United States Boys' Clothes: Individual Experiences in the 1960s

Figure 1.-- Eric grew up in Connecticut and the family spent some time in Italy. We remembers being an active Cub and Scout. He recalls that his Cub uniform had long pants, but his Scout uniform had short pants. He also remembers only wearing long pants as a boy in America--except for Scouting. He is not sure quite why. In other countries it was the Cubs who wore short pants. Note the short hair cut.

Several HBC readers have contributed details on their personal experiences during the 1960s. The 60s is an interesting decade because it as one of considerable social turmoil and as is often the case, fashion changes. These have included accounts about hair styles and various clothing styles. In many cases readers meoriesare sparked by our HBC pages. Some readers have traveled or gone to school in other countries, providing interesting cross-cultural insights. These personal accounts are very important HBC as they add inights to the phographic record on which we heavily rely in our assesments. There are also accounts on buying clothes as well as experiences at school. Several published accounts also add valuable insights on boys wear during the 1960s. Of course hair became a major issue un the 1960s with the appearance of long hair styles. Several readers remember their hair styles. We ijcourage HBC readers to send along their reminicences to help build this section.

Rich and European Influences

My boyhood years were mostly in the 1960s. There were three of us boys. Me and slightly older brother were close in age and are older brother ws about 5 years separated from us. I recall an outfit I didn't like at all even as a kindergartner. It was a gift from a European client of my father. Mom often dressed the dressed the two of us alike in the early 60s. guess she liked the look. We didn't think much of it at the time. Our older boher always dressed differently. Our outfits changed dramatically after our parents spent a long summer vacation (3 or 4 weeks) in Europe during 1965. When she came home she changed all of her thoughts about short hair. Until then she had the barber cut our hair short. Suddenly she wanted us to wear it long like Europeans. She also liked the bell bottom pants and wilder colors that she saw in Europe. At that point my brother and I were no longer dressed alike. I remember she bought sweaters and other clothes for us which we continued to wear for some time. I would have been around 7- 8 and my brother 10-11 years old at the time .

Eric and Scouting

Eric grew up in the 1950s and 60s. He lived in Connecticut and the family spent some time in Italy. We remembers being an active Cub and Scout. Scoyting was the thinf to do in the 1960s. He recalls that his Cub uniform had long pants, but his Scout uniform had lon pants. He also remembers only wearing long pants as a boy--except for Scouting. He is not sure quite why. In other countries it was the Cubs who wore short pants. He also notes the short hair cuts boys wore, at least in the early 60s.

Fashion Concious Mother

I am retired now, and the early years are difficult to recall in detail. There are so many hours now I reflect, I have recalled some general descriptions of my youth and several rather specific memories. My parents were separated most of my childhood, from when I was about 6 to 12 years of age. My maternal grandfather was a wealthy man and did much to support my mother's desire to have a high end/profile lifestyle. We had a live in nanny/housekeeper even though we lived in an apartment. And it was just two of us kids, my older sister and me. The apartment was very nice upon reflection. Our Nanny had her own room. Grandfather arranged for us to stay at sea side resorts in Florida in the late fall and during the Easter time. My sister and I had a tutor as we were out of our regular Catholic school for weeks at a time, several times it was a month or even more. And in the summer, we stayed at a very upscale resort on a lake in the upper Midwest, several large rooms. We were there a month or so at times. My mother wanted to show us off, to show she had 'class' I think. We were always dressed impeccably. Unfortunately for me, this meant I was dressed extremely traditional in very classic/old school styles. In time era terms, this was about 1961-1969, I was born in 1954. I can write more about being formally dressed for bi-annual portraits that were taken.

The Beautiful People, the 1960s

"Everything has been Eton or terribly appliqued, and no color," said Mrs. Lent, listing what was wrong with boys' clothes. "Little boys are all bones and beautiful little necks. They should have clean lines and nice colors, without looking like little girls, of course. I also love white on little boys." But don't little boys have an affinity for dirt?" someone asked. "I change my son two times a day. I want him to have pride in himself," Mrs. Lent replied. She took the Eton jacket and made it into a cutaway. "It's an 18th-century look," she said. She did away with collars and sleeve buttons. Short pants buttoned onto shirts instead of being held up with straps. "They're always falling and driving little boys crazy," she said. She also omitted the fly from the pants, seemingly unconcerned about what this would do to a newly toilet-trained size 3. Nevertheless, Rachel Lent struck a responsive chord in the fashion industry.

Shorts and Socks, the 1960s-2000s

I find the changes in attire endlessly fascinating. When I was a kid in the 60's, boys almost never wore shorts, preferring blue jeans, cords or other long pants and T-shirts or button-up plaid shirts. For a few years, surfer shirts were the rage. They were white with large vertical strips, usually blue. Also popular were wool shirts made by the Pendelton Co. They were usually black and blue, green or red. It was probably the most "in" thing to wear to Junior High School in the early 60's. I have noticed over the past 30 years how boys style preferences have been very fickle, especially in regards to shorts and socks.

Shorts, Jeans, and France, the 1960s

This fascinating American account prepared by Bruce McPherson is especially interesting because the author attended both private schools and public schools in various U.S. locations . He also lived in France, providing details on both American and French boys' clothes and a variety of cross cultural differences.

John's Long Hair

The line has been drawn. I mean that dangle of hair which recent news photographs show little John F. Ken-nedy Jr. wearing over his 21/2-year-old brows and ears. I don't think even the Kennedys will be able to popularize that haircut with the great American public. I know.

Personal Experiences in the 1960s

Several HBC readers have asked me about American boys in the 1950s and 1960s. At the time most American boys lived in "T" shirts with big colored stripes, jeans, and Keds (sneakers). In the fall for school we would switch to flannel shirts and flannel lined jeans or cords. But it was virtually all long pants, even for relatively younger boys. There were some exceptions. Hopefully some of our American HBC contributors can help flesh this out.

Mothers Buy Clothes

Playboy magazine once smugly described its readership as "young urban males who have it made." The phrase surfaces as I remember lurking around schoolyards and soccer fields covertly observing my own young urban male and his peers. Boys at play, they may not yet have it made, but they do seem constantly to be on the make. Their clothes-typically grubby, slavishly conformist or eccentric at different stages-are more important to them than popular mythology admits. They learn all too early that clothes are a climber's short cut to lofty social position, a route that is easier on the digestion than eating spiders and more diplomatic than tripping the teacher.

Parochial School in Chicago and California

I grew up in Chicago and California. My mother had European tastes concerning fashions. I wore short pants to Catholic School through the 8th grade. This was not "acceptable" to other boys in the 1960s and 70s so my friend Michael and I were always dodging abuse. An 8th grader in grey or blue short pants and knee socks was considered a sissy. I remember sone pretty rough back then. but know I find it a bit exciting.

Private School

The first time I remember noticing my own clothes was on an Easter Sunday in the early 1960s in New York City. I think I was three and a half. I was very pleased with my outfit, which consisted of shortalls in robinís egg blue cotton, with a bunch of orange carrots embroidered on the front pocket. I was also wearing a white button shirt with a round, Peter Pan collar. I had on short white socks, and my shoes were those red t-strap sandals with two buckles. Iím sure that I was old enough not to need the diaper changing crotch snaps that shortalls sometimes have. It was a warm day, and I remember feeling very light and summery and loose.

A California Boy

I was born in the early Fifties, and grew up in California. Boys in California came to wear casual short pants extensivdely. But when I was a boy we still mostly wore jeans--long pants jeans.

Peter: California Experiences

My own experience growing up in Southern California was that I got enough sunburns that it eventually got so I would always wear a shirt when I went outside in the summer preferably one with a collar. I also liked to have hair long enough to cover my ears and the back of my neck. This was actually a year round preference: in the summer, I wanted my hair to keep the sun off and in the winter, I wanted my hair to keep the wind off.


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Created: March 12, 1998
Last updated: 10:12 AM 11/21/2016