Dutch Boys' Clothes: Personal Experiences, 1960s-70s

Figure 1.--

I grew up in a small Dutch town in the south of the country.

Little Boy

As a small child before kindergarten I always wore shorts and rompers. I wore rompers until I went to kindergarten when I was 4 years old. They were mostly of solid color, but I do remember one of gingham. At that age, of course, it was your mother who decided what you wore and you didn't think anything about it. In kindergarten in the late 1960s I always wore shorts in summer and long pants in winter.


In those days there was a clear distinction between boys wear and girls wear. Boys wore pants and girls wore skirts, dresses and tights. I never wore tights as a boy. They were solely girl's wear. My sister wore them in winter under skirts. In summer she wore skirts or dresses with knee stockings and two pairs of underpants. When she was 8 years old my sister was allowed to wear long pants. First only in winter and a few years later also in summer.

School Years

Primary school

On top we wore shirts in summer and sweaters in winter. Shorts were considered children's wear and I never liked having to wear them. I did, however, wear shorts to school as a younger boy, but only in summer, i.e. from May until September. In winter I wore long pants. My shorts were mostly solid of dark color. In later years I also wore lighter colored shorts. My shorts were made from cotton, flannel or cord. Denim shorts were not worn before the 80s. With the shorts I wore mostly ankle socks or to a lesser extent knee socks. Knee socks, however, by my time here in the Netherlands had begun to be seen as more appropriate for a girl. My sister wore them in summer with skirts or dresses. I continued to wear shorts to school for a few years more. I decided to stop wearing them when I was 10 years old. When I was younger, jeans were not considered appropriate for school wear, but gradually they were allowed.

When clothing was the reason for teasing it wan't for wearing short pants, at least not when you were under 11 or 12 years of age. Shorts were considered children's wear, when you wore shorts in the highest grades of primary school, you could be teased. Knee socks were even worst and were generally considered to be girl's wear by us boys. You were more likely to be teased for wearing knee socks. So you wouldn't be caught dead with them. When something like that happened the principal intervened resulting in lines for the teasers. I once heard one of my class mates taunt another boy who was wearing short pants knee socks: "Where is your skirt?" This resulted in a fight and detention lines afterwards.

Actual conversations about shorts I don't remember, but we boys found them children's wear. It was in 5th grade when this subject was discussed in class. The actual discussion was about girls wearing trousers, but shorts were also mentioned. The girls didn't see shorts as children's wear, but as a part to their right to wear trousers.

High school

When I began high school I always wore jeans. They could be considered to be the school uniform of the Dutch high school student. Every student, boys and girls , wore them and it was sometimes difficult to tell the boys from the girls. Shorts were not worn and some girls wore skirts in summer.


First Communion

When I did my first Communion my mother let me choose my suit. With my mother I never discussed clothes to any great extent. The subject of short pants came up when we were about to buy my first communion suit. The first question was: Do you want a short pants suit or a long pants suit? When I chose a long pants suit she respected my choice. She never tried to persuade me to try a short pants suit, although I was the only boy in my class who did. I did my first communion when I was 8 years old. My first communion suit was green and it consisted of a sleeveless belted jacket and long pants. Under the jacket I wore a white long sleeved shirt with a green design. The other boys wore similar suits with shorts and with long sleeved or sleeveless jackets. They were never white. That color was for girls only. With the suit I wore colored ankle socks. Most other boys wore dark colored knee socks. I wore step-in shoes (loafers) with my communion suit. I never fell out of place. The other boys were jealous of my long pants.


I was confirmed when I was 12 years old. The suit I wore consisted of a short brown/white gingham jacket and brown long pants. At confirmation most other boys also wore a long pants suit.


As a small child I wore special sunday clothes, which I also wore to church: light brown shorts, a white shirt, a bow tie and a pullover. In later years the use of special sunday clothes faded and I attended church in the same clothes as I wore to school.

Various Garments


I only wore caps in winter as protection for cold weather.


I did wear sandals in summer, always with socks. Sandals were never children's wear only. I wore sandals with open toes, mostly during vacations. For school I always wore proper shoes.


I wore a lot of knits as a boy, especially in the winter. Heavy sweaters, mittens, scarfs etc. We thought they were practical. In cold weather you couldn't wear anything better. In summer I wore knit sweaters when they were worn a lot in the early 70s.

Youth Groups

I was never a Cup or Scout. Scouts are more popular now then they were 30 years ago. World War II was still in memory in those days and scouts reminded my parents of the Hitler Jugend and similar Nazi organisations.

Walking clubs 30 years ago were indeed formal organisations. For one-day marches we were expected to appear in uniform. For 4 day marches (still popular in Holland today) we were expected in uniform on the last day only. On the other days it was free dress. Today most walking clubs don't have a uniform anymore. I was a member of a walking club. In that walking club we wore a uniform: green shorts and a white short sleeved shirt with a black bow tie.

The Netherlands Today

Today most boys and girls wear jeans during all seasons. Shorts are worn in summer by both genders and girls don't wear skirts and dresses for school wear, but only for party wear (sometimes).

Christopher Wagner

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Created: December 4, 2001
Last updated: December 11, 2001