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Friday, 20 September 2019

Boys in Short Trousers: Sepia Saturday

This week's Sepia Saturday's prompt photograph shows a young paper boy, laden with newspapers and wearing his adult style clothes of someone much older - a flat cap and knickerbockers.   It is often the females of the family who get featured for their costume, but with my post  it is the turn of boys. 

Toward the end of the 19th century and into the early 20th century, children no longer dressed like tiny adults, but had their own  style of clothes.  But boys were often still dressed in skirts  for their early years -   as in this early photograph of my cousin's father.

 Young Arthur Smith, born in Blackpool, Lancashire in 1908
The Smith family originated from Unst inthe  Shetland Isles - the most northerly point of Britian, moving to the mainland in the mid 19th century.  Perhaps the tartan dress worn by Arthur here  is a nod to his Scottish ancestry. But I was a bit surprised that as late as 1908 in Blackpool the fashion persisted of very young boys in a dress.

In the first half of the 20th century, for boys the main characteristic was short trousers, worn whatever the weather,  with knee length socks.  Boys did not go into long trousers until the age of around 13-14 - something of a rite of passage - I remember this from my own brother.
  The note on the back of this photograph says:
"Arthur in his first pair  of trousers", c.1910

Harry Rawcliffe Danson, born 1912
in Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire
Harry's middle name came from  his grandmother Maria Danson, nee Rawcliffe.  This is a section of a larger family photograph taken in 1916 when his father  William Danson went off to war in Flanders.  24 years later Harry survived the evacuation from  Dunkirk.  He retained his good dark looks all his life.


In the early 20th century, large hats for boys seemed to be the style for formal photographs  - wherever you might be across England  -  north east, north west  or the midlands - as illustrated in these family photographs. 

Joseph Prince Oldham  (1855-1921)
 founder of a carters and coal merchant business in Blackpool.

My husband's uncle  - Matthew Iley White, born 1915.
Photograph taken by T. W. H. Liddle, Photographer, South Shields.  

Frederick Henry Weston (my Unclle Fred), born 1905
In Wolverhampton, Staffordshire.
Surely Fred must have been dressed up for a special occasion in this fancy coat and white socks and big hat?  Unfortunately there is no longer anyone alive  from the immediate  family to ask. 

This photograph came to me via a connection of my cousin and is one of the very few early photographs I have of my father's Weston family. The story was that photographs were thrown out  following a death.  What a crime!   

In the 1911 census the Weston family were living in Lunt Lane, Lunt Gardens, Bilston, Wolverhampton in the heart of industrial English Midlands. A photograph in Wolverhampton Archives indicated that Lunt Lane was the location of the Bilston Sewers - so not exactly garden country!

Jesse and Bernard Pennington in a studio beach photograph, complete with spade Taken by W. J. Gregson, 82 Talbot Road, Blackpool. 


A sailor suit is a uniform traditionally worn by enlisted seamen in the navy, characterized by its distinctive collarIt gained popularity and  developed into a popular clothing style  as worn by the children  of Queen Victoria.

 Arthur Smith again in his sailor suit - and what a wonderful mop of curls!

Jackie Threlfall, wearing the popular sailor suit.  
Taken by ? Watson, 13 Wellington Terrace, Blackpool

Moving onto the 1940's 
                                                         My husband and  his older brother.

                                          My husband in his winter coat -

 My husband - look at those baggy shorts
worn with a sports jacket and V neck pullover   

 My cousin Stuart with his sister and how angelic they look, with their blond locks obviously inherited form their father Arthur (above) 

My brother happy at play! 
This was taken  on holiday in Bournemouth where paddling stream ran through the park,  My mother \always knew to take a change of clothes with us for my brother who inevitably managed to fall in the water at some point.  Seeing he is wearing a jumper, it cannot have been that warm a  warm summer. 


Sepia Saturday gives an opportunity for genealogy bloggers 
       to share their family history through photographs


            View more  tales from  other Sepia Saturday bloggers by clicking HERE


  1. What a great collection of family boys in their youthful attire!

  2. I love that shorts were then considered child’s first set of “trousers.” How fortunate that you have such a wide selection of your ancestors’ childhood photos — event with the unfortunate loss of the Weston photos. I love the sailor suits. I have photos of my grand uncle dressed similarly — it must have been an international fashion trend :-)

  3. A marvelous array of young family boys in their first 'trousers'. I agree with Molly - you are so lucky to have so many wonderful photos of family members when they were young. Great post!

  4. A really lovely selection of photos. Joseph Prince Oldham's hat brim looks really furry doesn't it? Quite unusual.

  5. Using our Sepia theme to focus on boys' fashions is a splendid idea. It's always interesting to see how garments evolve in different regions and male clothing deserves more attention. Some of your photos are a good match to the early catalog illustrations. I've wondered about the short pants tradition, and suspect it persisted because children's clothing was costly or mostly handmade and it had a practical benefit of still fitting even as a boy grew taller. And if there was a prize model Arthur wins hands down.

  6. They're all so cute. I'd like to bring back short pants for young boys.

  7. Love the pictures of the children and their fashion of the day!

  8. This is such a cool post. Loved looking at the boys through the ages.

  9. Thank you all for your kind comments. This was a fun post to pull together, and I did not realise initially that I had so many family photographs that fitted my theme.


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