Sailor Suits: German Garments

Figure 1.--HBC has few details on this image. A reader reports it was German, although another European reader thinks this unlikely. It comes from Keystone View and thus may be from an American move. The boy wears a white, lomg pants sailor suit. Note the long hair, which was not as common on German boys as in some other European countries. The boy's hair does not look German to HBC.

German sailor suits were composed as the same standard garments as worn by boys in other European countries and America. The headwear, coats, jackets, middy blouses, different and different kinds of pants are similar to other garments worn in other countries. Middy blouses and kneepants appaer to have been the most common garment worn. But reefer jackets, variously styled coats as well as long pants were also worn with sailor suits. Other garments The German sailor-styled garments appear rather similar to comparable garments worn by boys in oyher European countries. One of the few destintive garments is one of the sailor cap styles worn, but it was more commonly worn with boys' uniforms than individual boys' suits.


German boys have worn both hats and caps. During the late 19th century the wide-brimmed sailor hat was a popular style. By the early 20th century caps seem to have been more common than hats. Often European boys are to destinguish as to nationality by their sailor suits. Styles often were not sharply destinuished by country and in fact many countries had very similar uniforms--mostly based on the British navy. Often the most destinguisging element of their sailor suit was the cap or hat. Sailor hats and caps were not only worn with sailor suits, but other outfits as well. We have note sailor suits done in other colors than the standard white and navy blue. The caps, however, were much more common to be found in white and blue.



The clasic sailor blouse had a "V" cut front and back flap over detailed with nautical motifs. The sailor suit was popular with boys not only because of the military styling, but because the sailor suit was a simple basic unfussy style, in contrast to the fussy blouses with wide collars and big bows being worn at the time. The open sailor collar was mych more comfortable to wear than most of the alternatives. We have noted German boys wearing a wide variety of middy blouses, both the pull over and button up style. While boys throughout Europe wore sailor blouses, we note more variations from the traditional style in Germany than any other country. We still note some variation in styles during the early-20th century before World War I. The traditional three-stripe sailor styling, was fairly standard after World War I.


German boys have worn a variety of pants with their sailor suits. The first sailir suits were worn with long pants. As knee pants became more common in the late 19th century, many boys wore kneepants sailor suits. We have also noted German boys wearing bloomer-like knicker-length pants with their sailor suits. We believe tyhat these bllomer knickers were more common in France than Germany, but we have only limited information at this time. Short pants became increasingly common in the 1910s, and by the mid-1920s had replaced knnepants as the most common type of pants worn with sailor suits. By the 1930s sailor suits were declining in popularity, especially after 1933 when the NAZIs seized power. Some tounger boys still wore them, but it was rare to see boys older than 10 wearing sailor suits in Germany after 1935.


German boys wore sailor suits with all sorts of hosiery. We see boys wearing long stockings, knee socks, three-quarter socks, and ankle socks. Some boys went barefoot, but this was less common, in part because the sailor suit was often a boy's best outfit or at leasr one of his better outfits. The choice of hosiery in part reflected the popular styles at the time, but both climate and formality were also factors. In some families, long stockings were worn seasonally as warm weather clothes. Other parenys used long stockings as a kind of standard hosiery. An example of a boy wearing long stocks is an unidentified German boy, probably in the 1930s. Black stockings like this were sometimes worn for formality. As far as we can tell there was no hosiery especially associated with sailor suits. Rather the hosiery conventions were generalized reflecting the basic trends associate with other garments.


Sailor suits were so commonly worn over such a long period that we see them being worn with just about every kind of footwear that boys wore. We note boys wearing both shoes and sandals with sailor suits. And we see the many differenht styles of both. We do not see boys going barefoot with sailor suits, but German boys did not commonly go barefoot, except in the countrside and in difficult economic conditions. The footwear on the otherhard was very diverse and basically followed the popular trends in eachg chronological period. There does not sem to have been any kind of footwear especially associated with sailor suits. While there may have not been footwear particulrly associated with sailor suits, there were conventions associated with different styles of footwear. Durung the period in which sailor suits were worn, there were ytpes of footwear considered to be dressier than others, And there were also styles more associated with ply wear or school. These vazrious conventions seem to explain the footwear worn wiih sailor suit rather than any associtions with the sailor style. This is interesting because the sailor suit was such a flexible garment, it could be used n vurtually any circumstance from formal occasins when dressing up, school, and casual occasions, even play. Thus the footwear was often chosen with the occasion in mind.


The accessories worn with saolor suits were primarily associted with the middy blouses. Middy blouses commonly came with dickies. These were attachments worn to cover up the area between the front "V" collar. The vickies varies, both the design and how they were attached to the collar. We wee dickies that were stripped, plain, and with embroidered designs. Most sailor suits came with detachable dickies. Some dickies buttoned on to the middy blouse. Others had tie on attachments. Some had both. Generally speaking the dickies were worn when the weather was cool, but taken off in warm weather. They were more likekly to be worn on special occassions, even during the summer. Here conventions variesd from family to family. Thus we photogrhs that show boys both wearing and not wearing the dickies with their sailor suits. Sailor neckwear worn by German boys is a relatively easy topic compared to many of the fashion topics that we address. This is because German practices were so uniform. Many German boys wearing sailor suits wore them with black scarves. Not all boys wore these scarves, especially in the summer, but they were very common. The approach was very different than in America. The scarves were normally tightly tied and held in place with black string. We see thousands of images of German boys with the vert same knot and white string. I assume this was common in Germany because it was how German sailors tied their scarves. It is very rare to see these scarves with casually tied bows. We have noted others neckwear, such as floppy bow, but they were relatively rate. Less common, but probably most popular of all, at least with the boys, was a tin whistle.


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Created: June 10, 2001
Last updated: 11:32 PM 4/25/2015