American boys simply wore their regular clothes, often somewhat more formal than play clothes. This however changed over time. We see garments like sailor suits and kneepants suits in the early 20th century. Many boys wore corduroy knickers to school. Most boys wore long pants to school in the 1950s, but shorts were also worn by some areas. This varied regionally and chronolgically. Pimary boys by the mid-20th century were wearing more casual clothes such as "T"-shirts and jeans. To our knowledge American boys diud not wear smocks, but they were worn at some schools for art classes. Cold weather garments were important during the Winter, especially in the northern states. Most boys had raincoats for inclemet weather. A reader writes, "I was talking with a friend about changing fashions. She
told me that when she was in middle school in Berkeley in the late 1940s, boys wore unwashed corduroys, letting them get as dirty as possible. They also liked to wear them as low as possible. Things go in cycles! I also asked her about blue jeans. She said that boys in this area were never prohibited from wearing jeans at either the schools she attended or at the schools she taught at. The prohibition was against girls wearing jeans to high school, which was finally lifted in the mid-1960s. Today it's rare to find a girl who isn't wearing jeans. The dresses and skirts that used to be everyday wear are now reserved for special occasions."
We have not yet worked on school shoes. Most boys wore leather shoes to school. Noys in rural areas might come to school barefoot. Sneakers began to be worn after World war II, especially by primary-age boys. Ked were very popular. Trendy sneakers began to become popular in the 1960s. Today cgildren rarely wear leather shoes to school.
Boys commonly wore headwear to school in the 19th and early century. As few children wore uniforms, the hats they wore were basically their regular headwear. We have little information on the early-19th century. Thanks to photography we know much more beginning in the mid-19th century. Unfortunately the children are not wearing headwear in many scool portraits, but thereare so many school photographs that we have a fairly good idea. In the mid-19th century it was mosly hats although we do se kep[is around the Civil War. Rounded-crown hats were the most common, but we see some flat-crown hats as well. A few younger boys wore wide-brimmed hat. We see some sailor caps in the 189os. We also see winter caps. After the-turn-of-the century, caps relaced hats as the primary school headwear. We see peaked caps, flat caps, beanies, swabbie caps, ski caps. logging caps, and other styles. Some private schools did have uniforms which inckuded British-type peaked caps. Since World War II, headwear has become less common, except on rainy days or during the cold winter weather. We also see baseball caps emerging s the principal headwear for boys. Parochial schools began requiring uniforms in the 1860s, but usully did not require caps. Public schools began adopting voluntary iniforms in the 70s, but like parochial schools did not generally require headwear.
Cold weather garments were important during the Winter, especially in the northern states. Most boys had raincoats for inclemet weather.
Sailor suits were very popular for American boys in the late-19th and early 20th century. We are not sure how common it was to wear them to school in the late 19th century. We think it was very common in the late-19th century, at least in city schools. This has to be confirmed. We know more about the early 20th century. Here the sailor suit appears to have been very popular with younger boys at primary schools. We usually see at least one boy and often more than one boy wearing sailor suits in class porraits. The prevalemce declines sharply with the older primary boys. We also see girls wearing sailor dresses. Sailor suits wre particularly popular in the early 20th century. After the 1930s they become much less common.
Suits were for an extended period the primary ouyfit American boys wore to school. Our information isstill limired for the early-19th century. We think boys wore tunic suits, at least fashionable city boys. We note shirts that were done rather like tunics at mid-century. We are less sure about what rural boys wore, but pobably not suits. After mid-cntury, especially by the 1860s, we see commonly wearing suits to school. Suits became standard in the late-19th century. The increasing afluence of Americans was a factor here. Even working-class city boys commonly had sack suits. They might not have extensive wadrobes, but suits were commonly what they did have. Mny boys had a wardrobe consisting of two suits, one for school and dress up and an old suit for general wear. Long pants suits were standard except for younger boys, but knee pants suits gradually became morre common and by the 1890s were standard even for younger teen agesers. Boys in rural areas often lagged the urban comventions. We see garments like sailor suits and knee pants suits in the early-20th century. Suddenly about 1908-09 we begin o see knicker rather than knee pants suits. Wearing a suit to school wasstill very common before World War I (1914-18), especially in city schools. This formal attitude continued after the War, but more casual styles gradually took hold during the 20s, especially in primary schools. Suits were still worn, but much less coimmon in the 1930s. The type of school was a factor. Many private schools continued to require suits even after they disapperd in public schools. Suits were much less common in rural schools, especially after the 1900s when overalls appeared in the schools.
Neckwear trends rended to fillow suit trends. Boy wearing suits commonly, but not always wore neckwear, mostly ties. It was not very common to wear ties unless earing suits. Some younger boys might wear floppy bows rther than ties. Bowties seem popular in the early-20th centuty. We also see younger boys wearing floppy bows with blouses (1889-1910s).
We have begun to work on American school shirts. We note a tange of shirt-like garments, including shirts, shirt-waists, blouses, detchable collars, and by the 20th century casual styles like T-shirts. Shirts are adiificult topic, especially in the 19th century. We have vey little informtion on the early-19th century. ith the advent of photography we know much more about the second half of the century. Still there are problems. Many boys just wore shirt-like garments at mid-centuty. Some look rather like tunics. Colorgul plaid are other patterns were common. Wjile we have some information on these shurts, we do not know to what extent they were worn to school. Boys commonly wore jackets and vests, especually by the 1860s. And the jackets and vests comonly covered up the shirts. So all get to see in many instances is a little bit of white fabric peaking out at the collar. And as luck would have it the fashion at mid-century was for very small collars. Occassioinally we see a bit of cuff as well. And by the late-19th century we begin to see school portaits which shows defintively what garments were worn to school. We see some Eton collars, but they were much less popular in America than Britin. We see boys wearing suits to city schools in the late-19th and early 20th century. School wear was more varoed in trural areas. Dungress became a mabour item at rural schools worn with various shirts about 1910. About the same time shirt waists This as about the same timr that shorts waists and blouses are phased out and shirts became standard wear. School clothes gradually became more casual, first in primary schools and then in secondary schools as well. We see boys beginning to wear colaress shirts in the 1930s and they were very common by the 40s. They were, however Striped T-shirts bith ling a short skeeved were very popular. far from unverasal and we see boys wearin a wide variety of shirts.
Boys in the 1900s mostly wore knee pants. Knickers were more common in the 1910s. Overalls also became a major school garment in the late 1900s and were very common during the 1910s-30s at rural schools. They declined in popularity during the 1940s as differences between urban and rural children began to disappear.
Many boys wore corduroy knickers to school during the 1930s. Primary boys by the mid-20th century were wearing more casual clothes such as "T"-shirts and jeans. Most boys wore long pants to school in the 1950s, but shorts were also worn by younger boys some areas, especially the South. This varied regionally and chronolgically. A reader writes, "I was talking with a friend about changing fashions. She told me that when she was in middle school in Berkeley in the late 1940s, boys wore unwashed corduroys, letting them get as dirty as possible. They also liked to wear them as low as possible. Things go in cycles! I also asked her about blue jeans. She said that boys in this area were never prohibited from wearing jeans at either the schools she attended or at the schools she taught at. The prohibition was against girls wearing jeans to high school, which was finally lifted in the mid-1960s. Today it's rare to find a girl who isn't wearing jeans. The dresses and skirts that used to be everyday wear are now reserved for special occasions."
To our knowledge American boys did not wear smocks, but they were worn at some schools for art classes.
We note children wearing a wide range of hosiery to school. This has varied over time and by age. Gender has also at times beeb a factor. We are not entirely sure what boys wore to schools in the early 19th century. At the time the public school system was still developing and photography did not yet exist. Also long pants were commonly worn, making it difficult to determine what hosiery was worn, at least by boys. We know much more about the second half of the 19th century with the advent of photography. Children both boys and girls wore long stockings. There are very few exceoptins in the photographic record. Socks were much more common in Europe. Boys and girls throughout the 19th century wore basically the same hosiery. Long pants were still very common for boys, except younger boys. This only began to change in the 1880s and by the 1890s we see boys of all ages wearing knee pants, almost always with long stockings. Girls also almost universally wore long stockings. Most boys continued wearing long stockings after the turn-of-the 20th century, but by the 1910s knee pants had been replaced with knickers. Yonger boys after the turn-of-the centuery began wearing tunic suits and would often wear them with three-quarter socks rather than long stockings. After World War I we begin to see socks being worn. A factor here is that boys began wearing more casual clothes to school. This trend appeared first at primary schools and later at secondary schools as well. Boys at first mostly wore knickers with long stockings, but by the end of tghe cdecade, patterened knee sicks became popular. Younger boys might wear short pants with a variety of hosiery, including ankle socks, three-quarter sicks, knee socks and long stockings. Gradually ankle socks became the dominant hosiery for boys, especially by the 1940s and long pants becamne increasingly common. Girls contginued to wear knee socks. After World War II (1939-45) most boys wore ankle socks. Striped socks were especially popular and fewer boys wore knee socks. Many boys wore white socks. Tights appeared in the 1960s, but only girls worn them. Tube socks were popular in the 1970s as short pants began to be widely worn by boys again, but mostly athletic styles.
American School footwear has varied substantially over time. Many Ameican boys went to school barefoot at least during the warmer months. This was especially the case in the South and rural areas through the 1930s. And we still see a few boys coming to school barefoot in the early-1950s. We do not know much about 18th century footwear, but we notice low-cut buckle shoes. We see boys and men still wearing low-cut shoes in the early-19th century. For some reason we do not fully understand, high-top shoes became common aftr mid century. We notice buckle and lace up shoes. we also see strap shoes, but we do not see boys wearing them except for a few younger boys. Strap shoes were almost always worn by girls in America, Low-cut oxfords began to replace high-top shoes after World War I. And the leather low-cut oxford was standard for boys and girls. Saddle shoes were worn by boys and girls, but were more popular with girls. Girls also commonly wore different styles and colors of strap shoes. We note an interesting article about the Portland public schools which taught boys shoe repair. Most boys wore leather shoes to school. Younger boys in rural areas might come to school barefoot. Sneakers began to be worn after World War II, especially by primary-age boys. but not at first to school. Keds were very popular. Gradually sneakers became more and more common, at first with primary school boys and gradually with secondry students. Trendy sneakers began to become popular in the 1960s. Today children rarely wear leather shoes to school. Boys did not commonly wear sandals to school, but we begin to see open-toe sandals in the 1990s, at first in California. We believe the pattern was highly seasonal. Schools had a variety of rules. Some schools had safety concerns. some permitted sandls while others did not. Boys and mothers had various opinions about sandals. They are now more common in warm weather. Shoe companies have introduced sport sandals.
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