Dutch Boys' Clothes: Chronology

Figure 1.--These Dutch children model typical 1940s clothes. The boys wears a knit pullover with Rugby-style buttons over a shirt with flannel short pants. He wears turn-over-top kneesocks with what look like colored tops. Also notice the straps from his school satchel.

HBC believes that chronological trends in Dutch boys' fashions have been quite similar to those of neighboring countries, especially Germany. This was especially true of affluent and middleclass families. The authors know of now identifiable Dutch boys' style that became wisely adopted by middleclass children. As in Germany, sailor suits were very popular beginning in the late 19th century. And as in Germany boys by the 1910s were increasingly wearing short pants. Dutch boys by the 1970s were adopting the pan-European styles of jeans, "T"-shirts, and other casual styles.

16th Century

Thanks to the marvelous artists of the Dutch/Flenis Renaissance we have a great deal of information on how the Dutch dressed in the 16th century. here we are talking not only about the modern Dutch, but the Flemish in wht is now Belgium. We suspect that substantially the same clothing trends prevailed in the Waloon (French) areas. And unlike other countries we have a very good idea of clothing trends for a wide spectrum of the population. Quite a number of talented artists painted portraits of the wealthy merchany class, but we also have genre works. Certainly the most important was Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c1525-69). In fact, he became known as 'Peasant Bruegel' becase he devoted so much attention to the peasantry. And not only do we see many peasant impages, his painting 'Children playing' (156) shows us not only hos children and youth dressed, but how they played and diverted themselves at the time. The girls wore dresses and skirts. The boys wore both long robes and short jackets with hose (long stockings)--both appear to be standard. Most of the children have headwear. We ger a goof idea about color, incluing blue, brown, cream, and red. Sone of the activities are easy to see such as bowls. In other case we are not really sure what is going on.

17th Century

The Dutch in the 16-17th centuries, despite the war with Spain, became higly prosperous. The 17th century is seen as the Golden Century. Along with economic success came a flowering of culture. The Dutch painters of the 17h century left an enduring cultural legacy. The tiny Dutch Republic emerged as a world power. It was the trading-network, which had been created by the The United Eastindian Company (VOC), that administered a trade empire among countries, situated along the Indian Ocean. The VOC, which had been established in 1602 to coordinate trade with Southeast-Asia, has been for long time the biggest trading company in the world. Next to it the the West Indian Company (WIC) was trading with Africa and America. The WIC controled New Amsterdam, nowadays New York, from 1625 until 1664 before being displaced by the British. The need to protect these interests have caused several wars with Great Britain. The Netherlands thus emerged as a key center of international finance. The relationship with the English is complicated. There were naval trading wars between th Dutch and English. Yet England did not want any Continental European power to dominate the Netherlands. Both Stadtholder William II and his son William III married English princesses.

18th Century

19th Century

We have not yet been able to collect much inormation on 19th century boys' clothes in the Netherlands.

Early and Mid-19th century (1800-70)

A Dutch reader reports that in the early 19th century, Dutch children were mostly dressed as miniature grown-ups. I'm not sure to what extent skeleton suits were worn in the Netherlands. They were the first specialized boys' clothing in many Eiropdan countries. A HBC reader reports that sailor suits appear to be the first juveniler style clothing worn specificaly by boys, although they were copies of the real sailosuits of course.

Late 19th Century (1870-1900)

Sailor suits were very popular in the Netherlands during the late 19th century. Kneepants were also commonly worn, usually with long stockings.

20th Century

Here we see children in the Netherlands at different historical periods. Sailor suits continued to be popular in the early 20th century. Dutch boys in the 1900s still commonly wore kneepants, but by the 1910s short pants and kneesocks rather than kneepants and long stockings had begin to appear. A valuable source of information for boys clothes during this period is postcards. Dutch boys in the inter-war years increasingly wore short trousers with kneesocks. Younger boys might wear long stockings during the winter. Older boys might wear knickers. Some boys still wore sailor suits. Some of the traditional styles like baggy trousers, smocks, and wooden shoes declined during this period. Few fashions developments occurred during the difficut years of German occupation (1940-45). The Netherlands was devestated by the War. The population was near starvation when the Allies arrived in 1945. Economic conditions remained very difficult until the Marshall Plan began to revive the economy in 1948. Families had little money for clothing. The Netherland by the 1970s had become one of the most prosperous countries in the world. The country's prosperoty was shared by every segment of the population. Families had the disposable income to afford extensive wardrobes for their children. This meant extensive wardribes of casual clothes rather tahn the formal clothes boys once role.

21st Century

HBC knows of no destinctive Dutch garments appearing in the 21st century. Many Dutch boys wear the casual clothes that have become so popular throughout Europe. A Dutch reader reports, however, that there are some destinctive trends in the Netherlands: "I would like to inform you that Holland is one of the only countries in europe where the baggy pants were never that populair. The new trend for boys in Holland was actually started by girls. I'm talking about youths age from 14 to say around 26. Girls seem come up with the styles and boys follow them. Boys now, for example, wear extremely tight shirts, lots of times the shirts have extremly short sleeves. Dutch youths, both boys and girls, wear tight pants--especially jeans. They often roll up the legs a bit to show their boots and modern type sneakers. Since the economy has been good in the last couple of years the fashion trends now seem to move fast and the clothing is expencive." Our Dutch reader notes that the trendiest Dutch fashions are more noticeable in Rotterdam than Amsterdam where there are many foreign tourists. This is interesting because the Dutch folk costume for boys are baggy knicker-length trousers. Shops throughout the Netherlands have post cards for tourists showing boys in these baggy trousers costumes. In is thus interesting that the baggy style so popular in America and some other European countries has not become popular in the Netherlands.


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Created: February 18, 2001
Last updated: 4:04 PM 11/1/2017