Figure 1.--This American boy pictures with his sister wears a boyish-looking double breasted suit. His mother has lovingly embellished it with a huge ruffled collar and large bow. The photograph was taken in Michigan during the 1890s.
I do not yet have any historical information. I am collecting available images which hopefully will provide some insights on the development of this important style.
Boys suits in the 1850s. These early suits have the look of military style jackets with a rows of large numbers of buttons--often brass buttons. Some of the suits had 30 or more buttons on them. Some were purely ornamental, but some of the suits had to be buttoned.
Figure 2.--This English image is undated, but I'd guess about the 1870s. The brother and sister (John and Beatrice Tynne) in matching dresses wear four buttons in a double-breasted style. Note the children's matching straw hats with flowers and elastic chin straps. While boys of the era commonly wore dresses, it was not as common to wear such girlish-looking hats.
One of the most enduring double breasted garment was the reefer jacket. It was widely used in boys sailor suits and jackets in the late 19th Century.
At this time, the earliest image I have of a double breasted boys' suit
dates to the 1890s. It is an Americium image is a boys' knee pants suit.
I believe the double breasted style was used primarily for older boys'
styles. I do not recall any double breasted Fauntleroy suits. Mothers being
mothers, however, some double breasted jackets were embellished with ruffled
collars, bows, and wrist ruffles.
Since blazers were introduced in the late 1880s at British schools, boys have generally wore single breasted jackets. When modern suit styles developed after the First World war,
Figure 3.--Parents magazine pictured this smart double breasted suit in 1964. The caption read: "It's the season of the young, young British look when classic plaids and checks abound. To update the classics story, color becomes the key factor. Plaids play up to the young individualists. Checking in with the Continental look...a suit by Ultra. Double breasted, lined jacket has high collarless neckline, welt pockets. shorts have button on suspenders. All wool hounds tooth suit is very sporting in burgundy, white and blue combination. Sizes 3 to 7, about $26. Rob Roy turtle neck."
Even though double breasted suits have never been the most popular styles for boys, they were widely worn in the 1920s and 30s. I know of no academic study, but based on the study of available images, I'd say that about 1 out if every three or four boys' suits in America were double breasted.
Figure 5.--French boys in the 1930s might have suits with both shortpants and knickers. This 1936 ad offered short pants suits in sizes up to 16 years. Note the double breasted style and the solid color kneesocks.
Designers occasionally since the 1960s bring out a line of double breasted
suits for boys. Generally, however, they do not sell as well as single
breasted blazers, but are considered stylish by many..
Styles and preceptions of styles change over time. I always thought of double breasted suits as giving an old fashioned, stolid look. Since the 1980s I think the double breasted suit has been perceived as a cutting edge stylistic look. Stylists noe say that doubke breated suits, at least for boys gives a slimming look. The British conservative leader William Hague has been ordered by his spin doctors to change from double breasted to single breasted suits. As you may know he is still in his thirties and the idea is to make him look fatter and more substantial and therefore more able to command respect. Apparently double breasted jackets have a slimming effect, according to the style gurus.
Last updated: October 17, 1998