Collars on Boys' Shirts

Note: I have relatively little information on this topic and would be very interesed in any information/insights/personal rememberences that you may have.

Boys over the ages have worn a variety of shirt collars. Sometimes just like their dads. Other times there were special juvenile styles.

Ruffled collars: Ruffled collars were widely used for boys in Regency fashions during the late 18th and early 19th Centuries. The most common style using ruffled collasrs were: skeleton suits, tunics, and smocks. Often the style was comfortable open collars, well suited for children. As ypong boys and girls in the 19th century were often dressed alike in dresses, the collar was sometimes used to diferentiate boys from girls. Often the girls neckline might be cut lower while boys might have higher even though fancy collars. There were no definite rules on such matters, however, and mostly it was up to the fancy of the mothers.

Sailor collars: Middly blouses and sailor suits for boys first appeared in England during the 18th century. They became very popular for boys in England after Nelson's great victories over the French and especially when Queen Victoria began dressing her children in them during the

Figure 1.--Middy blouses with sailor collars were one of the most enduring of all boys' fashions. They are still worn by the famed Vienna Boys' Choir.
mid-19th Century. The fashion soon spread to America and Europe. The collar was cut in a "v" in front and a wide rectangle in back. Proper sailor collars came in blue for winter wear or white for summer wear and had three white stripes for Nelson's three great victories. It was often worn with a bow in front. The middy blouse and sailor suit was one of the most popular styles of all time for boys. Sailor suits came in many different styles and were worn with skirts/kilts and knee, short, and long pants. The salor collar went out of style for older boys in England abd America after the First World War, but was commonly worn bu smaller boys. The style remained popular on the Continent during the 1920s and 1930s, even for older boys. While little worn by boys of any age today, they are used by sone choir groups or at formal weddings. They are still worn by girls and are standard school uniform wear for Japanese and Korean school girls.

Lace collars: Both men and boys wore lace collars during the Stuart period . The style was strongly influenced all over Europe by the court of the famed Sun King (Louis XIV) who dominated Europe throughout the 17th cebtury. A later reincanation ocurred in the

Figure 2.--This little boy in the 1890s sported beautifully done sausage curls. How his mother must have suffered when they were cut. Also notice the elaborate lace collar.
1880s, especially in America, with the publication of Little Lord Fauntleroy. Fauntleroy suits, the fashion of velvet knee pants suits, worn with long curls, and lace collars plagued American boys for several decades. A great variety of laces and styles were used with the fancy blouses worn as an integral part of the Fauntleroy suit. Many boys during the 1880s and 1890s wore lace collars with their party suit. In some cases it was worn with kilt or even dress outfits for the younger boys. It was probably the most hated boyhood fashion (at least by the boys) of all time. The lace collar itself was often one of the features of the Fauntleroy suit most disliked by the boys. There is an interesting little scene in Walt Disney's much over-looked film, Song of the South, dealing with the boy's distaste for the lace collar his mother insists that he wear.

Pilgram collars: Large white collars worn by the Pilgrams during the Colonial period appear to have been worn by both men and boys.

Eton collar: Eton collars were large stiff white collars worn by the students at Eton school. Given the prestige of Eton, the fashion of Eton suits became widely worn both in England and America during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Eton suits were worn by the junior boys at the school. They had short jackets were worn with the stiff Eton collarsd. They certainly looked uncomfortable, but many at the time did not believe a boy to be well dressed without a Eton collar.

Soft collars: The standard soft collars generally worn by boys today became accepted in the 1920s, replacing the Eton collars commonly worn at the beginning of the century. Over time there have been many inovations worn by both men and boys, such as tabs, pins, and the most enduring, button downs. Some shirt inovations for men have not carried over to boys' shirts collars. The British fasgion of white collars on colored stripped shirts is little seen on boys' shirts. Incidentally one of the most influential taylor is Thomas Pink of London and probably the origin of the English phrase "in the pink". The company now has a wide range of colors available, but most boys' dress shirts are still white or since the 1950s, blue. School boys in England, however, often continue to wear gray.

Peter Pan collars: Peter Pan collars are more associated with curls. Younger boys dressed in shortalls or Eton suits for formal occasions commonly wore Peter Pan collars beginning in the 1940s. The fashion passed out of style for all but the youngest boys after the 1970s. I'm not sure as to how this style developed, but would be interested in any insights visiors to this web site might have.

Christopher Wagner

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