Figure 1.--This American boy wears the large open collar style. The photograph was probably taken in the late 1920s. The sports collar was most commonly worn during the Summer, but note the boy hre is wearing a sweater.
I was not sure what the proper name for this collar was. A HBC reader has informed us that it was known as a "sport's collar". Boys in the 1910s through the 30s wore this collar. It was a kind of large open collar, cut somewhat like a sailor collar. It was a rather sporty style and part of the trend toward casual clothing. These open collar shirts were an especially popular style in the United States. I have also noted it Europe, especially in Germany. It appears to have been particularly common in America, but this may reflect our hreater access to American photographs. The actual shape and width of the collar varied, but it was almost always worn open with the collar going down to the first button, well below the neck. These were usuallym but not not always white shirts. They were worn seasonally and as far as we can tell, primarily short-sleeved shirts. It was a sporty style, I do not think there was even a collar button so that the collar could be worn buttoned. I have occassionally seen the collar worn with a tie, apparentlty on special days in which a school photograph or other event was schedued, but this was relatively rare.
I'm not positive what the proper name for this collar was. A HBC reader tells us that it was known as a "sport's collar in the United States. I hope to find references for it in clothing catalogs, but have not yet noted an appropriate reference. While this collar appears to have been called a sports collar in the United States, we do not know what it was called in Britain. Nor do we much information about the foreign-language terms for this collar style. A German reader tells us that they were known as Schiller collars. She writes, "The "Schillerkragen" (Schiller collar) is connected to the famous composer. I can't really explain why but it is somehow connected to a wish for freedom."
Boys in the 1920s and 30s wore a kind of large open collar. I'm unsure about the origins of this collr. We seem to have noticed it in America after World war I in the early 1920s. It may have appeared in Germany even earlier. It appears to have been another example of the increasing informality following the War. The wide open collars styled some-what like a sailor collar were known as sports collars in the United States. They were also widely worn in Europe, although I'm less sure what they wre called in other countries. I have noted this style in the late-1910s, during the final year of World War I (1914-18). The earliest image I have at this time is 1918, but believe they may have appeared a few years before this. We note many examples archived on HBC. One example is the American Barad twins in 1931. These collars were worn in the early 1940s, but were not much seen after World War II (1939-45).
These large sports collars were an especially popular style in the United States. We assumed at first that they were most popular in America, perhaps origninating there. This may be, however, because we are most familiar with America and have a larger archive of American images. Since working on HBC, I have noted that it was common in several European countries as well, especially Britain and Germany. We see boys at English schools commonly wearing these collars. We note many images of boys wearing these collars. They were called Schiller collars in Germany. A German reader tells us, "It seems at first the collar was popular with the Wandervogel movement but later became part of children fashion in general. In the mid 1920s my grandfather wore such a collar at the age about 10. Here in Germany we have three very famous boys choir and one of the still wears today a Schiller collar. It's the "Dresdner Kreuzchor".
The sports collar was a sporty style shirt. I do not think there was even a collar button so that the collar could be worn buttoned. I have occassionally seen the collar worn with a tie, apparentlty on special days in which a school photograph or other event was scheduled, but this was relatively rare. Some mothers seems on such occassions insisted that a tie be worn wether the shirt was made for one or not. A good example is Elford Caughley in 1918. (Perhaps mother is not always right!) These shirts were the first common shirt style designed to be worn with out a tie. Their appearance in the 1920s was a move toward more casual clothing. It was especially popular before the appearance of "T" shirts and other popular casual styles.
These shirts as they had open collars were most common in the summer, but they were also worn in cooler weather. This was probably becuse they were such a popular style. We have seen them worn with sweaters. Most of the sports collar shirts I have seen are short-sleeved. This appears to have been one of the first short-sleeved shirt.
Figure 2.--This American boy's name was Jimmie. He was photographed in 1918 wearing one of these open-collar shirts.
We at first thought that this was a youth style, more than a boys' style. We have since found that it was worn by boys of all ages. It was a style for boys or youth. We have seen pre-school boys wearing them as well as boys in high school. We see it being worns by both primary-age boys and teenagers. We do not know if there were any differences among countries as to age conventions. We have not noted many adults wearing these sports collars. Adults were more commonly expected to wear a buttoned collar and tie.
The actual shape and width of the collar varied, but it was almost always worn open with the collar going down to the first button, well below the neck. These were usually, but not not always white shirts. They were worn seasonally and as far as we can tell, primarily short-sleeved shirts. Styles of these collars varied primarily by the width of the collar and the depth of the cut to the first button. The shirts also varied as to how much they extended toward the shoulder. Some were quite large. I have generally seen them worn as short sleeved shirts, but I believe there were long sleeves as well. Some of the short sleeves were cut with very full, wide sleeves extending to the elbow. Some of these collar look almost rounded like the collar the American boy is wearing (figure 1). Here there may have been differences among different countries. A German reader writes, "To me the image here does not look like a Schiller collar. It's too rounded. I've never seen one like this before."
The most common color was white. The great majority of shirts we have seen with sports collarsd look to be white shirts. There were also some colored shirts.
The most common material was cotton.
The sports coolar was designed to be worn open. There was no collar button. Not all mothers thought boys should wear open collars, especially when dressing up. So we see a few boys wearing ties or other neckwear with sports collars. A good example is Elford Caughey, a 13-year old American boy.
One HBC reader believes that this open collar fashion was derived from the sailor suit's middy blouse. This may well be. There are clear similarities between this collar style and the open collar of a middy blouse, although there is no back flap. HBC has mulled over this, but has not yet found any contemporary sources confirming this. Notably the sailor suit in America was becoming a style for girls and younger boys at the same time that this shirt collar style appeared. Our reader suggests looking at a fashion catalog (lower right). By the mid-1960s the sailor suit had passed out of fashion, but there still remained "nautical themed" clothes for little boys that suggested a sailor suit. The collar on the boy's "navy look" suit is the same shape as the large open collars of half a century earlier. The other residual influence of the sailor suit that is worn by boys to this day is the striped t-shirt. I've seen images of European boys in striped t-shirts as eraly as World War One. Several European navies (such as the French and Russian) used a striped t-shirt as the standard undergarment under their middy blouses.
Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Return to the Main collar page]
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Clothing styles] [Countries] [Topics]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Satellite sites] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]