German Sailor Suits: Decline in Popularity

Figure 1.--This undated German portrit was probably taken in the early 1920s. The gift cone was for the first day of school. Notice the school satchel. The sailor suit was still common schoolwear in the 1920s, but declining in popularity.

A German source ascribes the decline in popularity of the sailor suit to two factors: "Die Novemberrevolution von 1918/1919 brachte den Matrosenanzug beim deutschen Bürgertum in Misskredit. Die Nationalosozialisten beurteilten diese Kinderbekleidung als bürgerlich-reaktionär. Damit verschwand der Matrosenanzug in den 30-er Jahren des 20. Jahrhunderts immer mehr aus dem Stadtbild." The English translation would read something like, "The November revolution of 1918/1919 brought the sailor suit worn by middle class Germans boys into discredit. The National Socialists (NAZIs) judged this form of child's clothing as middle-class reactionary. Thus the sailor suit disappeared in the 1930's of the 20th from the townscape." The Germany Navy mutinied at the closing months of World War I and sailors were active in the 1919 disorderes that followed the War. HBC is not sure that this, however, was a major reason for declining popularity of sailor suits in Germany. Sailor suits were infact very popular in Germany during the 1920s, much more popukar than in America and England. In fact there was a general decline in the poopularity of the sailor suit in the 1920s that had no relation to political trends. We suspect that these trends were at play in Germany as well. We have noted a sharp decline in the popukarity of sailor suits after the NAZIs seized control in 1933. We suspected that the NAZIs disapproved of sailor suits, although we have no actual evidence to confirm it in the form of public statements by NAZI officials or articles in German publications. We hadattributed the NAZI attitude to the thugish constinuency of NAZI groups like the SA Stormtroopers who probably saw the sailor suit as suitable only for very little boys and not sufficently manly for a German boy. The German source also suggests that there were social class factors involved.


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Created: May 3, 2003
Last updated: May 3, 2003