Scottish Boys' Garments: Suits

Figure 1.--The unidentified Scottish boy here wears a plain cut-away jacket and vest with matching knickers and long stockings. Notice the small collar and bow. This CDV portrait was taken at the James Bowman Studio in Glasgow. The portrait is undated, but looks like the 1870s.

We do not yet have much much information about suits in Scotland, but have begun to collect some information. Our Scottish archive is still very limited. Our information on the 19th century is limited, but we now have some information on on the 20th century. The images we have found show Scottish boys wearing suits that were virtually indistinguishable from English suits. There were the same popular styles as worn in England. We notice a variety of styles. We do have a portrait of an Edinburgh boy wearing a Fauntleroy outfit, but with a cape rather than a jacket. We also see Scottish boys wearing sailor suits like the ones worn by English boys. We also notice Scottish boys wearing the same kind of regular suits worn in England. We see cut-away jackets in the mid-19th century. Boys wore both single- and double-breasted jackets. Some boys from well-to-do families wore Fauntleroy suits. Norfolk jackets seem popular in the late-19th cedntury. The jackets seem the same as those worn in England and America. Scottish suits are a little different than the suits worn in America in that knickers pants seem more common than knee pants. Of course when worn with kilts the Scottish connection is clear. An important factor was age. Suit styles were very different for boys of differenht ages. These differences are now much less notable.


We do not yet have much much information about suits in Scotland, largely becuse of our limited archive. We have begun to collect some informtion. Photography was not as common as it was in America or even England and of course Scotland is a smll country with a limited information. Our information on the 19th century is especially limited. At this time we only have information from the 1860s when CDVs appeared. We see all he various jacket styles popular in England, cut-way jackets, Norfolk suits, Faunleroy suits sailor suits. The only basic difference we can see is the different jackets Scottish boys wore with Highlnd kilts. We don't see in the 19th century. many Scottish boys wearing kilt suits. We see Highland kilt outfits, but not kilt suits. Vests were common Boys mostly wore suits with long pants. this begn to change at mid century, but only for younger boys. We see older boys wearing shotened-length pants by the end of the century, including knickers, bloomrer knickers and knee pants. We have more information on on the 20th century. Immediately after the turn-od-the 20th century we continue to see 19th century styles like Norfolk suits. After World War I in the 1920s we see motly single breasted suits with vests gradually declining in popularity. Many boys wore blazers. After the 1950s cuits begm to bcome leass common as clothing became increasingly casual.

English Styles

The images we have found show Scottish boys wearing suits that were virtually indistinguishable from English suits. Kilts were not as common as one might expect, especially in the Lowlands. And some fashion concious English mothers began dressing their boys in kilts. For some reason we do not see mothers dressing theor girls in Scottish styles. Around the turn of the 19th century we begin to see Englsh attitudes toward Scotland change. They were extremely negative in the 19th century. The exploits of Highland regiments in he Napoleonic wars were a factor. Authors like Sir Walter Scott and Robert Burns were a factor. One enchanted fan was a young Princess Victoria. English mothers after Queen Victoria began to popularize Scotland and dressing the princes kilts started to take an interest in Scottish fashion. Many English mothers adopted the kilt fashion in the mid-19th century. But this affected a realtively small numbrr of boys. But what we mostly see in the photographic record is the vast majority of Scottish boys wearing the same popular styles we see in England. And this was not only in the Low Lands. In fact, unlike some European countres it is impossible to identify Scottish images in the photographic record just by looking at them. Of course kilts are a clue, but realtively few boys in portarits or later snapshots wear kilts. Anf there is even fewer girls wearing Scottish styles. And as mentioned we see kilts in England. Fortunately we can identify most 19th century images because most CDVs and cabinet cards identify the studio and city. Aftr the 20th century as the cabinet card faded in popularity, we no longer have this easy way of locating the images.

Juvenile Styles

Suits were very common in the 19th century, more common than in the 20th century. Even children commonly wore suits, especially after mid-century. We have less information about the early-19th century before the invention of photography. We believe that suits became more common in the 19th century in part because of the increasing prosperity and rising middle class resulting from the industrial economy. We note many different styles of juvenile suits worn by Scottish boys. They were basically the same as worn by English boys. The two best known were probably sailor suits and Fauntleroy suits. There were many others such as kilt suits which does not mean proper kilt outfits which were not specifically juvenile outfits. There were mostly styles worn by pre-school boys. There was, however, some cross over with younger school-age boys also wearing these juvenile styles. We even see mostly younger boys wearing sailor suits. We tend to see a wider age range for sailor suits on the Continent.

Older Boy Suits

Suits were very common in the 19th and early-20th century. Boys unless from well-to-do families did not have large wardrobes. Wearing suits was very common. We see them at school and for regular wear as well. Often boys had a new suit for best and an older suit for everyday wear. Suits becane less common in the 20th century, but only at mid-century. Sack suits were becoming standard for boys at the mid-19th century. This is what we see as photography begins to provide us porttaits in numbers. School age Scottish boys generally wore various styles of sack suits. Here there was some cross over with juvenile suits. Younger school age boys, for example, might wear sailor suits. For the nost part, however, school age boys wore differnt kinds of sack suits. The basic suit Scottish garments are jackets and pants, also called coats and jackets. This is of course the same in other countries. We notice several different types of both which have varied over time. These styles in Scotland are essentilly the same as we see in England. We have found very little difference in the photographic record. In adition to jackets and pants there are other garments that can also be parts of suits. We sometimes see boys wearing matching caps, but this was not very common. Much more common was headwear that did not match the suit and were purchsed separately. Hats never matched, but caps sometimes didd.


An important factor was age. Suit styles were very different for boys of differenht ages. This varied a good deal chronologically. Such differences are now much less notable. We begin to see younger boys wearing a variety of shortened-length pants in the mid-19th century. We see a variety of fancy suits for younger boys, including Zouave suits, cut-away jackets, sailor suits, Fauntleroy suits and others. Most boys continued wearing long pants suits, however, until the late-19th century. We note both collar-buttoning and and lapel jackets. The collar-buttoning jackets were popular for younger boys until after the turn-of-the 20th century. Age 8 years became an important point at which styles changed. This was mamy boys at ahe began to go away from home and board. Most boys did not board or even attend private schools, but these schools tended to set fashion trends until after World war II. Here the English schools may have been more important than the Scottish schools. You see a lot less of the juvenile styles after this. Many school-age boys wore Eton suits or regular suits with Eton collars. Single-breasted jackets became standard for boys in the 1920s. Younger boys still wore short pants, but this also began to change by the 1960s. And by the end of the decade boys suits were very similar for all but the youngest age groups. Boys by this time, however, were not very commonly wearing suits.


There are two issues concerning color. There are both the subject of matching suit garments and then different color shades used for suits. First, at the mid-19th century we see men and boys wearing suits that did not match, primarily meaning different colored jackets and pants. Vests might also vary. This could mean different colors or also different patterns. This normally but not always meant a different colored jacket or a jacket with a pattern and solid colored pants. This was not always the case as we also see patterned pants. Rarely do we see two different pattens for th jacket and pants. We note mostly matching jackets and pants by the 1870s. We are not yet sure about the 1860s. Second, is the actual color shades used for suits. Unfirtunately the black and white photography of the 19th and 20th century provide very little color information. So we are not sure about the 19th century. here is some information, including paintings, coloied images, and catalogs. We do note that in the 20th century grey became especially important for boys's suits.


Fabric is a more difficult subject to assess from the photographic record than style. Most suits were done in a variety of wool fabrics, but just what the fabric was require a close up of the garments which is lacking in most portraits. We can oftent detect flat weaves which often flannel, but there are other flat weave fabric. And other fabrics are very difficult to detect. Flannel was a very common suiting fabric. But other wool fabrics are difficult to detect. American fabric information is often included is mail order catalogs, but we have very limited Scottish catalog information. While wool was commonly used for suiting fabric, there were other fabrics. Velvet was a popular fabric for younger boys. True velvet made with was very expensive, but velvet look alikes made with cotton blends were more moderarely priced. Corduroy was the primary cotton suiting material and as a result the least expensive. It can often be detected in portraits.


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Created: 5:45 AM 10/19/2010
Last updated: 5:13 PM 10/8/2019