*** Norfolk jackets : chronology

Norfolk Jackets and Suits: Chronology

Figure 1.--This cabinet portrait photo of n unidentifid boy about 12-23 teats old wears a dark Norfolk suit with knee panbts and long stockings. Notice that there is no horizontal belt. He has a large white Eton collar and small bow. He's standing beside fake rocks scenery and carrying a straw rounded-crown hat. In gold lettering on the bottom, the studio is identified as S. P. Tresslar, Montgomery, Ala. (Alabama)". Sidney Pinney Tresslar (1842-1924) was a famous photographer during the Civil War Reconstruction period in Alabama. The scalloped edges pinking and straight corners date date the cabinet card to the late-1880s through the mid-1890s.

We have only begun to develop chronological information on Norfolk suits. The chronology is complicated by the limited photographic evidence and diffrences as tothe origins of the style. While there is little or no evidence for the early-19th century, we do have evidence for the second half of the century, especially after the the CDV became a popular format. Most of our 19th century images show the box pleats, the belts seem to have come later, bit we are still working on the chronology. We do know that the Norfolk jacket while not designed to be a boys' style became one of the most popular boys' suit styles during the late-19th and early-20th century. The time line an popularity baried somewhat from country to country.

The 1820s

The most creditable theory as to the origins of the Norfolk suit is that the Earl of Leiscester, also known as Coke of Norfolk anf his guests were responsible for the Norfolk jacket. One source said 18th century, but I don't believe I have ever seen Norfolk jackets in 18th century paintings. The Earl had a 43,000 acre estate in Norfolk (East Anglia) where he regularly ebtertained family and friends. Noble gentlemen at the time often did not work. They spebt their time with entertainment and the most most popular diversion was hunting. One of his guests was the Prince of Wales, who would becme King George IV (1820). The hunting parties went after partridge and other game birds. The Earl and his friends supposedly invented what we now call the Norfolk jacket. At the time mn wore long frock coats, so here was need for shorter, more practical jackets for hunting parties. The box pleats meant that there was plenty of give, useful for swing a gun around and firing at what ever directiin the birds may have appeared. The roomy patch pockets wre convenient hunting accouterments and shells as the men did not wear bandoleros. The beltapparently improved the silhouette, providung a snug fit and also kept the hunters warm in cold weather--the best time for hinting birds. We do not have images of the early jackets. We note, however, that many Norfolk jackets in the 19th century had the box pleats, but not the belts. Note that the Norfolk jacket at the time was a man's hunting suit, not a boy'style.

The 1840s

Charles Daguerre invented the Daguerreotype, the first commercial photographic process, in France (1839). Thus we have photograohic images for tge first time in the 1840s. We have, however, few European Dags from France or Engkand. We do have American Dags, but havenot yet found any showing me wearing Norfolk jackets.

The 1850s

We also have not founs any photographic evidence of men or boys wearing Nirfolk jackets in the 1850s. One source redorts that the Norfolk jacket was worn by the Rifle Corps in the Volunteer Movement of 1859-60. The Volunteer Force was a citizen army of part-time rifle, artillery and engineer corps, created as a popular movement throughout the British Empire following the Crimean War (1859). Another source reports that fashion illustrations began depictung the Norfolk jacket as a boys' style for the first time (1859).

The 1860s

The most popular theory as to theorigins of the Norfolk jacket is that it invented in the 1860s by Henry Fitzalan-Howard (1847- ), the 15th Duke of Norfolk. His father died in 1860, and he may have invented the Norfolk jacket in the late 1860s. The CDV became enormously popular in the 1860s. There thus are huge numbers of photograpohic images. Thus unlike previous decades, we have a very substantial 1860s archive, although more for American than Europe, and we have not yet found portraits of boys wearing Norfolk jackets in the 1860s. The Norfolk jacket appeared as popular dress in England during the 1860s. Initially it was not used as a boys' style, but as men's fashion. some sources clim that the Norfolk jacket originated as a shirt, although just when this occured us unknown. It gradually evolved into the jacket for country wear. The only common thread in these different theiris about the Norfolk jacket is that it is connected in some way with Norfolk. While initially a hunting jacket, its practicality a versatility made it popular for aide range of outdoot events, including activities like bicycling, fushing, and outdoor pursuits. Some accounts suggest that it first appeared as an outdoor jacket and only later becane adapted as a shooting jacket. There is photographic evidence of coiuntry gentlemen wearing Norfolk jackets. we have not yet found photographic evidence of boys wearing Norfolk jackets in the 1860s. One 1866 reference, for example, describes the jacket, "The 'Norfolk jacket' is a loose frock-coat, like a blouse, with shoulder-straps, and belted at the waist, and garnished by six pockets."

The 1870s

We begin to see boys wearing Norfolk jackets in the 1870s. And for the next 6 decades it woukd be a popular style for boy's suits. It tended to be worn with knickers in Europe and straight-leg pants in Americ.

The 1880s

Norfolk suits were very popular in the late-19th century. Here the Prince of Wales (future King Edward VII) played aole. He was very important in the world of fashion and began wearing Norfolk jackets in the 1880s.

The 1890s

The boy on the previous page wears a Norfolk suit we think in the 1890s. Here we see an American boy wearing a Norfolk suit, probably about 1890 (figure 1). Notice that you can see the box pleats, but there is no belt. This seems fairly strandard style. We see many boys wearing these suits, just the vertiacal pleats, not the waist belt. We note both collar buttoning and lapel jackets. This was a style for school age boys. They were commonly worn with floppy bows, although not as large as those worn with Fautleroy suits. Eton collars were common collar style. In America the boys mostly wore knee pants. In Britain, knickers were more common, but knee panst were also worn. We dio not see many boys wearing then with long pants. They were usually wirn with long stockings. We have to estimate the dates bcause most portraits are undated, but we are fairly confident of our dating. They seem most common in America and Britain, but we have found examples on the continent.

The 1900s

We also see many boys wearing Norfolk suits in the early-20th century. European boys generally wore Norfolk jackers with knickers. A good example is George and Ewan McTherson in 1902. American boys most wore Norgfolk jackers with knee pants.

The 1910s

The Norfolk jacket was one of the most popular syit styles for boys in the 1910s. We see boys mosrly wearing the Norfolk jacket with knickers. The American Noefolk suits in the 1910s all seem o have the belt as well as the boix pleats. We notice Norfolk suits being offered in an American 1912 catalog. A good example is a an American boy on a camping trip about 1915.

the 1920s

We continue to see boys wearing Norfolk jackets in the 1920s. We also see see how Norfolk suits differed in a 1920 catalog shown on the previous page. Norfolks suits were popular both in Aneruca and Europe. Much of our infornation coms from the Inited state, but we also see these suits being widely worn on Europe. We are not sure yet just how the chronology varied from country to country. This was the last decade that Norfol styling was a major style.


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Created: 6:18 AM 2/25/2013
Last edited: 6:18 AM 2/25/2013