Australian Boys' Clothes

Figure 1.--Australian boys in the 1960s mostly wore short pants. School sandals were also commonly worn, but some boys didn't like them. This photograph was taken in December 1965 at Kew, Victoria.

Australian boys' clothes were initially simply British clothes as Austrlalia was colonized by British settlers in the 19th century. The warmer Audtrlalian climate necesitated some modifications, but clothing styles were esentially English until after World War II. This was especially true of dress clothes. After the War, especially by the 1960s, Australian boys' clothes began to diverge more from English styles. The Australian climate and more easy going, casual life styles were important factor. The increasing American influence was probably another factor. HBC hasn't yet researched historical Australian styles yet, but plans to do so in the near future. In the interim, I'd be very interested in any information Austrlian visitors to this web site can offer.


Australia was Europeanly settled in 1788, and Queensland became a state in 1859. There was Scottish stock in Australian convicts, free settlers and senior managers (the first governor of the country came from Islay).


Australia was colonized in the second half of the 19th Century. At first it was a prison colony. By the 1860s large numbers of English colonists were arrtiving to take advantage of the the vast expanses of inexpenive land. As a result, the photographic record provides an almost complete record of fashions. Austrlian boys fashions in the early 20th century wore quite similar clothes to English boys. Notfolk suits with Eton collars were common, usually kneepants and knicker suits. Shirt pants became increasingly common in the 1910s. Australian boys continued to wear mostly short pants after World War II. Clothing styles became much more casual after the War. The style of shorts worn during the 1940s and 50s were mostly the English style, rather baggy shorts worn at knee length. Flannel shorts were the most common, but after the war khaki shorts also becam popular, especially for summer wear. Increasingly by the 1960s American styles began to appear. The style of short pants began to change in the 1960s. The shorter style continental shorts became more stylish. American jeans appeared in the 1960s and proved very popular, but could not be worn at school or for any special occasion. Older boys began to wear long pants more commonly to school and for various occasions.


Australian boys until after World War II (1939-45) esentilly wore the same garments and styles as English boys. Garments such as sailor suits, Eton suits, and Norfolk jackets werewidely worn. Even Fauntleroy suits appeared. The principal difference with England was that because of the climate, more Australian boys went barefoot than in England and it did not have the same social stigma as was the case in England. Short pants were very common in Australia during the 20th century for school, play and even dressing up. After World War II, Australian boys clothes became much more casual and more adapted to the Australian rather than the English climate. These changes were especially notable beginning in the 1960s. There is also a wider range of influences with many American styles like jeans appearing in Australia. By the late 20th century sun-safe garments began to appear.

Hair Styles

Australian boys have generally worn short hair cuts. The styles appear to be similar to those in England. We note that a few Australian boys in the late 1890s, as was the fashion in England, wore longer hair, including ringlet curls.


HBC has collected information on a variety of activities in which Australian boys have participated in over time. Many of these activiities involve specialized costumes. Other images show trends in Austrralian boys' clothing over time. Some of the activities include choir, choir, dance, games, religious observation, school, sport, and many other activities.


HBC has noted several Australian films of interest, but at this time can not recall the titles. Perhaps the most famous is Walkabout which shows a brother and sister in school uniforms. Another film is set at a state school in a rural area. It is a coming of age film set around a studious boy and a girl he has grown up with and the town delinquent. Many of the boys at his high school, including the boys picking on him wear short pants.


The British colonization of Australia began at about the same time that photography was developed. Thus the country has an almost complete photographic record of its history, with the exception of course of the aboriginal population. HBC has no images from the mid-19th century, but has noted some interesting images from itinerate photographers. Such photographers operated in other countries as well, serving rural populations which could not easily get to photographic studios in towns. HBC finds some of these photogtaphs interesting. Some are taken in rough surroundings. Similar portraits in America usually had the house, however primative, as the background. Not only are the backgrounds distinctive, but the boys are often emacualetly attired in the latest fashions--in sharp contrast to the rough surroundings. Boys in similar American portraits were rarely photographed individually and while they dressed up for the porttaits, rarely wore elegant attire.

Individual Experiences

Several accounts about Australian boys are available on HBC. These include both historical acoounts and individual experiences reported by HBC readers. Such individual expeiences are an important section of HBC as they help to shed light on the fashions seen in historical photographs, books, and fashion magazines. We hope to gradually expand this section as we believe it to be an important feature of our HBC site.


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Crerated: March 15, 1998
Last updated: November 5, 2002