A HBC reader remembers jean shorts in the 1950s. In this family the children, two brothers and a sister, wore both short and long jeans. This is interesting as other HBC readers do not remember them. The United States is a large country and there still apparently were destinct regional differences.
Our reader tells us, "Actually, those shorts in "Three Wishes" (1995) aren't entirely anachronistic. I've attached a photo my father took around 1952 when he was stationed at an Air Force base in the Florida panhandle. The older brother (5 or 6) is
in denim shorts, the sister (4?) is in similar but shorter shorts, while their little brother is in denim longs. I don't know if such shorts were available in sizes for school-age boys like Joseph Mazzello in the movie, but they were certainly available in preschool sizes." It is not clear to HBC is the jean shorts the older boy here wears were ought as shorts or were cut down by mother.
Fashion trends in the 1950s were primarily a continuation of the trends initiated in the 1940s. Children in the 1950's dressed differently from the way they do today. Jeans were just becoming popular in Urban America. Elementary boys began wearing them to school, but they weren't allowed in high schools. Hair-cuts were short, often military-style "crew-cuts." Boys in some wore short pants, at least until they were 11 or so, but most American boys except when they were very small wore long pants. Some boys wore long pants for school and play, but had a short pants suit for church. For most boys long pants were a symbol of manhood and they wanted them as soon as possible. Few radical new styles were introduced in the 1950s. Continuing the trend set in the 1940s, fewer older boys now wore short pants suits, it had become a style for younger boys. Jeans had become a virtual uniform for the American boy. Interesingly, they were never worn as jean short pants--always longs. They had not yet gained, respectability, however, as were no worn--except by young boys to school or social events. "T"-shirts with bold horizontal stripes were the most common summer garment with jeans. Boys wear their hair short, crew cuts were popular. Elvis' side burns were the first step in introducing longer hair. The 1950s had shaggy beatnicks, but they had nothing like the influence of the hippies in the 1960s. The 1950s for most Americans were a peaceful interlude of certainties before the 1960s with the Civil Rights movement and War in Vietnam. Thus there were no bold new fashion iniatives as is often the case in settled times.
Readers may want to have a look at the HBC U.S. 1950s page for more detailed information. few boys still wore knicker suits in the early 1950s, but they disappeared from clothing catalogs. Boys were wearing mostly slacks and jeans. Some boys wore short pants, but it was increasingly less commonn, except for younger boys. This varied somewhat regionally and by social class. Jeans came long so the cuffs could be turned up. In the middle of the decade coon skin caps appeared thanks to Walt Disney and Davy Crocket.
Media depictions of boys in the 1950s usually showed them wearing long pants. We noted a few boys wearing shorts in early 1950s television. Television by the mid-1950s almost universally only showed boys wearing long pants. There was even an episode of the popular "Leave It to Beaver" show wear Beavers virtually causes a riot when he shows up at school in a short pantssuit with kneesocks. The same was true of the movies. Little boys might be costumed in shorts, but rarely school-age boys. Some movies showed boys from affluent families wearing short pants suits. We do not recall any 1950s movies with boys in jean shorts. We do know one movie ("Three Wishes") set in the 1950s, but made in the 1990s showing a boy wearing jean shorts..
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