Breeching Boys: Reaction

Figure 1.--

HBC would like to add the boys' perspective on breeching. Unfortunately we have been able to find few such accounts. For many boys breeching occurred at such a young age that few boys apparently remembered or later recorded the event. Hopefully will be able tio find some additional personal or family accounts.

Boys' Role

The boys' role in this process is also interesting to consider. Certainly boys in past years had much less to say about their clothes than boys today. Some mothers no doubt made their decisions as they saw fit with little consideration of what their sons preferred. Some boys no doubt in the era before mass media simply accepted the clothes chosen by mother and assumed that she was the arbiter in such matters. We know that some boys looking back report that they simply did not think of questioning their parents. One Frenchman, Paul V., looking back on his 1890s boyhood reports that he never thought of asking his mother to have his curls cut. This was probably true of many boys still wearing dresses, especially as most were quite young. This was particularly true in the era before public education and for boys schooled at home. Some things, however, do not change even over time. It does not take a boy long to decide that he wants to dress more like father than mother. Surely some boys must have lobbied their parents, nannies, or governesses for certain kinds of clothes.

Individual Boys

Unfortunately HBC still has few actual citations on such matters.

Unidentified American boy: One indated American account describes an Massschessetts father who desscribes his son after having been breeched. "He struts and swells and puffs, and looks as important as a Boston Committeeman." Unfortunately the account was not dated.

Browning, Pen: We do know that Pen Browning in the 1850s-60s began to object to the fancy outfits, including lace collars and pantalettes that his mother bought for him even when he was 11 years old, and asked his parents for more boyish clothes. (His mother the romantic English poetess Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who indulged him on most matters, refused and continued to dress him in fancy clothes until her untimely death.)

I would be interested in other such citations readers might be able to offer.


A poem written by a Mrs. Leicester purports to represents a boy's views:
Joy to Philip, he this day
Has his long 'coats cast away,
And (the childish season gone)
Put the manly breeches on.
Sashes, frocks, to those who need'em-
Philip's limbs have got their freedom.

Christopher Wagner

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Created: November 26, 2001
Last updated: November 26, 2001