Western-style s briefs and boxers began to be worn. We are not sure wehat was most popular for boys, but we think briefs. The traditional fundoshi has not entirely disappeared. It is still worn today as festival (matsuri) clothing or occassionally as swimwear.


Traditional footwear in Japan was the zori sandal which appears to have been the inspiration to the modern flip-flop. Leather shoes have been worn much less than in Europe. Boys generally wore sneakers after World War II, except for very formal occasions. I'm not sure just why this was, but believe sneakers were less expensive than leather shoes.


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Created: March 4, 2001
Last updated: 1:39 AM 11/20/2020