*** boys coats and overcoats

Boys' Coats

Figure 1.--This American boy was photographed with his brother during the 1890s. Both wear sailor hats and winter coats. Usually mothers had their sons take off their coats for formal portraits.

A coat is an outer garment with sleeves covering at least the upper portion of the body. HBC is classifying the longer garments as coats and the shorter garments as jackets. Other authors might use the weight of the garment to destinguish between coats and jackets among outerwear garments. This can be quite confusing as in some instances the word javket and coat in American English is used inter changeably. A good example is either suit or coat can be used tio describe the top part of a suit. HBC is using coats here to mean outer garments for cold weather wear. Boys have worn a wide variety of coats. Perhaps the most common is the overcoat, but other styles have been worn as well.


The photographic record of 19th century coats and other outter garments is incomplete. Most photographs in the 19th century were portraits taken in photographic studios. For these portraits, mothers wold remove the coat so that the photograph would show the boy's often fancy suit. Information is available from other sources, but photographs are rare. We note that water-proof coats began to appear about the 1880s. The photographic record becomes must more complete after the appearance of the Kodak Brownie and amateur snapshots in the 1900s. Traditional styles remained popular throufg the mis 20th century, but by the 1970s, boys were increasingly turning to coats styled as sportswear.


The styling of boys' coats were normally very plained. This was normally the case even with the child was wearing a fancy party suit or dress. Sonme mothers, however, insisted on fancier styling on the coat as well.

Fauntleroy style

Lace collars were primarily worn on fancy party suits and blouses. Many Fauntleroy suits were worn with penned on lace collars rather than a formal blouse. Children during cold weather would wear a generally plain coat over their party suots and dresses. The coats were generally styled the samer for younger boys and girls. While these coats were mostly plain, some mothers could not help but pen a lace collar on hem as well.

Reefer jackets

These jackets were called reefer jackets owing to their naval origins. The nautical term "to reef" conotates reducing the area of the sail to catch the wind. Sailors wore heavy jackets when they had to go aloft to take in or let out the sails. It must have been a bitter cold experience in bad weather. While heavy, they were short so the sailors could better manuever in the rigging. At any rate the heavy jackets they wore became known as reefer jackets.

Figure 2.--This boy and his brother above wears knee pants suits, but it is not poosible tell what style because of their overcoats.

Coat Types

Boys over time have worn many different types of coats. There have been formal dressy styles as well coats worn by working-class boys in cities and farms. Other styles were also worn to school, although lighter jackets were often more common for school wear. We are still collecting information on different coat types. Information on different types of cold weather outerwear includes:


We have noted some destinctively styled coats worn during the mid-19th century, They tend to have oversized shoulders and fell about to knee level.

Duffle coat

The duffle coat was popularized during Worls War II when it was adopted by the British Navy. It is a hooded coat made out of a course woolen fabric with destinctive hemp and wooden toggles for fastening. After the War it became a popular boys' coat. It was adopted by some English schools as part of their uniform. It was widely worn in the Netherlands and other European countries it was also widely worn in the United Statesm althiugh has been less common since the 1980s.


A paletot is a cloak or coat. My dictionary defines it as a loose outter garment or coat. It is based on a French word, but the origin is uncertain. I have never heard of it before. I first noted the term in 19th centurty French fashion magazines. I note, however, that it also appears in some English dictionaries. This appears to be more true of English than American dictionaries.


Boys from affluent familied used to have a formal overcoat to wear with their best dress outfits. One especially popular style was double breasted coats. Many of the better coats had velvet colar trin. The coats were often worn with with sailor hats, berets, or English style peaked caps. Today formal coats are less common and most boys wear more casual, colorful jackets during the winter. Some of the principal styles of overcoats include the Chesterfield, the Crombie and the British Warm.


Early rainproof garments were made from materials like oilskin which involved treating cotton fabric. The person most associated with rainwear is Charles Mackintosh. He conceived os using the valueless byproduct of a Glasgow gasworks for bleaching and dyeing cloth. In the process he realized that the unwanted coal tar could be converted into a kind of a rubber solution. He camr upon the idea of sandwiched his sollution between two layers of cloth. The resulting fabric was waterproof which McIntosh patebtented (1823). The Mcintosh or Mac became virtually synonamous with raincoat in the English language. Traditional waterproof materials are no longer made. Modern rain garments are made from by plastics and rubberised fabric. Technology is for ever improving and clothing manufacturers are now using complex breathable membranes into everyday rainwear garments..


Many boys' wool coats are lined with a Scotch plaid are with little checks.

Country Trends

Coat styles and trends have varied from country to country, although by the 1980s many of these national differences have largely disappeared. Erhave some limited infiormation on some countries. The duffle coat became popular in England after World War I and after World War II was worn by boys in many other countries such as America, France, Germany, Latvia, and the Netherlands. French boys wore capes more than boys in most other countries. One source indicates that after 1967, military styles became very fashionable in France, including officer collars, epaulettes, martingales, and gold-colored buttons. By the 1970s French boys were no longer wearing some traditional French styles like capes and ponchos and increasingly rearing coats styled as sportswear.

Personal Experiences

Some personal experiences or fashion articles are available on coats:
Buying a coat: America in the 1990s


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Created: January 3, 1998
Last updated: 6:14 PM 7/12/2008