Long Stockings: German Trends


Figure 1.--This boy was photographed during the early spring of 1962 when the weather was still chilly. He is reattaching his long cotton stockings which had fallen down while cycling. He used two garters and metal clasps for each stocking. His cap was called a "Schirmmütze" and was very common at the time. It has a small zipped pocket in which a key or coin might be kept. His suit shows that he was the son of an affluent farmer. The whole area (Altes Land) was an known for apple orchards and the growers had a ready market in Hamburg. In many rural areas like this, the affluent families often clung to traditional clothing styles longer than the rest of the population. A reader writes, "I don' think it was very common for German boy, especially tenagers, to wear long stockings by the early 60s. I think he must have had very conservative parents. If you look carefully you will notice that by the boy’s ankle under the long stocking is a noticeable long underwear. The boy’s parents apparently required him to wear short pants even when it was cold enough for long underwear which explains a boy that age wearing long stockings."

The most prominent country where long stockings were worn was Germany. Long stockings were worn in Germany in the late 19th century much as they were in many other European countries. Most boys wearing keepants wore them. We have, however, limited information on German boys' clothes during the 19th century. We have more informtion in the 20th century. There were, however, great geographical, cultural and social differences concerning the wearing o long stockings.After World War II, long stockings became less cinnon for older bioys, but children in primary schools still commonly wore them--especially during the cooler weather. In this respect, Germany diuffered from trends in Western Europoe. Trends in Eastern Eurpoe and Scandinavia were similar to Germany. A major factor was of course Germany's northern location and resulting cold climate. This was also in part because German boys mostly wore short pants all year round. Apparently German mothers were more concerned about their boys wearing short pants during the winter than British mothers. Photographs from the 1930s show entire classes of boys wearing shorts and long stockings during the winter months. We note, however, that boys in the Hitler Youth uniform never seemed to wear them. They were not considered manly for boys once they reached age 10 and joined the movement. Out of uniform they were, however, still worn. The fashion continued in Germany after World War II although we have only limited informnation at this time as to how common it was. This is in part because long trousers became more common and it is not possible to tell what kind of hosiery that the boys in long stockings were wearing. Preliminary reports suggest that long stockings were worn in the GFR (West Germany) through the 1950s, but became less common in the 1960s. They persisted longer in the DDR (East Germany). Tights appeared in the late 1950s and soon replaced long stockings. HBC believes that long stockings were also worn in the DDR and we believed were not relaced by tights until some years later.

Terminology

The German term for long over-the-knee stockings is "Lange Strümpfe". They are held by either a "Strumpfband", a elastic band around the upper end of the Lange Strumpf (sing.). Or by "Strumpfhalter" (suspender) fixed to the Lange Strumpf by means of either a "..." (clasp, I don´t know the German term) or a "Wäscheknopf" (white button) which is sewn to the stocking.

Popularity

The popularity of long stockings varied significantly over time. They were a standard fashion for many years. Subsequetly, especially after World War many mothers continued to insist that bots, especially younger boys wear them. Yjere interst was practical, to keep their sons warm in cold weather. They became rather unpopular with boys, who generally prefered socks. Thus was not true of all boys, but was the perdominate view.

Chronology

Long stockings were worn in Germany in the late 19th century much as they were in many other European countries. Most boys wearing keepants wore them. We have, however, limited information on German boys' clothes during the 19th century. Long stockings were still widly worn by German boys in the 1920s even though the boys were cmmoinly wearing short pants rather thn kneepants. Until about 1930, school photographs can be seen showing whole classes of younger boys where virtually all of the boys of boys wearing long stockings, almost without exception. Nation wide perhaps half of German boys wore long stockings. After the early 1930s this began to decline. The NAZI attitude toward long stockings was a major factor here. Long stocking continued to be worn mostly commonly in rural areas. It was at this time that boys shorts began to be cut shorter so that some boys wore long stockings with quite long stockings. After World War II, long stockings became less connon for older boys, but children in primary schools still commonly wore them--especially during the cooler weather. The fashion continued in Germany after World War II although we have only limited information at this time as to how common it was. This is in part because long trousers became more common and it is not possible to tell what kind of hosiery that the boys in long stockings were wearing. The wearing of long stockings declined firs in the larger cities and then in rural areas as well. For the most part boys in West Germany stopped wearing long sockings in the late 1950s. A few boys still ore them in the 1960s, but they were no longer common. Interestingly, many mothers began dressing their younger boys in tights at this time. The timeline is somewhat diffeent in East Germany where boys wore long stocking well into the 1960s. A HBC reader tells us that Quelle was still offering long stockings in 1975, but HBC can not yet confirm that.

Age

We notice boys of all ages wearing long stockings except for infants and very old teenagers. Long stockings were very common for boys from anout 2-11 years old. With this ge group, seasonality was the primary factor. Not all boys wore lon stockings, but they were very widely worn during thewinter. The photographic record shows large numbers of boys wearing long stovlings, often with short pants. The specific ages are a little indefinite because so many old photographs do not indicate the age of the children. At about age 11 years, boys began objecting to wearing long stockings. Of copurse there was not precise age, but about 11 is when some boys began objecting. This varied somewhat over time. And there were differences from family to family as well as regional demographic, social class and other factors involved. We see boys older than 11 wearing long stockings, but by 13 they begin to become much less common. We see some boys as old as 15 or 16 wearing long stockings, but not very many. Most of the boys we see at this age or boys in rural areas where fashion was less important and finctionzlity more a factor.

Gender

We see both German boys and girls wearing the same types of hosiery in the 19th and early-20th century. There seem to have been some differences in color, but this is difficult to assess because of tghe black and white photography bof the day. But it is clear that white was more popular for girls than boys. Boys did wear white hosiery as well, but it was much less common. Only after World War II do we see more substantial differences appear. This means that except for white long stockings, that there was little gender difference between long stockings. Both boys and girls wore them. Girls probably wore than to older ages, but we see both boys abnd girls wearing them to their early teens. After reaching their teens or mid-teens years, German boys began wearing long pants whole girls continued to wear skirts. This mean that there was a practical reason for girls to ciontinue wearing long stockings to an older age. Modesty may have also been a factor, this is more difficult to assess. There was a fairly narrow range of colors and this except for white, there seems to have been no difference in color selection. We have not noted any significant difference in the prevalence of long stockings in the pre-teen years. Some differenve does develop in the teen years. This may have varied somewhat chronologically.

Colors

German boys in the late 19th and early 20th century commonly wore long black stockings. There was relatively little diversity here. The long stockings worn by boys were mostly black or other dark colors. This only began to change after World War I. After the War, brown or grey long cotton stockings began to appear. A basic change occurred during the 1920s. Increasingly boys began wearing brown, beige and grey stockings, epecially by the mid-1920s. In most cases boys' long stockings were brown like the earth or as many remember, as chocolade. Also light brown and grey stockings appear, and very seldom more brightly colored ones. (See the movie Der Laden--"The Shop". Only at certain very festive occasions, white stockings were sometimes worn by boys. For girls the stockings often were white. Boy considered the plainer colors more appropriate and white more suitable for girls. We have no information on bright-colored long stockings bing worn, at least in the 20th century. Dark long stockings did not entirely disappear and might be worn for formal occassions. It was the lighter colors, however that contiued to be worn in West Germany until the late 1950s and into the 1960s in East Germany.

Patterns

A this time we have very little information on paterened long stockings in Germany. The vast majority of the images ofvGerman children that we have noted wear long stockings in solid colors. We have, however, noted a few children wearing pattereneed long stockings. The first impage we have noted dates to 1938 just before World war II. We do not know when they first appeared. We also notice them after the War in the 1950s.

Ribbing

Some long stockings were heavily ribbed. Other do not seem to be ribbed at all. We note a few images of ribbed stockings in the photographic record. The relative rarity of ribbing in avalable photographs suggest that ribbed stockings were not very common. While this appears go be the case for heavily ribbed stockings, we believe that ribbing may not be piked up by the camera. This may be the case when the stockings are not heavily ribbed. This is a topic that we do not yet fully inderstand.

Length

German boys until the 1930s mostly wore long syockings with kneepants and rather long, knee-length short pants. With knee-length pants, the length of the stockings were normally just a little above the knee. In the 1930s the length of the stockings became more complicated as boys began wearing shorter cut short pants. HBC is not sure why shorter shorts began to be worn at this time. One HBC reader believes was due to an increasing spirit of athleticim which called for shorter pants, especially in warmer summer season. This required mothers who continued to insist on long stockings to either to buy or make longer stockings for spring or autumn or for the evening hours. Some boys found that that the hem of the stockings never reached the lower hem of very short shorts. Most objected to this, espcially as their stocking supporters including the white button or the metal clasps would show. All this was by some children consdidered as extremely girlish or childish and were teased by other boy. There were other boys (and their mothers) to whom this did not matter.

Top Finish

Most of the long stockings we have seen were solid color stockings. Unlike kneesocks which sometimes had patterns or bands at the top, long stockings usally had no destinctive top finish. They might have button hiles or other arrangements to help attach them so thy did bot fall down. We for the most part do not notice special finish at the top like the bands or pattern commonly found on kneesocks and there were turn fown to form a cuff. The boy in the image here clearly wears lonf stockinfs with no destinxtive top finish. This ceratinly was the case for American long stockings. We do note, however, German boys wearing long stockings that had patterened tops. We have not noted the giels wil similar stocking tops. They look like kneesocks, bit are much too long. We do not knlow at this time just how common these pattern top lonmg stockings were in Germany. We have not yet noted them in other countries.

Material

Long stockings before World War I were commonly wool and not infrequently knitted by mothers and grandmothers. After World War I, cotton socks as well as stockings became more common. There were areas of Germany where sheep rearing was important and here wool continued to be used for stockinfg eve after cotton had become more common in the rest of Germany. Cotton stockings were more popular with the children because they were more cofortable to wear and not itchy like long stockings. Boys practically never wore silk stockings and or after Wold War II Perlon (i.e. Nylon) stockings appeared. These were worn by older girls and women. They were not worn by by boys, and by girls only from about 13 onwards.

Garments

German boys wore long stockings were worn with a wide variety of garments. This varied chronologically. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, long stockings were worn with most outfits a boy might wear, both dress and casual garments. They were of course most common in the cooler months, but buy older boys might be worn during the summer as well with kneepnats. This was especially true with suits and other dress outfits. After World War I long stockings became strongly associated with cold weather wear. Boys less commonly wore them with suits for formal occassions. They were worn with short and long pants during cool and cold weather. Noys wore them to school and for play. While worn with short pants, they were not commonly worn with lederhosen. They were also not commonly worn with athletic gear. This was a major difference with tights when they appeared in the late 1950s. Tights were sometimes worn for sports, such as football (soccer) during the winter.

Stocking Supporters

Long stockings were held up with stocking supporters or "Leibchen". A proper stocking supporter was a kind of reverse jacket affair with buttons in the back, worn under the shirt or blouse in English). Some mothers opted for a less formal stocking supporter. a Some used a rubber ring around the thigh to hold up the stockings. One HBC reader describes this as a "a horrible torture" and says such mothers "did not care much for the comfort and health of her child" Here usually red rubber rings ("Weckringe") were used that are originally made for tightening a preserve jars made by the Weck company (Wehr in Baden). The stockings were fixed to the suspender either by buttons or by metal clasps. Plastic was not yet available in the 1930s-40s. One German reader reports that clasps on the stocking supporters wer considered rather girlish hile butons were lookedon as childish. The stocking supporters were usually grey or white for boys. There were pink ones for girls. As stocking supporters were esentially the same for boys nd girls, it was not uncommon for boys with older sisters to wear hand-me-downs.

Factors Affecting the Wearing of Long Stockings

HBC has begun to address the question of factors which have affected the wearing of long stockings, including age, cultural attitudes, demographics, formality, gender, seasonality, and social class. There may be other factors involved, but these are the ones tht seem to be the most important. We have begun to incestigate these factors and have archived quite a bit of information concerning each of these factors. Some like age and gender may have not affected so much the wearing of long stockings per se, but the color of long stockings or convebtions assciated with their wear. These factors of course varied in importance over tome as did the conventions associsted with them. We have only begun our assessment, but have learned quite a bit. Available photography, especially for the 20th century, has revealed many important trends abd our German readers have proivided arange of insightful assessments.

Family Trends

HBC has begun to address the question of factors which have affected the wearing of long stockings, including age, cultural attitudes, demographics, formality, gender, seasonality, and social class. One factor that we are less sure about is variations within the family. We find that most mothers tended to dress the children (especially children close in age) with the same type of hosiery, esopecially when long stockings were involved. Most family portrits showed that if long stockings were worn, all the children tended to wear them, although their might be age and gender differences. All the other factors (cultural attitudes, demographics, formality, seasonality, and social class) tended to work to ensure that long stockings if worn were worn by all the children. We note that there were, however some exceptions to this rule abd we don't entirely understand why that was. We see some children of similar age anf gender dressed identically except for their hosiery.

Rolling

We notice during the summer that boys might roll down their long stockings. Girls also did this, but it may have been less common. w also see this with kneesocks. This appears to have been a casual, warm weather phenonenon, but we do not know much about this. HBC has several references to rolling down long stockings. We see German boys rolling down long stockings for seasonal reasons in the 1950s. A Norwegian boy reports that when mothers insisted on long stockings for their sons, "you could always roll them down when Mom was out of sight." We also have a photo of a German boy on a family outing (taken in the 1930s) in which the boy apparently has folded down his long stockings below the knee, apparently because of hot weather or the desire for greater informality.

Double Socks

We note numerous images of German children, usually boys, wearing long stockings with ankle socks, often white ankle socks. We are not sure about the chronology of this convention. We note it in the 1930s, but might have developed earlier. It disappeared in the 1950s as long stockings gradually went out of style in Germany. We are not sure about the purpose. It may have helped keep the children's feet warm in the Winter. We notice a similar trend with Hitler Youth and Scouts after World War II who wore ankle socks woith kneesocks. This seemed to have been primarily to ptotect the feet when hiking. The children wearing ankle socks with long stockings were mormally pre-teen children as teenagers, at least boys, were less likely to wear long stockings.

Regional Trends

HBC has no information at this time as to regional trends. Ar this time, we have no information indicaring that there were regions of Germny where long stockings were more or less common.

Darning

Boys wearing long stockings with short pants would often wear them out at the knees. Consequently their stocking often had to be darned, and the pattern of the darned hole was typical view on children´s knees, as was it the case with the shorts´ bottom. This is much the same as the knee patches that American boys wore on their jeans.

National Trends

German fashions concerning long stockings after World War I differed from trends in Western Europoe. Trends in Eastern Eurpoe and Scandinavia were similar to Germany. I beleieve this was especially true in coutries like Poland and Czecheslovakia. Photographs from the 1930s show entire classes of boys wearing shorts and long stockings during the winter months.

Political Influences

Interestingly there were political factors affecting the wearing of long stockings. HBC notes that boys in the Hitler Youth uniform never seemed to wear them. They were not considered manly for boys once they reached age 10 and joined the movement. Out of uniform they were, however, still worn. Preliminary reports suggest that after World War II, long stockings were worn in the GFR (West Germany) through the 1950s, but became less common in the 1960s. They appear to have persisted longer in the DDR (East Germany). Here we do not have a lot of informtion. One reader writes, "It seems to me that photographs that I have noted from Communist East Germany that children both boys and girls more commonly wore long stovckings and tights than in West Germany." I'm not sure why this was. We suspect that fashion was less important in East Germany and consumer desires a less significant economic factor. The same appears to have been the case in the oviet Union. I'm not sure if this was an influence in East German fashion. Perhaps the continued use of long stockings in the East was just more observeable because short pants tnded to be worn more there. (This is another fashion difference that we do not fully understand.) Tights appeared in the late 1950s and soon replaced long stockings. HBC believes that long stockings were also worn in the DDR and we believed were not relaced by tights until some years later.

Religion

Germany hs a predominately Prortestant country with an important Catholic minority. We do not know if there was a difference in clothing trends among the Protestant and Cathlic population. We have noted some diffrences in countries like Canada in this regard. A Canadiuan reader writes that he sees many similaities in the dress of Frnch Canadian and German boys. We believe that the Protestant and Catholic communities were much more integrated than French Canadians in Canadin society. We do not know of differences such as the wearing of long stockings, but we have little information at thisd time.

Reader Comments

A French Canadian reader writes, "I noted the photograph here of the German boy from the country in 1962 wearing short pants and long stockings (figure 1). I observe that there is a strong relation between the kind of fashion in Germany and our in Québec. I don't know why because there is no relation from a cultural point of view. Is the weather can explain this relation? Maybe. Something strange." HBC notes that while French Canada may be far removed from German culture, that there were similarities in conservative rural communities which until the advent of television were not much touched by the latest fashions and styles.

Individual Accounts

We have found quite a few accounts from Germans who recall wearing long stockings as children. Long stockings were commonly worn by German children, both boys and girls, during the 19th and 20th centuries. Most Germans who grew up before the 1960s remember them. We have collected some accounts about individual German children who wore long stockings. Some of these accounts are specifically about long stockings. Others are more general accounts in which long stockings are mentioned.







HBC






Related HBC Pages:
[Return to the main Main German hoisery page]
[Return to the main Main national long stockings page]
[Return to the main Main hoisery page]
[Knee socks] [White knee socks] [Long stockings]
[Striped socks] [White stockings] [Tights]



Navigate the Historic Boys' Clothing Web Site:
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronologies] [Countries] [Style Index]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Links] [German glossary] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]



Created: April 12, 2002
Last updated: 3:27 AM 11/3/2012