*** sailor suits: choir uniforms

Sailor Suits: Choir Uniforms

sailor suit choir uniforms
Figure 1.--The most famous choir wearing sailor suits is of course the Vienna Choir Boys. Note the lighter blue sailor colar, the white dickey, and the choir creast as well as the deestinctive sailor cap with a black streamer.

Sailor suits were commonly used as uniforms for boy choirs on the continent. This was especially the case of German and Austrian choirs. But choir boys in Poland and other countries also wore sailor suits. Choirs in England and France, however, did not wear sailor suits. The Vienna Choir Boys are the most familiar boys choir wearing sailor suits, but they were several other German boy choirs. Some are still active and continue to wear sailor suits. Some of the choirs have long histories and the sailor suits are relatively recent inovations. Some of the choirs had military uniforms before the First World War, but then shifted to sailor suits. I'm not positive why this was, but assume it was connected with the German repulsion with war following the catrorophic losses in the war. Somehow the sailor suit was not viewed similarly, perhaps because it was more associate with boys wear. One source also suggests that sailor suits wee selected for the Vienna Choir Boys because Vienna boys commonly wentbto church dressed in silor suits. This may have also been the case in Germany and Scandinavia. These different choirs have worn different uniform styles.

Countries with Choirs Wearing Sailor Suits

Relatively few choirs have sailor suit costumes, although the most famoous boys' choir, the Vienna Choir Boys, is one of them. The countries which have choirs that wear sailor suits are mostly northern European countries or countries with Germany influence.

Austrian Choirs

The sailor suit is a realtively modern costume for boys choirs. It was not adopted by the Vienna Choir Boys, for example until after World War I (1914-18). Now all Austrain chiors appear to wear sailor suits.

Danish Choirs

HBC has little information on Danish choirs, but the sailir suit does appear to bepopular with choirs there.

Dutch Choirs

The Netherlands has a rich maritinme tradition and the sailor suit has been used as a choir uniform there. The Haags Matrozenkoor (The Hague's sailor-boys choir) was founded in 1928 and celebrates its 70th anniversary in 1998. It was originally a church choir and HBC is not sdure when the sailor uniform was adopted.

English Choir

he Royal Hospital School near Ipswich, a school with strong naval traditions, costumes its boy choristers in a sailor-suit style outfit. This is the only English choir that HBC knows of that wears a sailor suit type costune. The School was founded in 1712 to educate the sons of seafarers. It is owned by the Crown Charity, Greenwich Hospital, which itself was founded in 1694 by William and Mary, to care for seafarers and their families.

German Choirs

The sailor suit has been a traditiinal style popular for German choirs. Currently the Thomanerchor (St. Thomas' Choir) is the only German choir that HBC knows to be wearing sailor costumes. HBC is not sure when the sailor costume was adopted. With its over 780 years of existence, the Thomanerchor is the oldest cultural institution of the city of Leipzig. The Margrave of Mei�en established the choir at St. Thomas' Church. Initially, it belonged to the convent school which was intended to spiritually train new generations of youth. Eventually, however, other boys who did not live in the convent joined the choir available.

Norwegian Choirs

HBC has very limited information about the choral tradition in Norway. HBC knows of only one Norwegian choir, the Silver Choir, which was founded in the not very felicitius year of 1940. (I'm not sure whether this was before or after the German invasion.) As with many Scandinavian choirs, the boys wear sailor suits.

Swiss Choirs

HBC currently has little information on Swiss choirs. The choral traditions of neighboring France and Germany have been influential in Switzerland following the linguistic and cultural patterns. The sailor suit appears to be used for choir costumes in the German areas of Switzerland. Some of the Swiss choirs, reflecting the relatively stability of Switzerland and relative success in avoiding major European wars. Some information is available on individual Swiss choirs. The Z�rcher S�ngerknaben is the only Swiss choir known to the authors that wear sailor suits.

Countries Without Sailor Suit Choirs

Most choirs do not wear sailor suits. In fact most of the countries with the strongest boy choir movement (England, France, and the United States) do not have choirs which wear sailor suits. (There is one exception in England where a choir wears robes with a destinctive dailor collar.) Interestingly these are countries where the sailor suit originated (England) or was very popular (France and the United States). HBC is not sure why these differences exist. Presumably many boys would not like a sailor suit as they assiociate as a garment for a younger boy.


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Created: January 31, 2001
Last updated: February 12, 2001