Clam Diggers/Pedal Pushers


Figure 1.--This boy wears a pair of clam diggers that were advertised in a March 1964 magazine. Note that these seem to look more like slacks, there is even a ciff, and made in chino material. More commonly they came in white and bright colors, had stropes at the side, and a "V" notch at the leg hem. Clam diggers might haver a rope belt which pedal pushers usually did not have. The various types did not prove very popular with American boys.

One style that did not prove popular with American boys were clam diggers. Various terms were used for these calf-length pants, including "pedal pushers". They were in fact really just old fashioned kneepnts without he three buttons at the hem. They never were very widely worn. Boys just didn't like them, perhaps because they were rather like Capri pants that girls wore. Several HBC readers remember pedal pushers in the 1960s and 70s, surprising as o few boys wore them. Interestingly, when reintroduced in the 1990s as long-length full cut shorts, they proved much more popular, perhaps because girls in the 1990s wore shorter shorts.

Terminology

These mid-calf shorts were referred to by different terms. Girls versions in the 1950s were called "Capri pants". They were also reffered to as "pedal pushers". I have it my mind tht this was for girls' pants in the the 1960s. A Boys' Life article referred to them as "clam diggers" in the mid 1960s. I think his term was only used for boys' styles--but again can not yet confirm this. A related style was Calypso pants.

Chronology

HBC has no details on the chronology of clam diggers. I do not remember seeing them in either the 1950s or 1960s. I believe that they were primarily marketed for boys, with minimal success during the 1960s. Related styles for girls have been marketed over a much longer period and with substantially greater success.

Popularity

One style that did not prove popular with American boys were clam diggers. Boys just didn't like them, perhaps because they were rather like Capri pants that girls wore. Interestingly, when reintroduced in the 1990s, they proved very popular, perhaps because girls in the 1990s wore shorter shorts.

Colors

Some clam diggers were made in colors like light khakis which slacks and walks shorts were made. Others were made in white or in bright colors like red, especially those for younger boys. Some had detailing like pipig or stripes.

Material

Most clam diggers were made in cotton.

Detailing

Some of these abreviated panyts were styled with normal pants pockets. Others had flap pockets, looking rather like the long cargo shorts of the 1990s. We notice plin leg hems , cuffs, and "V" cut slits. There were also some with a stripe at the side.

Gender Differences

Girls in the 1950s began wearing Capri pants, below the knee shorts. Clam diggers were the boy's version. One reason that they were not very popular was thar boys saw them primarily as a girls' style.

Age

HBC has few details about the age of boys wearing them. I know that they were made in sizes from at least 8 to 12, but they were probaly made in younger and older sizes as well.

Variants

There were several variants of these abreviate pants. All were varying lengths below the knee. It is unclear to HBC at this time if these were actual stylistic variants or if simply different names were used. There were different lengths and stylistic details, but I am not sure that differentb manufacturers and retailers were consistebt in their application of the different names.

Calypso Pants

About 1962, a couple of years before the Boy's Life illustration, something called "calypso pants" made the rounds (sort of). About this time some popular music had a Caribbean beat and maybe some films had been set in this region, so that affecting this tropical style was fashionable. The calypso pants were about the same length of clam diggers, but they used a rope-like belt and it seems like they were notched at the cuff. The impression was that of a shipwrecked person whose clothes had worn and shrunk to this look. An HBC contributor reports, "The style was short-lived, but and a few friends did wear them." But shorts about the length of the boy's walk shorts in the March 1964 Boys' Life photo were much more common.

Pedal Pushers

HBC is not sure if there were act differences between pedal pushers and and clam diggers. I seem to recall pedal pushers were not cuffed and has a small slit or "reversed "v" cut out at the leg hem. I'm not sure if this was an actual stylistic difference are just the vageries of different designs. We note that the clam diggers pictured here were cuffed (figure 1).

Clam differs

The clam diggers pictured here are normally styled pants cut to a length just below the knee and with a cuff added.

Capri pants

A HBC reader writes, "In a 1964 sears catalog, they always called them "pedal-pushers" if they were just below the knee, "Capri pants" were longer."

1990s Update

It's interesting that the fashion industry started hyping these calf-length shorts to girls and young women starting in 1999, and they still haven't settled on a name. I see them advertised variously as Capri pants, clam diggers and pedal pushers. The baggier version being marketed to boys are now being called "flood shorts". One HBC contributor comments, "And they still look stupid. Boys' shorts couldn't be any longer than they are now, so I take heart in the fact that there's nowhere to go but up. By my observation, the longest shorts are worn by boys in elementary school and not by high schoolers. This creates an instability that should drive shorts to a more rational length. But countering this tendency is the fact that shorter shorts are now worn only by girls, which gives boys the idea that there's something girlish about shorter shorts."

Personal Experiences

Quite a few HBC readers remember pedal pushers even though relatively few boys as I recall at the time actually wore them.

Steve

Steve does remember wearing clasm diggers in the late 1950s. He is one of the few HBC readers who reports ctually wearing clam diggers. His mother bought them fir him, but he didn't like them. He tried them for a few days, butthought they looked like girls' pants. He didn't like short pants either.

Pedal pushers

I don't know a whole lot. I never wore the things, but I do have vague memories of their existence. The term I remember was "pedal pushers", and they were worn by girls in the late-50s to early-60s. I remember seeing a boy about 8-years-old at some 4th of July in the mid-1960s, maybe as late as 1966, wearing red pedal pushers with white piping. I remember wondered why that boy was wearing his sister's hand-me-downs."

Popular in Florida

"I can verify from personal experience that "Clam Diggers" were a type of boy's shorts in the 1960s in sizes 6-20 and they were rather popular in Florida back then. They seemed to appeal to boys who perhaps wanted to wear something comfortable like shorts in the summer but couldn't quite bring themselves to wear Bermuda shorts, which were also coming into vogue for the more daring. I think calling them "Clam Diggers" was a marketing ploy to suggest that they were casual manly beachwear, associated with the popular California beach boy image of the 1960's, thereby gaining acceptance by boys anxious to avoid the "juvenile" stigma attached to traditional dress-up short pants in that era. The ridiculously long "baggy shorts" worn primarily by elementary and junior-high age boys in 2002 seem to be a real throwback, lengthwise, to the "Clam Diggers" we wore in the 1960s!"

Harley

"I remember pedal pushers when they came out. The reason for this style of pants as I remember it is what the name implies--pushing the pedals on a bicycle. As chain guards were not always in place, as one would pedal the bicycle their ankle length pant leg would get caught into the chain and front sprocket of the bicycle, and if you dared to stop the bike you could not put your foot to the ground on that side. The sprocket would also put holes into your pants. They were to be worn while riding bicycles. Girls like my sister wore them. In fact not very many girls wore dress's while riding bikes. As a result, a boy would not be caught dead wearing them. Therefore the reasoning of the targeted age group 8 to 12, the popular age for riding bicycles. So if renamed to clam diggers, boys may wear them as that name wasn't a sissy image, but to late, short pant leg = pedal pushers = girls clothes, no matter what you call them. We boys would tie string around our pants leg, or stuff our pants into our socks." [Burd]

John

"The contributors all make good points about the "calypso pants", as they were advertised where I was growing up. What passes for shorts these days are roughly the same length as the calypso pants/clam diggers. The older style pants, though, had a nautical or Caribbean look. A rope belt completed this look to suggest a rugged, sea-faring sort was wearing the pants, as one contributor writes. I don't think this was very convincing for the few of my schoolmates who wore this style. It didn't seem genuine. Mothers probably pronounced the style "cute", which would certainly turn their boys against it! Most boys wore shorts (at least some time during the spring and summer) where I grew up in the late '50s and early '60s. So, shorts were never really an issue. You really were an oddity if you wore long trousers and school shoes in the July heat!" [HBC note: This varied greatly chronolgically. As strange as it may seem, I can recall in Washington DC during the late 1940s and early 1950s that boys wore long pants, mostly jeans, all through the summer. The only exception was veu little boys 5 years old and under. Here there no doubt exceptions such as more affluent boys going to private schools. But in my neighborhood not one boy wore short pants--even in the summer after school. I think the sme was true in many other parts of America. This was also reflected in TV. All the principal family shows always dressed the boy in long pants--even during th heat of the summer. This included Beaver and Wally (Leave it to Beaver), Rusty (The Danny Thomos Show), Timmy (Lassie), Dennis (Dennis the Menace), Oppie (The Andy Griffith Show), and others. Of course it goes with out saying that they never wore pedal pushers.]

Unpopular

"You're right. Clam diggers/calypsos are largely forgotten today, and they weren't well received in their time. The style, absent the jaunty, nautical appearance of the calypsos, returned a few years ago, with much more marketing success. The effort had some success with girls, but not at all with boys. I don't think any pretense, such as the "pre-fabricated beachcomber" look, would sell in today's market any better than years ago."

Philip

"I remember wearing clam diggers back in 1960 when I was 10 years old. We went to Florida to visit my aunt and uncle. I still remember they were white with blue and red stripes down the outside of the legs, V notched at the bottom and a cotton rope belt. They allowed me to wade in the surf without getting my clothes wet and for me comfortable. The Calypso pants were a good option as we wore them to the beach and sight-seeing. Didn't have to change from shorts (which I hated). I was also wearing boys shirts that were length which I always wore and was sad to see go out of style. The sleeves came to about mid-forearm. No cuffs or anything. I always liked them as I didn't have to button the cuff or roll up a long sleeve." [ LaFollette]

Other Period Personal Experiences

A variety of personal accounts and articles are available on boys' fashions during the 1950s-70s.
The 1940s-50s: Sneakers and jeans
The 1950s: Beaver Goes Shopping
The 1950s: Jeans, Jeans, Jeans
The 1960s: Traveling in Europe
The 1960s: Shorts, jeans, and France
The 1960s: The Beautiful People
The 1960s: Mothers Buy Clothes

Sources

Burd, Harley. E-mail message, June 19, 2003.

LaFollette, Philip. E-mail message, July7, 2010.







HBC






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Created: November 22, 1998
Last updated: 7:40 PM 7/8/2010