*** boys' bows types

Boys' Bows: Types

Bows are an important decorative item. Mothers loved them and put them virtually everyhere. Children both boys and girls during the late 19th and early 20th Century wore a wide variety of bows. The most common were collar bows. And huge collar bows are a destinctive style of the late 19th century, especially for boys. Doting mothers, however, found a wide variety of other palces to adorn their sons with children with decorarive bows, especially the boys. Bows appeared on boys from the top of their head to their shoesand secveral places in between. There are even bows afixed to boys that HBC can't quite figure out. Sometimes a boy in fact might wear multiple bows. The most that HBC has noted has been three boys, but it is quite possible that some boys may have even worn more.

collar bows
Figure 1.--The bows worn by some boys, even boys as old as 10, could be massive affairs. They of course required mother's help to tie in any reasonable style. Here the younger brother wears a large boy, one of several ways that their mother has diferentiated their clothes by age.

Collar Bows

Many mothers began using larger bows on boys' collars during the 1870s. Previously most, but not all boys, had worn collars and bows of modest sizes. The small bows were usually black. As mothers began selecting larger collars, they also selected larger bows. The Fauntleroy craze which began in 1885 intensified this process. A kind of arms race in boys bows began with mothers vying as to just how big a bow could be employed. Collar bows not only got larger, but appeared in a wide variety of colors and patterns. The fashion of large bows for boys did not begin to recede until the 1910s.

Hair Bows

Hair bows in particular are considered to be girls' wear, but some fashionable mothers used them on their sons as well. I'm not sure when this practice began, but it was firmly established by the 1870s. The most common hair bow for boys was white. Only limited information is available on color because of the black and white photography of the day. It should be noted, however, that gender specific color conventions were not nearly as deep rooted as they are today. It seems to have been most pronounced in France, but has been noted in America as well as most Continental European countries. This practice also became less common in the 1910s.

Pants Bows

The least common bows used with boys clothing was pants bows. The usually appeared at the hem of a boys kneepants and were most commonly worn with Fauntleroy suits. It was not only Fauntleroy suits, however, theybalso appeared on sailor suits and other kneepants. I'm not sure about the color, but believe that they were mostly black, or a color close to the color of the pants themselves. In contrast to the collar bows, they were usually quite small.

Kilt Bows

While it was not very common, we see a few boys hose mothers have put bows on their kilts. We have aubstantial kilt suit archive and rrely notic this. One early example is American boy, Augustus Davies, we think in the late-1860s. Mother has pur two big bows on his kilt where the sporan might go.

shoe bows
Figure 2.--This boy is proabably French. He wears a rather ordinary knee pants sailor suit with dark, perhaps blue, three-quarter length stockings. His mother has insisted, however, on him keeping his curls and adding little bows to his shoes.

Shoe Bows

Somewhat more common than pants bows was tieing bows on boys' shoes. This rather emulated a common 17th Century style. Louis XIV and other stylish pesonages of the era were so pictured. This was particularly common for boys still in dresses or wearing fancy Fauntleroy suits, but boys in run of the mill sailor suits might also have shoe bows. This was a particularly popular style in France. These bows were most commonly worn worn with strap shoes. Frequently the boys wearing these bows had long, often curled hair.

Shoulder bows

Bows were often used on children's dresses, both for boys and girls. Children in the mid-19th Century wore dresses with low neck-lines and without collars. Bows were employed to hold the dresses up and for decoration. This style had become less popular by the 1870s, but did not disappear entirely.

Bow Ties

The modern bow tie has evolved rimarily from the bow ties commonly worn by men at the mid-19th Century. These original bow ties were black and were worn by boys in the era before Fauntleroy suits and sailor suits were popular. Some boys today wear bow ties, although they are not very common. They were somewhat more popular in the 1940 and 50s. Boys today dress up less commonly and do not usually wear bowties when they do.


Some boys wore bows that are a little difficut to figure out. Perhaps some HBC readers can help determine just what kind of bows are involved. This is sometines the case whaen more than one bow is involved.


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Created: 5:24 PM 9/14/2008
Last updated: 5:24 PM 9/14/2008