*** Norfolk jackets Norfolk suits

Norfolk Jackets and Suits

Norfolk suits
Figure 1.--This American boy wuith a great pooch wears a Eton collar and Norfolk suit with a moderate size bow. I would estimate that the photograph was taken in the 1890s, in part because the knee pants are knee length. Generally boys this age had stopped wearing such large bows.

One of the more popular styles for boys until recent years has been the Norfolk jacket. Norfolk jackets were worn after boys graduated from Fauntleroy and sailor suits. It was a popular school style. It was, however, not exclusively a boy's style. It was developed for the Duke oF Norfolk during the early 19th century for country outings. It was popular for boys during the late-19th and early-20th century. Norfolk styling was initially worn without matching trousers. Instead knickers were worn. it was widely worn by boys from the 1870s to the 1930s. The Norfolk jacket was most popular in England, but widely worn in America as well--at least by boys. We also see it worn in many European countries.


The Norfolk jacket is modeled after the hunting suit worn on thecestate of the English Duke of Norfolk in the early 19th century. (One source said 18th century, but I don't believe I have ever seen Norfolk jackets in 18th century paintings.) Sportsmen on the Duke's estate reportedly first wore what we now call the Norfolk jacket. Guests included the Prince of Wales who became George IV. Tradition has it that the Prince himself ordered a garment from his tailors that would allow him to swing a gun with grater ease that the tightly fitting, tailored suit jackets he wore. The Norfolk desisign had a lopopse comfortable fit accross the soulders and chest. The jacket also had box pleats, two in the front and one in the rear which opened and clothes as the individual swivels about. It was a rare garment that was specifically designed rather than adapted for use in sports. It was also a waist-length jacket that did not have natching trousers.

Sports Jackets

The Norfolk jacket was the first jacket style to be worn without matching trousers. The Norfolk hacketused in the 1920s for what we now refer to as a sports jacket--a jacket styled like the jacket to a suit, but without matching pants and worn to less formal occasions then required by a suit. I'm not sure why it is called a sports jacket, but would assume the term was coined in Britain.


We have only begun to develop chronological information on Norfolk suits. 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. 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." It seems to have been a popular boys; styles during the 1870s-1920s, but that is just a rough estimate at this time. Norfolk suits were very popular in the late-19th century. The boy here wears a Norfolk suit we think in the 1890s (figure 1). 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. Here we see Norfolk suits differed in a 1920 catalog (figure 2). 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.


The Norfolk suit was an indepensible part of an English gentleman's wardrobe in the late 19th and early 20th century. Tweedy Norfolk suits are still seen today in rural England. Norfolk suits are often associated with outdoor activities in England, especially shooting and fishing. Seemingly at the oposite spectrum, naturalists often took up the rugged, warm Norfolk suit. (Naturalists in the 19th century were often hunters who after bagging a horigic number of innocent animals, mounted their trophies.) Some authors refer to the "genteel exponents of the Norfolk-jacket school" when referring to naturalists. Hiking became popular in the late 19th century and hikers often outfitted themselves in rugged Norfolk suits, a jacket and matching knickers. The Norfolk was worn as a suit in the 19th century, never as a stand alone sports jacket.

American Norfolk suits
Figure 2.--These American boys model Norflok suits with kneepants in a 1920 catalog for a New York store. Note the Eton collars, one looks more like a Peter Pan collar, worn with small bows.

One observer describes a redoubtable Welsh hiker:

I was on a train in North Wales when an elderly walker boarded, unmistakable in woolly hat, stout nailed boots, Norfolk jacket (whose pockets were large and had deep, Stygian Depths), and sensible tweed breeches tucked into jaggy thick socks that would have landed a lesser mortal in a dermatology ward. He carried a knobbly stick and anex-army canvas rucksack.
Almost as soon as they appeared, Norfolk suits were adapted for boys and the fashion persisted through the 1930s.


The Norfolk suit appears to be a rather cumbersome attire, especially as it is often associated with sporting. It gives the appearance of encased a poor little chap in thick tweed or a similar fabric (always lauded by the makers as extremely 'hardwearing' material in an effort to entice thrifty parents. From available photographs it does indeed appear to have been usually made with very sustantial materials. The standard Norfolk suit had a high-buttoning jacket and integral belt. Common colors were charcoal and white or cinamon herringbone. They were usually woolen garmets. Common designs had notched lapels with low self belt and patch pockets with envelope flaps. It was was standard everyday wear for many well-dressed British boys as well as some American boys. The style, howerver, never proved popular on the Continent. The styles of Norfolk jackets have varried substantially. Jackets have widely different arrangement of belts, straps, and pockets. Some of the differences appear to have been stylistic trends over time. Others seem to have been relatively minor and random changes by different manufacturers.
Belts: One characteristic of a Norfolk jacket was a belt of the same material as the jacket sewn into the jacket. These belts were of varying width and generally had buttons and were more ornamental than functional.
Straps: Norfolk jackets had varying vertical elements looking rather like straps. Some jackets appear to have few of these straps. HBC is uncertain at this time as to whether this is a varriant of the Norfolk jacket or a different style of jacket entirely.
Pockets: It is rather difficut to tell the pocket arrangements, but some jackets seem to have side pockets while others appear to have no pockets at all. We notice flap pockets on some jackets.


There were two different kinds of Norfolk jackets which is the major difference over time. The first type was the collar buttoning jacket which was popular in the late 19th and early 20h century. After the turn of the century we begin to see jackets cut with an open "V" to be worn with ties. These jackets had lapels like the various styles of sack suits.
No lapels: Many Norfolks suits through the early 1920s were worn without lapels, at least the lapels are usually not visible. Large Eton collars often covered the top of the suit. I believe this was particularly true of boys' Norfolk sduits.
Lapels: Norfolk suits with lapels began to become more common in the late 1920s. The lapels were generally small through the 1930s. Norfolk suits declined significantly in poularity during the 1940s, but they did not disappear. The suits that were made tended to have much larger lapels than earlier suits. A good example of jackets with laopels are two unidentified brothers, probably in the 1910s.


The Norfolk suit was created in England and no where was it so widely worn as is England. HBC has noted it being commonly worn in Britain during the late 19th century. It was initially an adult style for country wear, but became a popular styles for boys. The Norfolk suit also became a very popular style in America. The Norfolk suit appears to have been most popular in Britain and America, but it was worn in many other countries as well. HBC has noted that is was very commonly worn by American boys from about 1900-1930. HBC is not sure as to what other countries it was popular. We have noted it in French fashion magazines during the early 20th century. We believe that it was worn in several other countries as well.

Norfolk suits
Figure 3.--The classic Norfolk jackets did not have lapels like other styles and the collar was covered by the Eton collar. Note the peaked cap.


Some of the most notable differences over time have been in the items worn with Norfolk suits, the collar, bow or tie, and the pants. Often these items are the only way of dating images with Norfolk suits.


Norfolk suits in their heyday of from about 1870-1930 were usually worn by boys with with large Eton collars. Most photographs show that the Norfolk jacket was often worn with a stiff Eton collar which does not appeared to have added to the comfort of the boy alread encased in the redoubtable tweed suit. It was much more common for boys, as well as adults, to be formally dressed than in our modern era. Thus boys would wear a Norfolk suit and Eton collar for many occasions that would today call for casual clothes. Affluent and middle class families liked their children to be well dressed properly dressed at all times, as his atire and deportment reflected on them. The most common type of collar worn with Norfolk suits was the Eton collar with pointed tips. Some boys wore rounded collars. In some cases these rounded or at least tapered collars could be quite large, much larger than the normal Eton collar. A good example is Floyd Van Horne in 1915. One HBC contributor speculates that when worn "with a gleaming white Eton collar, the Norfolk suit helped keep a boy out of mischief, since any rough and tumble would leave tell-tale signs on his previously spotless starched collar."

Bows and Ties

I have not yet fully assessed the type of bows and ties worn with Norfolk jackets, but have begun to collect information. We notice quite a range of different types of neckwar. This was affected both by the age of the boy and the chfonological period.
Thw 1880s: Boys wearing Norfolk suits, even older boys might wear large bows with Norfolk jackets. The bows were, however, not nearly as large or floppy as those worn by younger boys with Fauntleroy suits.
The 1910s: We note smaller and more simple floppy bows in the 1910s. A good example is Floyd Van Horne in 1915. Older boys wore neckties and bow toes. The 1920s: Boys in the early 1920s were still wearing Eton collars, but they were increasingly being worn with soft collars. The bows in the early 1920s were not floppy, but rather smaller bows tied in a tie-like knot. By the late 1920s neck ties and bowties were commonly worn with soft collars.
The 1930s: Boys by the 1930s had begun to wear modern neckties or bowties and wore them with Norfolk as well as other styles of suits.


Norfolk suits were worn with a variety of pants or trousers durng the late-19th century and early-20th century. The type of pants changed both chronolohivally and by country. Norfolk jackets and suits were worn with knickers, knee pants, short pants and long pants. Knee pants ad knickers were the most important because the were the primsry type of psnts boyswore during the period tht Nofolk suits were most commonly worn. In the 19th century we see Norfolk suits with both knee pants and knickers. This varied from country to country. In Ameica we see mostly knee pants. In Europe we see knee pants and knickers-- knickerbockers to our British friends. The knickers were worn with long stockings and high-top shoes. After the turn of the 20th century thi begn to change. American boys at the end of the 1900s shifted from knee pants to knickers. Knickers were stanfard in the 1910s and 20s. he type of pants werte a little more bries in Eutope. Knickers began declining in the 1930s as did Nirfolk jackets. The style of the Norflok jacket, except for the lapel, changed little overtime. The type of the pants or trousers with them, however, did change. We have just begun to assess the prevalence of different pants types over time.
Knickers: The earliest Norfolk jackets were worn with knickers. They were blouced, bloomer like knickers and not the buckled knickers that appeared in the 1910s. I believe that the early blouced knickers were mostly worn in England, while the buckled knickers were mostly worn in America. A good example of jackets with laopels are two unidentified brothers, probably in the 1910s. Some American boys in the 1910s and early 1920s wore their knickers buckled above the knee, sometimes with kneesocks
Kneepants: This appears to have been mostly an American style, wearing kneepants with knicker jackets. They were worn from the 1870s until the early 1920s.
Short pants: Younger American boys wore Norfolk jackets with short pants. I believe British boys did also beginning in the 1910s, but I'm unsure how common Norfolk suits were in comparison to other jacket styles. They were very popular in Germany and boys commonly wore them with short pants. A good example is an German teenager in 1933.
Long pants: Older boys also wore Norfolk suits with long pants and this became increasingly common in the 1930s as Norfolk suits were going out of style.



As uncomfortable as the Norfolk suit appears, we should remember in our era with common central heating, that British homes were not well heated. Thus the stout Norfolk jacket was probably well suited for winter or cool weather wear. Another factor to consider is that Norfolk jackets appeared for the boy's wardrobe at about the same era as Little Lord Fauntleroy suits. Note that one almost never sees a boy in long hair wearing a Norfolk suit. They appeared to have been primarily purchased for boys after they had reached about 8 years old, had their curls cut, sent off to their boarding school. Kilts were another alternative, also popular among doting mothers. Thus many a British boy may have welcomed the more grown-up looking Norfolk suit. Another alternative was the sailor suit, which would appear to have been a much more comfortable mode of dress.

Norfolk suit pants
Figure 4.--The second boy from the right wears a Norfolk jacket with above the knee knickers. The other boys wears his Norfolk jacket with longish short pants. The children are child actors in the mid-1920s from the Hal Roach 'Our Gang' studio.


Norfolk suits are depicted in many early 20th century movies. HBC hs noted them in the "Our Gang Films". Norfolk suits are also depicted in contemporary films with historical settings. One uch film in which the suit itselfwas given some attention was the nglish film, the Go Between.

Literary References

Norfolk jackets were often mentioned by novelists in the later 19th and early 20th centuries:

Robins, Elizabeth in Our Little Sister (1913): What was happening at home all this time? I began to walk faster, with a great misery at my heart. What was the good of this man who wasn't a general practitioner? He was too like all the other broad-shouldered young golfers in Norfolk jackets--far too like them, to help in so dire a need as ours.

Lewis, Sinclair in Our Mr. Wrenn (19??): He noticed, as he went, that the men crossing the green were mostly clad in Norfolk jackets and knickers, so he purchased the first pair of unrespectable un-ankle-concealing trousers he had owned since small boyhood, and a jacket of rough serge, with a gaudy buckle on the belt. Also, he actually dared an orange tie!


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Created: April 30, 1998
Last edited: 4:55 AM 5/24/2015