*** New Zealand

New Zealand

New Zealand sailor suit
Figure 1.--This photograph was taken in Welligton, New Zealand during the 1890s. The fact that the photgrapher has a sailor ser up shows that the sailor suit was commonly worn. Note the long stockings and ringlet curls. The outfit is indistinguisable from British fashions. And the country's ties to Britain dominated international relations abd the economy -- until World War II. ,

New Zealand is located southeast of Australia in the South Pacific. The north-south orientation of the two main isalnds means that the country has wide climatic variation. New Zealand was settled by the seafaring Maori people around 1000 AD, one of the last places on earh to be peopled. The aborigees which people Australia, never reached New Zealand. Europeans became aware of New Zealand (7th century), but settlers did not begin arriving until much later (mid-19th century). A series of wars with the Maoris ensued until Europeans established control. Most of the original settlers were British and the islands was eventually annexed by the British. The economy was largely agricultural, but since World War II, Nw Zealand has developed a strong mixed economy. The Maori today are a substantial minority along with Pacific islanders. New Zealand boys clothing from the beginning of the colonial period in the 1840s followed mostly British styles. Often it is impossible to differentiate the two unless the photogrph is identified. The gernerally mild climate and low incomes in the colony meant that boys more commonly went barefoot. This also meant that long stockings were less common than in Britain. Boys commonly wore short pants through the 1950s. Long pants began to become more, except in secondary schools which generally required short pants school uniforms. Beginning in the World War II era (1939-45) America began to have an impact on boys' fashions. Large numbers of American troops began arriving shortly after Pearl Harbor (1942). The inability of Britain to defend Australia and New Zealand was a factor in a shifting of ties from primary links to Britain to a wider international outlook. New Zealand boys' fashions had become similar to those worn in Europe and America, with the exception of school uniforms (1980s). Improving economic conditions were a factor here. The same trends were at play in Australia.


New Zealand is a small insular country about the size of Colorado set in the southwest Pacific southeast of Australia. The country boasts of spectacular and varied scenery, including glaciers, fiords, rugged mountains, plains, green rolling hillsides, subtropical forest, avolcanic plateau, miles of coastline which imclude sandy beaches. New Zealand primary components are two main island oriented on a north/south axis and are thus called North and South Islands. The north/south orientation extending over 15 degrees of lattitude (roughly the same as the Americb west coast) means that there substantial climatic differences. The two islands have mountaneous spines and are geologically connected but separated by the Cook Strait. The most highly populated is North Island is about 44,300 square miles and has a mountaneous spine running through the middle, but with gentle rolling terraine covered with farms and sheep rabched. The center of North Island is dominated by a Volcanic Plateau, including an active volcanic and thermal areas. South Island also has a nountaneous spine --the Southern Alps which in cotrast to North island, runs along the western coast. Thus most of the land mass of the island is located to the east--the gentle rolling farmland of Otago and Southland and futher nort large flat Canterbury Plains. Despite the mountain spines, a substantial part of both islands is suitable for farming and ranching. Geography affects a grat deal about any country, even the hidaus celebrated, like Christmas celebrations.


New Zealand was discovered and settled by the Maoris as early as the 10th Century from their legendary "Hawaiki". New Zealand is the last significant land area of the world to be settled by humans. The first settlers are commonly referred to as the Moa-hunters, the people encounted by the seafaring Maoris in the ?th century. To these early voyagers, New Zealand must have looked like steaming banks of mist and cloud emerging from the ocean, and so they named the new land "Aotearoa"--the land of the long white cloud. The isolated Aotearoa of lengend continues in our modern day to be one of the isolated countries in the world--at least in a gepgraphic sence. Europeans did not arrive on New Zeland until the mid-19th cerntury and as in other countries, proceeded to dispossess the native Maoris. New Zealand played a heroic role in the British Empire, along with Australian--helping to save the mother country in two great world wars. The islands were beyond the reach of Japanese expansion during World War II. Today an independent New Zealand seeks to find its place in an increasingly interdependent world. The country's geographic isolation giving way to the unifying trend of modern teleomminications abd the rise of Asuan economies.


New Zealand sinces its inseption as a British colony in the mid-19th century developed an agriculturl economy. The south pacific has aopular image as a tropical parasise. New Zealand is far enough south that the climate is rather like North america abd Western Europe. This men that immigrants had access to large areas of land that could be farmed and ranched as in the home country. From the very beginning New Zealand was dependent on trade. They could produce large qunities of agricultural products, but wuth a small population, it had to be exported. And the New Zealand unlike neighboring Australia was very well wattered, making it an agricultural pardise. Like Ausrraliam New Zealand proved to be a lucky country. At first only non perishable products could be exported, but advanced in refrigeration during the late-19th century began to make possible shipment of meat and diry products, significantly expabding exports. Trade was primarily with Britain. World War II was a turning point for New Zealand. It became obvious that New Zealand could not dependend on Britain for its security. Befinning in the Coral Sea, that was provided by America (1942). New Zealand's economic ties with Britain were also affected. Britain joined the European Common Market, the modern European Union (1975). This forced Britain to reorder its Commonwealth ties. This could have severeky impaired the New Zealand economy except again for the United States. Part of the American Cold War effort was to promote freedom arond the World. This included economic freedom. And while socialism was failing in country after country, capitalism was suceeding in one country after another, beginning in Japan and then the Asian Tigers followed by China and India. The result was the greatest explosion of wealth in human history. In little more than a generation , some 1 billion people were thrust from abject poverty to the prosperous middle class. Thus while export opportunities were closing in distant Europe, New Zealand was perfectly lovated to take advantage of rapidly expanding Asian markets. Since World War I, New Zealand led by the Labour Party gad been building a socialist welfare state. This was done in democratic context that also valued private propertyand property rights. Thus New Zealand Goverment pursued economoic policies that provided for a high degree of economic freedom. Only Hong Kong and Singapore have higher economic freedom rakings. And New Xealand Governments in contrast to the United states and Western Europe have proceeded prudent fiscal and monetary polocies. Thus despite a socialist wlfare state, New Zealand has created a favoralble environment for entrepreneurs. And since the rise of Asian economies, New Zealand has developed a strong tourist industry, a new manufactiring sector. Energy was a drag, but developing the country's geothermal potential and a decline in oil prices, again thanks to Anerica, has guven the economy a boost.


Significan European immigration bergan in the mid 19th century. Thuus European fashions in New Zealand have a very limited history beginning at this time. Chronological fashion trends have generally followed English trends. The only major difference was that in the mild New Zealand climate that it was more common for boys to go barefoot. Ecven so except for footwear, New Zealand boys tended to wear clothes more in keeping with the English climate than the New Zealand climate. This trend continued well into the 20th century. Boys at the turn of the century generally wore kneepants or knickers with long dark stockings. Sailor suits were very popular for primart school children. By the 1910s, shortpants and knickers were more common.The war experienced introduced New Zealanders to Americans for the first time. This widened their perspectives of many New Zealanders. British fashions dominated until the 1960s when American blue jeans and "T"-shirts began to appear. American-style casual clothes appealed to the more casual New Zealand outlook and reflect the gradual movement away from Britain as the British increasinly moved toward Europe and away from its former colonies. New Zealand boys today, except, for their school uniforms, dress almost the same as American boys, jeans, T shirts, baseball caps, and baggy shorts.


The garments worn by New Zealand boys were almost identical with those worn in England until after World War II. The primary difference was that New Zealand boys were less likely to wear shoes and stockings, in part becaise of the mild climate. New Zealland like neigboring Australia had a significant Scottish imigration and some boys did wear kilts at the turn of the century. The sailor suit was, as in England, a very popular 19th century style for boys after breeching. As in England, the sailor suit was usually worn to about the time noys began preparatory boarding school, or about 8 years of age. Boys were more likely to wear stockings and shoes for formal occasions. The same pattern continued in the 1910s when boys began wearing short pants instead of kneecpants. They would commonly go barefoot, but would wear shoes and long stockings and later knee socks when dressing up. After World War II clothing began to be increasingly casual. Clothing began reflecting the New Zealand climate more than the English climate. American styles began to appear and British styles were no longer the exclusive influence on local clothing. In recent years increasing attention has been given tom sun-safe garments.


HBC has collected information on a variety of activities in which New Zealand boys have participated in over time. Many of these activiities involve specialized costumes. Often the children. however, just wore their ordinary clothes. The available images thus show trends in English boys' clothing over time. The activities include choir, dance, games, music, religious observation, school, sport, and many others. New Zealand is blessed with a mild climate. The far noth of Nort Island is semi-tropical. The far south of South Island is temperate, but the Witers are not very hard. Thus outdoor activities, both sport and other activities are possible throughout the year, much more so than many other countries. Some of these images are interesting because they depict life-style information in addition to fashion.

Figure 2.--School uniforms are primarily based on British styles. Many New Zealanders continued to believe in the merits of school uniform.

School Uniform

New Zealand as a former British colony, instituted a school system virtually identical to the British system. Slowly the country developed its own distinctive education system. One of the features of British education, at least for secondary schools, adopted from Britain was school uniforms. The first secondary schools opened in the country adopted the uniforms standard at British public (private secondary) schools. One of the early New Zealand private schools (Wanganui College) played a major role in introducing short pants to the New Zealand secondary school uniform. The Headmaster at Wanganui College spent some time at a Scottish school, Loretto. He was so impressed with the uniform that he intrioduced it at Collegiate. At the time there were only a few secondary schools in New Zealand. Collegiate was such an influential school that most other secondary schools adopted a similar uniform.

Hair Styles

We do not have a great deal of information about New Zealand hair styles. As far as we can determine they were essebtially indestinguishable from British hair styles. Thus the styles we have seen from New Zealand photographsare the same that we see in England. We see the same fads such as Little Lord Fauntleroy ringlet curls in the late 19th century that we see in Britain. As in Britain we do no note the same cropped hair that we see in Germany. We do see the straight back and sides hair style that was popular in Britain durung the first half of the 20th century. After World War II, New Zealand seems less influenced by American hair styles then other aspects of American culture.

Work Clothes

One interesting aspect of New Zealand boys clothing is work clothes. The work clothes worn by boys in the United States in the early 20th century were small editions of their father's clothes. Bib-overalls were a common style worn with long denim jackets. By mid-century, regular jeans were more common--but always long pants. Except for extremly small children, you did not see men or boys wearing short pants in rural America on the farm or ranch. It was quite different in Australia and New Zealand. It was quite common for men and presumably boys to wear short pants as work clothes. HBC is not sire about the reason for this difference, presumably the warmer climate is at least partly responsible.


HBC has begun to collect information and images of families around the world. We believe that this helps to put the more individualized photographs of boys into a more complerte fashion and social context. These images not only show what the other menbers of the family (sisters, mothers, and fathers) were wearing, but also the homes and activities over time and of different social classes. Styls not only varied chronologically, but also affected by other variables such as social class. Such information is often difficult to discern from individua portraits. While the individual portraits provide more details on the actual fashions they often provide only cluses as to some of the sociological and historical trends which HBC is also pursuing.


Europeans did not arrive on New Zeland in numbers until the early-19th cerntury and as in other countries, proceeded to dispossess the native Maoris. The British Government set upon annexatiion and colonizatiion (1839). This kled to conflict with the Maoris. New Zealand aas at first ruled from Australiam, but quickly became a separate colony. As in Austrakia, clthing styles were basically British with some cobcessiion to the local climate. Noth Island is much warmer than Britain, but South Island as a climate more similar to Britain. We do not yet have much infornmation on girl's clothing in New Zealand, but we expect to find little difference from Britain. New Zealand of all British colonies ha tended to have the greatbafinitywith Britain. World War II had a huge imopact on New Zealand and we begin to see as in Australia some American impact on fasion. One major difference with New Zealand is the Maori, a more advanced natuive populatiion than Ayustraian aboriginies. The Maori had destinctive clothig styles.


The British and other European popultion is the dominant ethnic group in New Zealand. The European population is largely British. The English are the primary componeht, but the Irish and Scottish are also important. We notice a wealthy Scottish Highlands family preparing to sail for New Zealand in 1844. The settlement of New Zealand coincided with the Potato Famine in Ireland. This is what drove the Irish pople to America and other places like New Zealand. Since World War II New Zealand has bcome more diverse. They acoounted for something like 75 percent of the popultion (2010). Today the European portion of the population is falling, albeit slowly. Some projections believe that it will decline to about 70 percent (2020s). This shift is primarily because the European population is growing very slowly. And other groups are increasing more rapidly, both by higher birth rates and immigration. There are increases in the The Asian, Pacific (primarily Samoan), and Māori ethnic groups. The Maori are the largest non-European ethnic group in New Zealand, comprising bout 15 percent. They are the indigenous people the Enbglish found in New Zealand. The Maori Wars were a major event in the country's history. Many New Zealanders at the turn-of-the 20th century thought the Maori were dieing out. Important images of the Maori were pained by Gottfried Lindauer at the time. The Maori growth rate is relativly low, more in line with European New Zealanders, presumably because of ther relative assimilation. One estimate suggests that the Maori population will only grow to about 16 oercent (2020s). The related Pacific Islander population is growing more rapidly. The largest single component is Samoan. They currently comprise about 7 percent of the popultion, but may increase to 10 perent (2020s). The Asian population has increased primarily through immigration. The Asian population was over 10 percent (2010), but will exceed 15 percent (2020s). They will this rival the Maori as the principal minority group.


HBC has little information about New Zealand films. New Zealand has only a small population, but we have seen a few film and there is a local film industry. Hopefully our New Zealand readers will provide some further suggestions.

Personal Experiences

New Zealand boyhood: The 1950s


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Created: May 1, 1998
Last updated: 1:16 AM 4/30/2024