English School Uniform: Garments--Trouser Length


Figure 1.--The English boy in 1959 at a public school wears a long pants suit school uniform. Notice the large cuffs on the trousers.

English school boys have wore a wide variety of trousers. We are not quite sure what was worn before the 18th century. Boys in the 18th century wore knee breeches. Long trousers and knickers were mostly worn worn in the 19th century. Long trousers were common in the early 19th century, but knicketrs became increaingly common in the late 19th century. Kneepants may have also been also been worn in the 19th century, but HBC has little information on this. After the turn of the century short trousers also appeared, especially after World War I (1914=18). Short trousers were very common through the 1950s, but began to decline in the 1960s. Currently most boys wear long trousers to schiool, especially during the winter. Short trousers are more common in the warmer months, especially for younger boys. Most secondary schools do not now allow boys to wear shorts.

Breeches

oys in the 18th century wore knee breeches. Breeches were a male garment and worn by both boys and men. They were not a specifically juvenile garment. They were the primary trousers worn throughout the century. They had three buttons at the hem as a closures. They were worn by most men and boys until the late 18th century when some younger boys began wearing long trouser skeleton suits.

Long Trousers

Long trousers and knickers were mostly worn worn in the 19th century. The first long trousers worn by boys as part of skeleton suits for younger boys. After the first decade og the 19th century, an increasing number of boys wore long trousers to school. Long trousers were the most common type of trousers in the early 19th century. Some younger boys wore tunics to school, I'm not sure what kind of trousers thary wore with their tunics. English boys in the late 19th century wore both knocketrs and long trousers. After World War I, short pants became commonly worn bu boys in primary schools as well as younger secondary school boys. most prep school established uniforms with short pants and kneesocks. Public schools (private secondary schools) generally had long pants uniforms, but some had short pants, especially for the younger boys. Long pants began to be more commonly worn in the 1960s and especially the 1970s. Few schools had Currently most boys wear long trousers to school, especially during the winter. Many private schools had rles as to when biys could begin wearing long pants.

Knickers

Knickers became increaingly common in the late 19th century. We are not sure precisely hen they appeared, but we note that by the 1880s, younger boys at many private schools were wearing knickers to school. Many of the available images at late-19th century pribate schools show the boys wearing knickers. I am not sure what they were called at the time. In the 1920s they were referred to as "plus fours" in England as knickers became a term used more for womens's underwear. Boys at state primary schools, however may have more commonly worn kneepants than knickers. Some schools still had knicker uniforms in the early 20th century, but after World War I (1914-18) they were quite rare. We do note one London preparatory school which maintains a knickers uniform. When the school went coed the girls also wore the knickers unifom. As far as e know, this is the only English school where knickers are still worn.

Knee Pants

English schoolboys also wore Knee pants in the 19th and early-20th century. Unfortunately we have only limited information at this time. We hope to develop more information on this. We have not noted a lot of images of English school boys wearing knee pants, but our 19th century archive is very limited. They were very common in America. We are not yet sure how common they were in England. We are not sure abour the mid-19th centurty, but believe that they think that they were widely worn in the late-19th. Long pants seem dominant until after the 1870s. We also notice boys wearing knee pants to school in the early-20th century. What we are not yet sure about is to what extent boys wore knee pants rather than knickers. Our initial assessment is that boys wore knickers more in the late-19th century, but after the turn of the century, knee pants became more common. This seems almost the opposite of trebnds in America. We think that boys commonly wore knee pants to state primary schools. More information, however, is needed on this. We note many images of boys wearing knickers at private boardung schools. We note some images of boys wearing both knee pants and knickers in some school portraits.

Short Trousers

After the turn of the century short trousers also appeared, especially after World War I (1914-18). Short trousers were very common through the 1950s. Almost all primary-age boys wore them at both state and private schools. Often they were not required, but were just commonly worn. Most primary boys wore them, even during the winter. Even some older boys wore them. Shorts were also worn at secondary schools by the younger boys. Here chools varied. Some schools required the younger boys to wear shorts, others left it up to the boys and their parents. Shorts were even more common at private schools, especially preparaory schools. Some private econdary schools also requred shorts. Rules varied from school to school. Shorts at schools began to decline in the 1960s. Some state schools began to requite them. Through the 1960s, junior boys at many secondary schools, especially grammar shools wore shorts. Most private preparatory schools required them though the 1970s. Short trousers are now more common in the warmer months, especially for younger boys. Most secondary schools do not now allow boys to wear shorts. There are some exceptions and some schools are rethinking this policy.









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Created: September 21, 2001
Last updated: 6:26 PM 8/13/2009