*** Dutch boys clothes

The Netherlands

Dutch children's clothing
Figure 1.--This drawing shows typical Dutch children's clothing in the early 20th century. Notice the sailor suits, military-style cap, and wooden shoes.

The Netherlands is a very small country, but has played a huge role in world history. We are just beginning to collect uinformation on on Dutch boys' fashions, but rather suspect that they were strongly influenced by German fashions and perhaps to a lesser extent English--but not French fashions. Working class boys, especiallys boys in rural areas, were more likely to wear identifiable Dutch styles--today referred to as folk styles. Folk dress persisted in some isolated areas. Since the 1970s, the primary influence seems to have been America with jeans becoming a virtual uniform for Dutch boys. I do believe, however, there are many similarities with German styles. Dutch boys have worn a lot of seasonal clothes. Stocking caps appear to have been popular. Heavy coats have not been as popular in the Netherlands as jackets and sweaters. Scarves appear to have been very popular. Boys engage in a variety of activities from choral singing to athletics. Other major activities include dance, music, school, Scouting, summer camp, and much more. Athletics seems to have been less important in the Netherlands than in America and England, in part becaise of the more academic orientation of the school system. The national holiday in the Netherlands is Queen's day, April 30. The most important holiday seaon for children is of course Christmas. The most special day during the Christmas season is Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas Day) December 5. For most children more important and exciting than Christmas day itself. All of the Netherlands is close to the North Sea or batious bodies of water such as the Zuider Zee. Thus sea outings are popular activities, especially sailing. Some boys wore short pants and knee socks during the winter, but many boys also had long sometinmes baggy pants for winter wear. Do let me know if you have any information on insights. I'd especially like to hear from Dutch visitors to HBC. Much of the discussion on the Dutch pages at this time is conjecture and we would be interested in comment and insights from our Dutch readers.


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.


The medieval history of the Netherlands was complicated, but led to the development of an independent spirit which caused the Dutch to resist first Spanish and then French rule. Here they were assisted by both geography and the interests of the English in preventing a continental power from dominating the area. In the 20th century not only the English, but the Americans and Canadians played a role in insuring the independence of the country. The location of the Netherlnds at the mouth of the Rhine River and close to England and the expansion of the European economy during the late-Medieval period made the Lowlands an important trading center (12th-14th century). This lead to the emergence of a wealthy merchant class. The merchants began to challenge the power of the nobility and achieved a substantial degree of autonomy. The Netherlands became a center of relative freedom and tolerance. It was also an early convert to Protestatism after Martin Luther launched the Protestant Reformation (1519). The Lowlands passed from the control of the dukes of Bourgogne into the hands of the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (early 16th century). Charles was the most powerful monarch in Europe with land streaching from Gemany to Spain. Charles and his sucessors were less willing to honor the concessions made to the merchants by the dukes of Bourgogne and determined to supress Protesantism. Charles granted control of Spain and the Netherlands to his son, Philip II (1555) who set out to establish Spanish absolutism in the Lowlands and to extinguish Protetantism. This led to the Dutch War of Independence and the creation of the mdern Netherlands as we know it (1568-1648). The Netherlands became a major trading nation and established an overseas empire. The Dutch Republic was gradally overshadowed by the expanding power of Britain and France. Discension between conservatives and democratic reformers weakened the Dutch Republic. It ws overwealmed by the French and eventually ansorbed by Napoleon's French Empire. The Congress of Vienna restored an independent Netherlands, under the House of Orange. At first the new monarchy included Belgium, but the Belgiums revolted and became an independent country (1830). The Dutch monarchy developed into a constitutional monarchy. They remained neutral in World War I (1914-18), but were invaded and occupied by the NAZIs in World War II (1939-45). The NAZIs succeeded in killing most Dutch Jews. The post-War era was focused on efforts to rebuild the country which was heavily damaged by the War. The Dutch attempted to restablish their colonial rule in the Dutch East Indies, but failed to do so and the colony became independent as Indonesia (1949). The Dutch were a strong supporter of European integration. A series of coalition governments have ruled the country: Roman Catholic People's Party and the Labor Party (1973-77) and the Christian Democratic Party (1977-94). The Labor Party took control again (1994). The experienced anoter occurnce of serious flooding (1995). Rivers throughout northwestern Europe overflowed and the Netherlands which extensive areas below sealevel was especually affected. The Dutch today are seen as one of the most democratic and tolerant nations in the world. That tolerance has permitted many Muslims seeking reguge and economic opportunity to seek refuge in the country, some of whom do not share the Duch commitment to tolerance and free speech.


The economic history of the Netherlands is one of the most imprtant developments in understanding the modern world. The Netherlands was on the fringe of Roman Empire. German tribes from what is now the Netherlands playeda an imprtant role in the Anglp-Saxon invasioins of Briutain. In the medival era, the Netherlands included what is now Belgium. This area became the economic engine of the late-medeval period. An early economic revolution powered by wind, water and peat, land reclamation from the sea, and agricultural advances created the basis for the development of a vital textile industry supplied by English wool. This creation of capital laid the foundation of what happened next--the creation of 'the first modern economy'. [De Vries and der Woude] This is a starteling development because for much of modern history after the fall of Rome (5th century AD), it was China that was thge richest countryin the world and the engine vfor technologicalm advance. Many of the technolgies that would thrust Europe forward originated in China. And one problen the Europeans had when they ininiated maritime commerce with China is that they had very little the Chinese wanted in exchange for their lurxury goods like porcelin and silk. The Europeans had to pay with huge quabtities of silver. The rise of this modern economy was centered on the small, Protestant Dutch Republic that sucessfullly resisted the might of the Catholic Sapanish and French armies, the most poewerrfukl armies of their day. After gaining independent with English aid from Philip II's Spain Empire (around 1585), the Dutch generated almost a century of explosive economic growth. One of the imprtantbissues of history and economics is why this expolsive growthn occurred in the relatively poor West and not the much richer East. This is a questiin addressed by realtively few scholars because of the domination of modern academia by left-wing professors who canot bring themselves to write about the powerful capability of capitalism to generate technological asvances and create wealth and prosperity. A technological revolution in shipbuilding gave the Dutch led to a competitive advantage in shipping. As a result, the new Dutch young Republic become the dominant tradeing power in Europe (mid-17th century). The Dutch merchant marine totalled 568,000 tons of shipping —- about half the European total (1670). The fundamental pillars of this merchant flkeet was the dominance of the Amsterdam Entrepôt in Europea and that of the Dutch East and West India Companies (VOC and WIC) in intercontinental trade. This was in part made possible by the silver mines of the Spanish Empire (Mexico and Bolivia/Peru). As Spain did not develop economically, they paid for the vproducts of more adbance economies like the Dutch with that silver. The Soanish Comquistadores thirsted fir gold, biut it was silver that gthe Soanish Empire proiduced in great quantity. This trade and the invention of capitalism enabled the Dutch economy achieve the highest standard of living in Europe, surpassing even China (mid-17th century). And unlike China, this affluence was shared by the a=verage citizen. Such affluence launched a Golden Age in culture typified by the great Dutch and Flemish masters. The Netherlands is avery small country. While they foughtboff the samish and Portuguese, ievitably they could not stand off their onand off again rvial--Engkand. Esoecially after the Engkish adopted the capitalist econoimy that the Dutch had invented.


The language of instruction in all Dutch schools is A B N. That stands for Algemeen Beschaafd Nederlands (General Civilized Dutch). In some places speaking with a certain accent is frowned upon, that goes for most accents from the Western part of the country (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht), but speaking a dialect is different. Often it is charming. In some rural areas plays in the local dialect are being performed and they are still popular. The written language however is always ABN (although some of the words people use are anything but civilized). There are several dialects in Holland and I want to include Flemish in Belgium. These are not languages, because they lack uniformly- written or printed words. The only exception in the Netherlands is Frisian which has been recognized as a separate language with its own literature and poetry. In general most Dutch people speak ABN without any regional accent. It is the same in most European countries. It is amazing how well many of them mastered English. If two Belgians need to talk to each other and one is Flemish and the other one a Walloon, they would converse in English, because the Flemish speaking one (wo usually knows French very well) does not want to give in by "submitting" to French, while the Walloon, who never cared to learn Dutch, prefers to speak in English to his Flemish compatriot.

Folk Dress

Working class boys, especiallys boys in rural areas, were more likely to wear identifiable Dutch styles--today referred to as folk styles. Folk dress persisted in some isolated areas such as Marken Island into the 20th century. One of the most distinctive aspects of Dutch folk costume is wooden shoes or clogs. Wooden shoes were widely worn by peasant farmers and the urban working-class throughout Europe--but no where were they as widely worn as in the Netherlands. Many Dutch boys in the late 19th century went to school in wooden shoes. In the Netherlands, clothing was was very regional bound. Every region/village had his own dress with his own man-copy style for boys: all people wear the same cloth. Some Dutch regions are known by tourists from all over the world (Volendam, Marken, Urk, and others). In a few regions this regional bound wear is still worn by the old woman, and all people on special occassions. There is a lot of information on this subject. But in virtually all of these regional folk costumes, boys wear is just a copy of adult men's wear.

Regional Differences

Clothing and fashion are often affected by regional differences, although HBC has just begun to collect information on this topic. In modern times, it has been less important in a small country like the Netherlands, although it has affected folk fashions.


The authors know of no destinctive Dutch styles and at this time. There were some carastivally Dutch styles in the 19th and early 20th centiry, but these have now passed into folk dress. HBC has no information on destinctively Dutch styling characteristic of fashions like sailor suits or short pants suits that were widely worn throughout Europe. Dutch boys by the 1920s appear o be primarily wearing clohing styles worn in neigboring European ountries, especially Germay and England. French fashions appears to have been of less influence than in many other European countries. One major style was the sailor suit. Althugh originating in England, German fashions may have been of greater influence. Knit styles were very populasr after World War II. The major fashion trend in the 20th century, however, as in other European countries, was the trend toward simplicity and comfort.

Fauntleroy suits

HBC has not noted any indication that Dutch boys wore Fauntleroy suits during the late 19th century. A Dutch reader reports that Little lord Fountleroy suitys were never very popular in the Netherlands. Perhaps they were considered to frivelous by practical Dutch mothers.

Dutch children's footear
Figure 2.--This image was probably taken in the 1900s and shows the dress of working-class. Notice that the children are either barefoot are wearing wooden shoes. Two boys appear to be wearing a basic pinafore-type garment. Also notice the close cropped hair. This image is actually German. The The text in the upper left corner reads: "Ruhrsche Jonges", which means boys from the Ruhrgebiet (the industrial area around Düsseldorf and Essen in the German state of Nordrhein-Westfalen). This area borders the Netherlands, suggesting that Dutch boys clothing (compare with figure 1) and northwestern German boys clothing at the time was quite similar.

Sailor suits

The authors believe that the sailor suit was an especially popular style in the Netherlands, perhaps in part due to the country's maritime tradition. We still have limited information on Dutch sailot suits, but they appear to ahve been widely worn by the 1889s. Sailor suits were normally worn with kneepants or knickers. After World War I (1914-18) short pants sailor suits become more important, but were worn by younger boys. HBC has not noted destinctively styled Dutch sailor suits, but rather boys wore common styles developed in other countries.


One very popular type of garment in the Netherlands were knit outfits. Knit sweathers were of course popular throughout Europe. I am not sure when knit sweaters first appeared, probably in the late 19th century. Another popular European style was knit sweaters and matching short pants. In the Netherlands, however, these knit outfits were worn with both short and long pants. They are usually easy to identify in old photographs because they were more form fitting than regular pants. These knits outdits were usually made in sizes up to about 10 years of age. Onnly limite chronological information is available. HBC has not noted these knit sets before Worl War II (1939-45). They were particularly popular in the 1950s and 60s. Jackets like sweaters are important garments for Dutch boys who often have to contend with chilly weather.

Casual styles

As in the rest of Europe, the continuing fashion trend among Dutch boys throughout the 20th century had been a trend from fancy formal clothing toward increasingly simple, comfortable clothing. Boys began to wear suits less commonly and turned to sweaters, open necked shirts and eventually jeans and "T" shirts. By the 1970s sports wear began to become popular with boys who increasinly were able to convince their parents to purchase the popular new casual styles.


HBC has developed some information is available on the various garments worn by Dutch boys. Much of our information comes from the post-World War II era, but some information is also available on earlier periods. Dutch boys wore many of the same caps and hats worn in other European countries, but there was one caracteristically Dutch style with a peaeked bill. Smocks were common in rural areas until about the mid-1930s. Sweaters have proven to be very popular garments in the Netherlands. I'm not sure when Dutch boys began wearing sweaters, but they are clearly being comnonly worn by the 1920s. Dutch boys like other European boys generally wore kneepants in the late 19th century. After the turn of the 19th century, short pants became increasingly common for younger boys and knickers for older boys. Various styles of shorts have been worn, includng button-on styles and suspener shorts. In the country long pants were still quite common for everyday wear. Some boys wore suspenders or bracers to keep up their pants. Younger boys wore suspender pants with the suspenders attached. Although not a common style, some Dutch boys, like boys in other European countries did wear romers. Sunsuits were also popular for younger boys. long black stockings were worn under the famous black trousers. Kneesocks becanme increasingly common by the 1910s, but did not entirely replace long stockings. Dutch boys are perhaps most noted for wearing wooden shoes. In fact this was a style most common among boys from modest-income families are living in rural areas. Dutch boys have worn a wide range of footwear.


We have not yet compiled a great deal of information about the material and fabrics used for Dutch boys clothing. Many of the same fabrics were used throughout Europe. There are, however, differences between country as to the use and popularity of different fabrics. Often Governments incouraged the purchase of domestic fabrics. Ceratinly knits were extensively worn in the Netherlands, for many farmenrs besides sweaters. We also have compiled information some information on corduroy.

Dutch knit sweaters
Figure 3.--Knit sweaters are one of the most popular garments worn by Dutch boys. These brothers in a 1967 image wear matching knit sweaters with black short pants.

Hair Styles

HBC has no information on the hair styles worn by Dutch boys. At this time it is believed that they were rather similar to the hair styles worn by German boys. A number of Dutch boys in early photographs appear to have short cropped hair, almost shaved. One well known style are Dutch boy bangs. HBC is unsure, however, what the origin of this hair style and just what the association with the Netherlands, if any, is. HBC has noted modern Dutch boys wearing bangs, but they do not seem to be especially popular. Most available images show Dutch boys wearing a variety of other styles. In the early 20th century the style was more common, although the term "Dutch boy bangs" is an American or English term--unknown in the Netherlands. HBC is not sure if there is a similar term in other European languages like Italian or Spanish.

Seasonal Attire

Dutch boys have worn a lot of seasonal clothes. Stocking caps appear to have been popular. Heavy coats have not been as popular in the Netherlands as jackets and sweaters. Scarves appear to have been very popular. Some boys wore short pants and knee socks during the winter, but many boys also had long sometinmes baggy oants for winter wear.

Social Class

Social class factors also influence clothing. Working class families have less money to spend on clothing than middle-class and wealthy families. Differing class life styles also affect what types of clothes are needed. Traditionally it was the upper classes that set styles. The working class and middle classes followed those styles to the extent that they could afford to do so. Working class children often in the 19th children wore their parent's or older siblings old clothes. As a result there were often very substantiasl differences between how working-class children and middle-class children dressed. Rising incomes after World war II to a large extent narrowed the income gap betweeen the middle and working class, also affecting social values. The upper class's influence on fashion used to be the basic trend. That trend has also declined in recent years.


The Netherlands is a very small country. It was still possible to have destinctive clothing styles in the 19th century when modern media was still of limited influence. Quaint local styles were still quite common in the 19th century. This became increasingly less possible in the 20th centuries when Dutch boys increasinly dressed like boys in neighboring countries. German styles were common in the early 20th century. French styles were less influential. Many Dutch boys wore smocks, but they were uite different than French smocks. English influences appear very common in the post-war era. The Dutch perhaps more than any other European country speak English. The English were also greatly admired for their role in the War. Styles like school sandals, Cardigan sweaters, pullover styling, knitwear, and even suits all showed English influences. Toward the end of the period in the late 1960s, German styles became increaingly important. The fading memories of the War and German occupation may have been a factor in the increasng influence of German fashion. Dutch boys in the late 19th century wore clothes that were virtually indestinguishable from German fashions. The popularity of open-toed sandals is on of many examples. After World War II a sizeable immigrant populatin from Dutch colonies and North Africa have settled in the Netherlands. While it is an increasingly important group, they seemed to have had very little impact on Dutch fashions.

The Dutch Familiy

Available photograophic images of Dutch families provide useful information of Dutch boys' clothes. These images are especially helpful as they provide some idea of the type odf family the boy came from and thus an indicator of which boys were wearing soecific styles. Familiy photographs also provide information on what type of clothing other members of the family were wearing at any given time, includingh brothers of other ages, sisters, and parents. One popular fashion among Dutch parents was to dress their similar in identical or coordinated styles.


Boys engage in a variety of activities from choral singing to athletics. Other major activities include dance, music, school, Scouting, summer camp, and much more. Athletics seems to have been less important in the Netherlands than in America and England, in part becaise of the more academic orientation of the school system. The national holiday in the Netherlands is Queen's day, April 30. The most important holiday seaon for children is of course Christmas. The most special day during the Christmas season is Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas Day) December 5. For most children more important and exciting than Christmas day itself. All of the Netherlands is close to the North Sea or batious bodies of water such as the Zuider Zee. Thus sea outings are popular activities, especially sailing. There are also popular beach resorts, although the beches are better to the south in Belgium. The water can be rater brisk. The Netherlands is a very developed country. Thus there is very little wildreness area available for recreational activities. The major Dutch youth groups have been the Scouts and a nationalist group during the German occupation which was based on a pre-War right-wing group. There is not much to report on the modern Netherlands. Many of these activities have destinctive clothing or even uniforms. HBC has begun to collect information on these activities and the clothing associated with them over time.


We have very little information about the history of Dutch photography. We do not notice any Dutch researchers involved in the early development of photography. We do note Dutch studios appearing based on the advances in neigboring countries, primarily France and Britain. We have not found any Dutch Daguerreotyoes or Ambrotypes to archive , but we know that there were studios. The Netherlands is a small country and thus there would have been fewer taken than in larger countries. And as in the rest of Europe, the industry did not grow as fast as in the United States. One early Dutch photographer was Pieter Oosterhuis (1816-85) who was an artist that develooped an interest in photography. He apparently set up his Atelier Photographique et Daguerreotypique to support himself and his new wife (aboyt 1851). Ammsterdam was a city of over 240,000 people with only six Daguerreotype stidios at the time, fewer than in other important cities. Stereo photography was exhibited in the Netherlabnds at an internatiional exhibit (1855). Oosterhuis was the first photographet to actually offer stero portraits. He also began taking outsoors landscapes. Another early Dutch photographer was Jacob Olie (1834-1905). He traioned as a carpeter, but had an interest in drawing. As a youth he was very interested in the photographic medium as a way of displaing architectuaral works. As an older man after retiring he returned to photography. We have not yet found Dutch photographs until the appearance of the CDV (1860s). This of course significantly increased the number of availavle images. As best we can tell, Dutch photographic trends generally followed developments in the larger countries whioch surround the Nerherlands, especially Germany.

Post Cards

HBC has noted some Dutch post cards, but we do not yet have enough information to make any assessments. Asin the rest of Europe, smartly dressed children were popular subjects for these cards. The fashions portrayed seen more similar to German fashions than French fashions. One constant is thesailor suit which is the most common style to appear in these postcards. The images of well-dressesd children appear to follow the general pattern of being most popular from the turn of the 20th century to the mid-1920s. The colors involved in the Dutch postcards are somewhat less fanciful than those seen in Belgium and France at the time. Still I am not positive that the color combinations shown were the ones that would have actually been worn by a Dutch boy. One popular subject was children as well as adults in folk costume. We know nothing about the Dutch postcard industry.


The Netherlandshas several ethnic and religious minorities. We only have limited information bout minorities in the Netherlands. For years the principal minority was the Jews. The Jews played an inportant role in Dutch hisstory, especially the Golden Age of the 16th and 17th centuries. The Dutch Jews were devestated by the NAZI Holocaust and have never recovered. The largest minority group is now the Turks who descended from the Guest Workers who came to the Netherlands after World War II. After the Reformation there was a small Catholic minority, but I know little about them. As a result of the Netherland's colonial empire there are Indo-Europeans. This group is from what is now Indonesia (Dutch East Indies), but it is impolite to call them Indonesians. There are also Antillians and Surinamers. There is also now an Islamic minority. Many are other Muslims, especially Moroccans. Many of these minority groups are concentrated in the cities, especially Amsterdam.


It is difficult to folow fashion developments in small vountrieds because thry trnd yto have smaller fashion industries creating fashions and smaller photograohic records recoirding it and can be used to follow it. Of course the Netherlanmds as a relatively well to do country which promotes fashions and increases the size of the photograohic record. Folk costumes can provide country clues. Wooden shoes are associated with the Dutch, but were widely worn in other countries as well. It is thus not possible to identify Dutch photographs unless they are labdeled. Dutch fashions seem stroingly influnced by Germany with its large fashion tradition. We think French fashions are less influential, but have some influence on women's fashions and thus girls. And there are overall European conventions, especially associated with hem lines. Pinafores were common in the late-19th and very early-20th centuty.

Dutch Glossary

Dutch readers may find our glossary of Dutch clothing terms useful in navigating HBC, although we have just begun to prepare it. English readers may find information on the origins and development of Dutch clothing terms of interest. We have made some progress in recent mothseveloping this section.

Indvidual Experiences

The Netherlands is a small country which nof course affects the information avaialble. HBC at this time only has a few persoanal accounts about Dutch boys. Some are published literary accounts that we have noted. Others are personal accounts that HBC readers have kindly shared with us. As a resultwe have several valuable accounts to add to our Dutch arrchive. Hopefully more Durch readers will add to these accounts as HBC develops so that we can better understand Dutch fashion trends and a little more about Dutch history and customs.


De Vries, Jan and Ad van der Woude. The First Modern Economy: Success, Failure, and Perseverance of the Dutch Economy, 1500–1815 (Cambridge University Press: 1997).

A very important source of information about Dutch and European clothing is the Dutch magazine De Prins. This magazine began publishing in 1901. This was about the time that it became economically feasible to publish photographs. Thus the magazine is full of early photographs. The various royal families showcasing their fashions was a favorite topic in De Prins. There were also many Dutch photographs.


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Created: September 4, 1999
Last updated: 1:31 PM 12/21/2021