"Shorts" Are A Coming Fashion
--Foremost authorities in New York agree with this Magazine's prophecy --Origin "at the top of the trade" assures a lasting fashion --Now ten percent of demand in exclusive shops --Buyers for them because boys want them --Economy in cost as important as greater comfort --Progressive departments will secure a supply promptly
THE prediction in the January Boys' Outfitter that straight knee
paints, or "shorts," are the coming thing was received with genuine
interest throughout the trade. There was a feeling akin to
satisfaction that the tiresome sameness which has characterized all
clothing for boys from ten to fifteen years of age was at last going
to be ended, that something had happened to dispute the sway of the
Norfolk suit with its many-pleated, belted jacket and bloomer-like
Plenty of evidence has come to hand since last month to substantiate
the wisdom of the prophesy. The exclusive shops, where the demand for
the "shorts" and the plain-cut jacket that accompanies them has never
ceased despite the popularity--perhaps we might say because of the
popularity--of the Norfolk suit, are the first to sense the turning
of the tide in favor of the change. It is just as true in boys' as
in men's clothing that the styles that last, that have any permanency
at all about them, come from the high-class shops and gradually
filter through to the more popular-priced stores. The movement is from
the top downward always, never from the bottom upward. [Ed. note:
This may have been true in he 1920s when mothers made the decisions,
but less true when the boys decide.] Whenever an
attempt is made to go against this law of gravitation it has
invariably petered out in from three to six months.
How the Mode Develops
How this works out in practice is frequently seen. For instance
when the photos of children of the upper class appear in the daily
newspapers, they are scanned with avidity by mothers of some means
and the costumes depicted are copied for their own offspring. In the
course of time they reach the ready-mades. Then when they become very
"popular" the clientele of the exclusive shops drops them. On the
other hand. let something originate in the popular lines and it runs
like wildfire for, say, three months or so, and then it goes out,
smothered by its own success, unless inayhap it contains something of
real value, in which case that thing endures.
The distinction that inarks the fashionable from the popular cannot
be reiterated too frequently. What is fashionable is not popular,
and vice versa.
All of which, by the way, is meant to emphasize that the revival
of the "shorts" is running true to the accepted form. Everything is
auspicious tor its return to boyish favor from a fashion viewpoint,
but there are other considerations in itsfavor. The economy in
material and manufacturing cost ought to be an inducement at the
present time of soaring prices and scarcity of goods. A pair of
"shorts" requires about four inches less material on each leg than
the knickerbocker with its loose, baggy knees and the strap and band.
Then too the "shorts" are not nearly so voluminous, making a saving
in width as well as
length. Fewer operations are required to make the "shorts,"
representing an economy in manufacture. With the outlook for the Fall
that prices will be twenty to thirty per cent higher, these are points
that can hardly be overlooked.
Fashion Students for Them
Opinions have been sought by The Boys' Outfitter from some
of the leading authorities in our field, those in a position to know
something about the trend of fashions, and they are in agreement as
to the coming again of the "shorts."
Mr. Charles J. Dunn, buyer of men's and boy's woolens for the
Rogers Feet Company, New York, is one of the advocates of the new
style. He has predicted that it is about due. Mr. Dunn visited Europe
several months ago and from what he observed there as well .is his
observations in the Rogers Peet stores, where there is a growing
demand for straight knee pants, he is convinced the change is coming. As merchandising man for this big corporation he has every opportunity to keep in touch with style tendencies and his word carries much weight.
Mr. Charles M. Connolly, advertising manager for Chiett, Peabody &
Company, Troy, N. Y., who for seventeen years was editor of
THE HABERDASHER, the authority on men's fashions, and who has
ever been a close student of men's and boys' dress, particularly the
exclusive modes, declared that he is convinced the boys want this
style for Summer wear especially. Mr. Connolly is peculiarly well
fitted to speak on this subject, for he has been a leader in the
Boy Scouts, the Junior Naval Reserve, and other juvenile movements in
and around Troy, but what is still more important he was a member of
the national committee of the Boy Scouts of America that adopted the
present uniform of that organization and which has charge of any
changes that are suggested.
It is significant that in the selection of the Boy Scout trousers
the choice was for "shorts" as giving the maximum of freedom for
active bovhood. For play, they cannot be outclassed, and many
stores carry a complete stock of these straight trousers, in white
and in khaki, which are known as "flappers" bv some and as "trunks"
by others, not the same, however, as the very loose running trunks.
When bovs want to enjov solid comfort in their bifurcated garments,
sav when they go camping, the verdict is always unaniinonsly in favor
Will Take Time to Revive Them
Mr. C. W. Hendrickson, buyer for Wananiaker's, New York, is
another advocate of "shorts." "I would like to see them come back,"
said Mr. Hendrickson. "There's lots to be said in their favor. I
speak from experience, for when I was a youngster I never wore
anything else. It was only about fifteen years ago that the
knickerbockers came into style. I remember it quite well. I was in
an Indianapolis store at the time and it was not an easy thing to
supplant the 'shorts,' by the knickers, for I believe it took all of
five years to do it. Boys don't like to make a change and that's one
reason why I think it may take some little time for 'shorts' to come
in again, but I should like to see it. I should like to sell them
again. They are simple, they allow more freedom to the boy wearing
them and, besides all that, look at the amount of material that would b
e saved just now when everybody is talking about the shortage of
"We have never wholly given up the straight knee pants, but still
carry them in different styles, including khaki woolen suits from six
to twelve years," said Mr. Hendrickson, who sent an assistant to
bring one of these suits. It proved to be a button-on suit, with a
belt on the straight pants. He said that more of the short-pants
suits were coming in from England. There is always a demand for them
at Wanamaker's froni boys who follow the English styles, and in all
likelihood this demand will be greatly accelerated now.
Now a Ten Per Cent Demand
Mr. John H. Conlin, in charge of the boys' clothing department at
Brooks Brothers. New York, said there has always been a steady
demand for the "shorts" from their exclusive clientele. At present
it amounts to about ten per cent of the whole, which would indicate
that there are a considerable number of boys of the wealthy class who
wear the straight pants, and who have continued to do so right along.
The "shorts" at Brooks Brothers are looked upon as an important part
of the business and Mr. Conlin pointed to a figure atop one of the
show cases which might have been a duplicate of the fashion figure
shown in these pages last month; the suit was a grey mixture and with
it went the turned-down hose.
Mr. T. H. Happoldt, boys' clothing manager at A. De-Pinna Company, Inc., New York, reported that their business in "shorts" also constituted about ten per cent of the whole volume in trousers. This is another of the verv exclusive shops that specializes as "outfitters to young people." "The 'shorts' have their good points and may come back," declared Mr. Happoldt, although he added somewhat para-doxically that this style had never really gone out. "There has always been a continuous demand for them and and in all likelihood this will increase from now on. It is a good style having distinct merits that recommend it to bovs of good taste."
At Franklin Simon & Company's. New York, Mr Mendoza, who as
assistant to Mr. Eddis N. Miller, has charge of the boys' wear,
said: "The shorts may come back as all fashions seem to travel
in a circle, but for the next ^year or so I foresee no decided change,
knickerbockers seem so firmly intrenched in public favor." The
demand for this style is only occasional at Franklin Simon's just
At Best's, Altman's and some of the other high-class metropolitan
department stores, the same report was secured from the buyers.
All these stores are selling straight knee pants in their junior
Norfolks, middies and other suits for boys up to ten years of age,
but from that point on the prinicipal demand is for the knickers.
Every store, however finds itself confronted with the problem of
supplying the "shorts" for those mothers and their sons who like this
style and who will take their patronage elsewhere if they cannot be
Foreign Visitors Demand Them
It seems as if many of the stores were overlooking wonderful
opportunity by not catering to and developing this trade. Families
coming to America from England and France or other continental
European countries always want their boys to be outfitted with
"shorts." This is sufficent: (Concluded on page 37) [continuation missing]
Article from The Boys' Outfitter during the early 1920s