Television and Other Media Dealing with Clothes

Figure 1.--The Canadian TV show "You Can't Do That on Television" had many skits with the boys wearing sailor suits. Needless to say, the boys did not muck like their outfits. Usually the clothing gags involved mostly the boys. In this skit the girls wore matching sailor suits.

Clothing styles are chronicled in television. This is because the great majority of TV programs are set in contemporary times. Thus there is a excellent source of information on popular trends. Usually these shows are accurate depictions. One glaring exception, is that boys on American television, especially the main characters, rarely wore short pants. At this time HBC has a general media depiction page which primarily deals with the U.S. media. As HBC expands we will develop separate pages for specific media like television as well as add information on other countries. Primarily fir HBC we are interesting in accurate images and information anout historical clothing. But an interesting topic of some interest is how various garments are depicted in the media. Here we have both historical depictions as well as commedy depictions. Also interesting is how some garments are used in character development.


Many of these shows dealing with short pants addressed a style that boys were actually wearing. The reaction of boys and parents watching these shows was thus potentially signioficant. Many other clothing styles were incorprated for commic relief or paradody, thus causing a different reaction.


Knickers had gone out of style by the time television had become popular. They had not totally disappered by the late 1940s and were still occasionally seen in the early 1950s. They were, however, rarely seen on contemporry TV programs. They were commonly used in TV ads with period settings.

The Waltons

A HBC reader reports that in an episode of the "Waltons", John-Boy is all dressed in his knickers-suit to go to town shopping. He was in high school and he often wore knickers. Some in the family ask him if he's going to buy a long pants suit, "now that he's old enough", and he replies, "What's wrong with my knickers?"

Short Pants

HBC has noted several television, movie, and other media in America during the 1950s and 60s that addressed the issue of boys wearing short pants suits. Leave It to Beaver may well be the television episode that most Americans remember that addresses the issue of boys wearing short pants suits. It was not the only series that addressed the topic or the only media. HBC also wonders if the impact was not more important on the parents who saw the show than the boys.

Fauntleroy Suits

We note boys wearing Fauntleroy suits on a number of different television shows and media. Here we see them depicted in historical dramas in realistic situations. There were both series and single shows. We also note them in commedy shows as a kind of running gag. Often the Fauntelroy commedy gag depictions were done with adults. The accuracies of the depictions varied. The children in the "Little Rascals" actually dressed realistically. And there were historical recreations such as in "Little House on the Prarie". Some times they were not real Faunlkeroy suits, but similar in some ways to Fauntleroy suits. Prhaps the most famous was Eddie on the "Munsters". He fid not wear a real Funtleroy suit, but it was similar to one. And of course his clothes like the other Munsters was part of the gag as all the rest of the people in Mockingbird Heights dressed normally.

Sailor Suits

You Can't Do That on Television

The skits on You Can't Do that on Television touched on a wide variety of clothes. In fact, clothes were one of the most common used commic devices on the show. A HBC contributor remembers one skit with a blueberry shortcake sailor suit"? In the skit, Les has Kevin K. posing in a blue shorts sailor suit with blue knee socks and cap, which he refers to by this name. Les is trying to replace a lost photo taken of Kevin in this style of suit when Kevin was much younger. Maybe this is a term invented by the writers.



One HBC contributor remembers an episode of Fury, (1955-1960). The main character, Joey, is lived on a modern ranch out West with his guardian, Jim. Joey always wore a long-sleeved light color shirt, jeans, and boots. One day, Jim's Aunt Harriet (played by character actress, Maudie Prickett) came visiting the ranch from back east in Indiana. Aunt Harriet was appalled by how dusty and dirty everything seemed on the ranch (one wonders what she expected), and, assuming the housekeeping duties on this visit, she lays out Joey's suit (long trousers) and tie for him to wear to school and makes him wear it. A short pants suit out West would have been hard to imagine, I think. Joey also appeared to bne about 14 when this show was filmed. Joey (and his horse, Fury) eventually teach Harriet that life on the ranch has its rewards and there are times when dressing elegantly may not be practical.


My Three Sons

In the My Three Sons episode, on Chip's joining the girls' field hockey team: Ernie suggests this to Chip because a girl is trying to join the track team (all boys) and the only girls team at the school is the field hockey team. Ernie thinks Chip would be unstoppable by the girls and would beat them at their own game. Actually this was not really far fetched. A news story I think in the 1980s reported that a half dozen boys at a Massachusetts high school went out for the girls field hockey team. There was a lot of news media coverage showing them playing in their kilts and knee socks. In fact, one of the boys was interviewed on ABC-TV's "Good Morning, America".

You Can't Do That on Television

In another You Can't Do that on Television episode the show's owners are rumored to have sold out to new, foreign owners, the first rumor is the new owners are German; Alastair appears in lederhosen to impress the new owners. No, says a new rumor, they're Scots. Alastair and another lad appear in kilts, and Alastair says sadly, with a ruffle of the kilts, "I liked it better in German shorts!" The boys, however, seem not to mind an Australian outback style with shorts.


The Brady Bunch

In one episiode of The Brady Bunch, Peter dresses up in the Sunflower Girl uniform in order to protest Marsha's joining a boys' group. They couldn't dress up in Scout Scout uniforms, I think because the Scouts wanted a royalty.


If boys smartly dressed in short oants suits or even wearing play shorts were rare on American television, boys in shorts were even rarer in commercials. I remember a news boy wearin OP cord shorts admiring a Japanese car (I think a Homda). This was in the late 1970s or early 80s. It is notable that this rare appearance of a boy in shorts in an Ameticam commercial was sponsored by a Japanese company. Few iother examples come to mind, but perhaps HBC readers recall a few. A HBC reviewer has mentioned a 2001 commercial for Target. The main color is brown, and the ad includes chocolate and coffee. The first half of the commercial has 3 or 4 boys running down a sidewalk, all dressed in identical "school uniforms" of chocolate (dark brown?) short pants suits, knee socks and dress shoes. The boys look inside a shop window, then run inside. They sport modern colored shirts and a snazzy tie with suit jacket. "It's interesting to see a modern update on the traditional school boy uniform, even if it's only for an "absurdist" modern television ad. I am certain that the Target stores do not even sell the clothes." [HBC note: Actually if target sold clothes, they almost surely would noy have had an ad with boys in short pants and kneesocks.]

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Created: October 10, 2000
Last updated: 1:39 AM 9/21/2006