*** boys wear Latvia



Figure 1.--These children's clothes were created by Latvian designers. The image is from the annual Soviet magazine "The Children Clothes Fashions" published in 1977.

Latvia has for years been associated with Russia. Until 1918 it was a part of the Russian Empire. As a Baltic country, Latvia was exposed to Western influences more than most areas of Russia. The Bakltics were the most developed area of theRussian Empire. It was briefly independent after World War I until sized by Stalin in 1940 and then occupid by the NAZIs in 1941. After World war II it was administered as a Republic of the Soviet Union until gaining indepndence in 1991. As a result, Latvian fashions have been stronly influemced by Russian fashions as well as German fashions because of the large German fashion industry. Hopefully our Latvian readers will provide information to expand on the limited information we have mnaged to collect.


Latvia is bordered by the Gulf of Riga and Estonia to the north, Russia and Bylarus on the east and Lithuania on the south. To the west is the Baltic Sea. The capita is the Baltic port of Riga. Other important cities Liepaja, Daugavpils, and Ventspils. Much of Latvia is a low-lying coastal plain broken by lakes, rivers, marshes, and peat bogs. The country is heavily forrested.


Lettish tribes first appeared along the Blatic during the 10th century AD. The Letts came under foreign rule in the mid-12th century. From that time the Letts were dominated by Germans, Poles, and Russians as well as a brief period of Swedish control. The German Teutonic Knights controlled the Letts (1158-1562). The Germans Christinaized the KLetts and introduced Feudalism, making the Letts serfs in German estates. Latvia at the time was divided into two states (Livonia and Courland). The Ples and Lithuanians defeated the Teutinic Knights (1562) beginning an era of Polish control (1562-1795) interupted only by a short period of Sedish control. As a result of the Polish Partitions, Russian obtained control of at first Livinia (1795) and subsequently Courland as well which lasted until the Russian Revolution (1917). Latvia obtained itsindependence in the turmoil resulting form World War I and the Russian Revolution (1918). After two decades of independence, Lativia was invaded forst by the Soviet Union (1940) and subsequently NAZI Germany (1941). The Red Army droved out the NAZIs (1945) and Latvia was for over four decades administered as a Soviet Republic. With the disolution of the Soviet Union (1991), Latvia again achieved its independence.


Latvia's location on the Baltic played a major role in its sonomic development. The Germans through the Hanseatic League played a key role in developin cities. This was also true of Latvia. It was an important east-west commercial and trading center. Artisan crft served local markets. Timber, paper and agricultural products were exported. Latvia's long history within first the Russian and then Soviet empire acted to integrate the economy within these empires and orient it toward the East. This has changed since independence (1991) with only about 15 percent of the contry's trade now with Russia. With independence Latvia began major market reforms. Privatization is now mostly compolete. The country hasd had some major economic adjustments, some of which have resulted from economic convulsions in Russia. In general the country has sustained high growth rates. Perrcpita income has improved, but still below European averages. Income is substabtially above Russian levels even though Latvia unlike Russia does not have a huge energy sector. Latvia joined the Europen Union (2004).


Latvians are commonly referred to as Letts and the language known as Lettish--one of the Indo-European languages. Under Soviet rule, use of the Lavian language was declining. A factor here was the substantial number of ethnic Russiansemigrating to Latvia. This trend has reversed such indepedence.


The demographics of most European countries have been impacted by emigration, mostly to the I=United States. Latvia and the other Baltic Republics by immigration. First the Germans throiugh the hanseatic League essentially colonized Latvia. Subsequently the Russians attempted to Russify the country. The Soviet policy was to tampen down nationalist agitation by swaping the country with with Russian immigrants. Latvia in the Middle Ages was a divided area of princioalities. Germany, Poland, and Sweden struggled for control duibg the medieval era. As a result of the Hanseatic Laegue, germans developed the first citiees--Baltic ports. Russia only entered the picture later (late-18th century). Latvian emigration began as Tsar Alexander II launched his Russification policies. This is whem emigration to the United States began. Latvia like the other Baltic republics declared independence as a result of the turmoil associated with World War I and the Russian Revolution (1918). RRhey had tio fiught the Bolsheviks to actually achieve it (1919-21). At the time the population was still primarily ethnic Latvians. The primary exception was the Riga and the major cities. Large numbers of ethnic Germans lived in the cities. This is especially important because fashion is primarily set in cities. As a result, Germans played a substantial role in in influencing Lavian styles. Many Baltic Germans had lived in Latvia and the other Baltic republics for generations, but they still spoke German. They might subscribe to German magazines and see German films. Thus they were influenced by German fashions. The NAZI-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact (1939) permitted Stalin to carry out a series of aggressions, including the occupation of Latvia (1940). Stalin ordered the KGB to arrest and deport many Latvians. Many persished at the hanfs of the NKVD. Others survived, but never returned. Stalin also encouraged the emmigration of ethnic Russians to alter the ethnic ballance. Many Russians came to Latvia because living conditions were generally above that common in Russia. As a result, after World War II the poulation of Russians increased substantially and affected the ethnic ballance in the country.


Latvian boys' clothing, as in the case in many countries at high northern lattitudes, is strongly influenced by the climate. The climate in generally damp. The Spring is usually dry and cold.

National Influences

Latvia has many foreign influences and has been tuled by most of the countries surrounding it. Latvia was strongly influenced by Germany. There were peiods of Polish and Swedish rule. Latvia was seized by Russia (18th century). Thus Latvia in the modern year has been associated with Russia. Until 1918 it was part of the Russian Empire. As a Baltic country, Latvia was exposed to Western influences more than most areas of Russia. It was briefly independent after World War I until seized by Stalin in 1940 and then occupied by the NAZIs in 1941. After World War II it was administered as a Republic of the Soviet Union. As a result of its historical experience and geographic location, Latvian fashions have thus been stronly influemced by Russian and German fashions.


Our archive of Latvian images is still quite limited. Thus we are unable at this time to develop a cgronology of Latvian boys' clothes. We have no 19th century images. We believe that German fashions were important during the medievel era, in part because of the importance of the Hanseatic League. Russian control of the Baltics must have brought with it an element of fashion, but of course the Russian elite was stringly indluenced by European fashion. Latvia became indepebndent after World War I. Even so, we note a 1920s photograph showing young people wearing clothes showing a strong Russian influence. Fashion was demphasized during the Soviet era (1940-91), but the Baltics in general seem more influenced with Western fashion than the rest ofthe Sovient Union. Since regaining independence, Latvian children seem to adopted the trans-European fashions that has developed accross the continent.


Our information on Latvian garments is still very limited because of the small number of images in our archive and our inability to obtain much information from Latvia. We have noted Latvian boys wearing the same basic garments and styles as those worn in Germany, Russia, and other neigboring countries. Unlike some larger countries, it is not possible to identify Latvian images when the provinance is not known. Latvian boys during the Soviet era seem to have been dressed a little more stylishly than boys in other areas of the Soviet Union, again probably primary because of the country's geographic location. But we know of no specifically Latvian garments or styles of garments. After World War I many boys wore short pants, often with long stockings. Suspender and H-bar shorts were common for younger boys. We noted that vests were seen as very stylish in the 1970s. We are unsure if tis is a German or Soviet style.


We notice a decorative image worn on tunics and blouses in Eastern Europea contries, including Latvia, Lithuaniam Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine. There re many different patterns. We are not sure what to call this decoration. One Latvian source uses the term 'priev´┐Żte'. We habe, however, not been able to find much ibformation on this decoration.

Hair Styles

We notice a lot of boys with close-cropped hair in the early and mid-20th century. This seems common in both Germany and Russia at the time. This was especially common among working-class families. We believe that one of the reasons for the popularity of this style was the prevalent sanitary conditions. Also it was inexpensive because mother could clip the boy's hair and he did not have to be sent to the barber. Boys in more affluent families were more likely to have at least enough hair to comb. We do not notice long hair for boys very commonly, even quite young boys. Younger boys might wear bangs. After World War II, bangs seem to have become a popular style for boys.


The HBC family sections are interesting because they put boys' fashions in the context of what girls as well as adult family members were wearing. They help to pur boys' fashion trends in context. They also provide useful sociological insights. Our Latvian archive is still limited. We have little information on Latvian families at this time. What we have found shows a German fashion influence. we note what looks like an affluent family on a beach vacation. Latvia is located on the Baltic and has beautiful, sandy beaches. There are three boys. The oldest boy wers a striped sailor blouse. The younger boys wear tunics with Baltic folk detailing. They look rther like the tunics worn by the German ribces vefore World war I. They look to be about 3-10 years old. They all have close cropped hair. The photograph is indated, but looks like the 1920s. We note another family portrait in 1929 with three children and mother. The boys are wearing matching sailor suits. Their teenage sister is dressed rather like her mother.


We see Latvian boys involved in a range of diffrent activities. There have been some Latvian boys' choirs. We see Latvian children with many of the toys popular in Germany. We also note a range of differentgames. Latvin national holidays include: January 1--New Year's Day; Good Friday; Easter Sunday; May 1--Labor Day; June 24--Midsummer; November 18--Independence Day; December 24-26 (Christmas). As in the rest of Europe, football (soccer) was the the preminent national sport. Scouting was the principal boys' youth groups. Latvia had until the Soviet invasion an active Scouting movement. The Soviets banned Scouting and Latvian boys hd to participate in the Young Pioneers movement. There are many areas such as music and dance that we still know nothing about.


The educational system was heavily influenced by the Soviet system. We note boys without school uniforms right after World War II, but presumably as the country began to recover from the War, the standard Soviet school uniform became more common. Since independence, Latvian school children no longer wear uniforms. I'm unsure just what other changes have taken place in education since independence. One change is there are now schools that operate in the Latvian as well as the Russian language.


Religion was important in Latvian life before World War II. There were substantial varition among the different Latvian ethnic groups. Latvia's position in northern Europe (where protestant dominated and surrounded by Cathholic Poland and Orthodox Russia made for a divere religious community. Latvia was ruled by Orthodox Tsarist Russia for more than two centuries. The cities had an important German Protestabnt community. The single most important religion was Evangelical Lutheranism. Slightly more than half of Latvians were Lutherans (55 percent). This varied ethnically. Nearly 70 prcent of the ethnic Latvians were Lutherans. The next most important religion was Roman Catholocism, influenced by a long historical assocation with Catholic Poland. About 25 percent of Latvians were Catholic, relatively the same proportion for both Latvians as a whole as well as ethnic Latvians. The Catholic popultion was centered in the economically poor southeastern province of Latgale. Were about 70 percent of the population was Catholic. Thus some viewed Catholicism of more of a regional religion. This is another reason that Lutheranism was seen as the dominant national religion. The Orthodox Church of Latvia accounted for about 10 percent of the population. Most of the Orthoox were Russians and other Slaves. Orthodixy was less common among ethnic Latvians. Old Believers, a Russian fundamentalist sect, account for another 5 percent of the population. Many were ethnic Russians whi had fled Tsarist persecution (17th century). They settled in what was at the time Swedish- and Polish-controlled Latvia. Latvia also had a small Jewish population, about 5 percent of the population. The rest of Latvia's pre-War population was a variety of Protestant denominations. The importance of religion in Latvian life was substantially reduced by World War II and the ensuing Soviet annexation. The Soviets seized control (1940) as prt of the NAZI-Soviet Non-Agression Pact and launched an atheism campign. The Germans invaded as part of Operation Barbarossa (1941). They destroyed the country's Jewish community as part of the Holocaut. The Sovies reentered Latvia (1944) and launched theur atheism campsign in earnest.

Folk Costuming

We have noted Latvian boys and girls wearing folk costunes, but do not know much about it at this time. The ones we have seen seem similar to some Scandinavian and German folk costumes we have see.


We have very little information about theatricals in Latvia. We know nothing abvout Latvian movies or television. We do have a Latvian radio page, although we do not yet know very much.


Related Baltic Pages in the Boys' Historical Web Site
[Estonia] [Latvia] [Lithuania] [Prussia]

Related Chronolgy Pages in the Boys' Historical Web Site
[The 1880s] [The 1890s]
[The 1900s] [The 1910s] [The 1920s] [The 1930s] [The 1940s] [The 1930s] [The 1940s] [The 1950s] [The 1960s] [The 1970s] [The 1980s]

Related Style Pages in the Boys' Historical Web Site
[Long pants suits] [Knicker suits] [Short pants suits] [Socks] [Eton suits] [Jacket and trousers] [Blazer]
[School sandals] [School smocks] [Sailor suits] [Pinafores] [Long stockings]

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Created: July 27, 2001
Last updated: 3:55 AM 4/9/2017