United States Boys' Clothes: Pittsburgh Brothers (1906)

Figure 1.--This portrait taken in 1906 shows two unidentfied Pittsburgh brothers. It is an excellent illustration of contemporary styles and conventions.

This portrait taken in 1906 shows two unidentfied boys. They were almost surely brothers. The piortrait was taken in Pittsburgh. It is an excellent illustration of contemporary styles and conventions. Siblings were commonly dresses alike, but often subtle and not so subtle variations to reflect age differences.


We do no know the identity of these two boys. The fact that they were photogarphed together in identical suits means almost certainly that they were brothrers. They look to be about 12 and 15 years old. Both boys wear identical double breasted suits with some Norfolk styling and identical neckties. They are both knicker suits, but there are differences in the knickers. The nicely tailored outfits suggest that these boys came from an affluent family.


We do know that the portrait was taken in Pittsburgh, an industrial city in western Pennstlvania.


The portrait was taken in 1906.


Many mothers at the time like to dress their children identically. Even teenagers were often dressed alike, especially like-gender siblings. This convention is much less common today. While children were commonly dressed alike in the early 20th century, it was also common to make destinctions of varying degrees in their outfit to reflect age differences. Note that the younger boy here wears an Eton collar, above the knee knickers, and long stockings instead of ribbed kneesocks. Each of these garmenrts and styles were clearly seen as more appropriate for a younger boy. We are somewhat unsure about the knickers as to wheter they are actually cut differently or just being worn differently. The younger brother wears his above the knees. A HBC reader asks, "Are you sure that the younger boy is wearing above-the-knee knickers? They look more like short pants to me and are quite high on the leg." HBC is almost positive that they are above the knee knickers. We have no images of American boys of that age wearing short pants in the 1900s. Knee pants were common, but not short pants. And this boy does not seem to be wearing kneepants, note how they blouse out sloghtly. Short pants were not very common in England in 1906 and as far as we can tell, virtually non-existent in America. points.


Several different garments and styles in America during the early 20th century are illustrated here.

Eton collar

Eton collars were still quite common in the United States in the early 20 century. This was especially the case for boys from affluent families.

Above the knee knickers

Both boys here wear knickers. We are, however, somewhat unsure about the knickers. We do not know if the knicker trousers were actually cut differently, or just are buttoned differently (the younger brother's buttoned or buckled above the knees). This above the knee knickers style appears to have been a destincly American fashion.

Long Stockings

There is a great deal of historical information on HBC about American long stockings which were so common in the late 19th and early 20th century. Of course styles and conventions changed over time. This image was sent to us by Charles who has provided us a great deal of information about his experiences a few years later in the late 1930s and 40s.


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Created: February 21, 2003
Last updated: February 23, 2003