Hosiery: Country Trends

Hosiery trends in European countries had been similarities among countries. There do not appear to have been many destinctive country hosiery styles and trends. Throughout Europe men and boys wore knee-length stockings, often white, with knee breeches. There was still considerable similarity through much of the 19th century. More differences began to appear in the late 19th century. American boys commonly wore long stockings. Kneesocks were worn in the early 20th century, but did not prove as popular as in Europe--especially Britain. French boys wore three-quarter length stockings in the late 19th century. Kneesocks were worn in the 20th century, but largely on a seasonal basis. German boys wore a larger range of hosiery and long stockings were very common in the winter. After World War II, some boys wore tights during the winter. Since the 1960s, knee-length socks became less common, except for tune socks that were popular in merica during the 1970s-80s. A new style of very short sport socks appeared in the late 1990s, first in California. Some reports from Europe indicate that boys there in the 1990s are wearing their socks as close to their shoes as possible.

Figure 1.--American boys during the early 20th century commonly wore long black stockings. Even boys in white outfits might wear black stockings.


American boys have worn a variety of hosiery, including long stockings and different kind of socks. There were major variations over time. The type of pants worn had a majpr inpact on the hosiery worn. Many American boys also went barefoot. American boys unlike some European boys have not commonly worn tights. We are not sure about the hosiery worn in the early 19th cenbtury. As kneepants became standard after the mid-19th century, long stockings became widely worn by all but the youngest children. Long stockings were the predominant hosiery until the turn of 20th century when children also began wearing three-quarter stockings on a seasonal basis. Long stockings persisted through the 1930s, especially during cold winter weather. Beginning in the 1910s, boys began wearing kneesocks, although they did not begin to replace long stockings until the mid-1920s. With the rapis decline of knickers in the early 1940s, abnkle socks became increasingly common. White athlectic socks became very popular for boys after World War II, especially in the 1950s. A popular fad style was tube socks in the 1970s, usually white socks with colored bands. A new style of very short sport socks appeared in the late 1990s, first in California.

Figure 2.-- We do not notice Argentine boys wearing long stockings very commonly. Various types of socks seem to have been more common. Here an Argentine boy wears white knee sovcks with his First Communion short psnts suit.


Argentine children have worn a wide range of hosiery over time. We see long stockings, knee socks, three-quarter socks, and ankle socks as well as other trends. We do not notice Argentine boys wearing long stockings very commonly. Long stockings were not as common as in northern Europe and North America, probably because of the important Italian and Spanish influence in Argentina. Socks were more common in those countries. We do note girls wearing white stockings. Boys did wear stockings, especially for formal occassions, mostly dark stockings. It is just that they were less common than socks. We note Argentine boys wearing voth three-quarter socks and kneesocks. After Wirld War II, ankle socks become more common. We do see Argentine children wearing knee socks. We also note some children not wearing socks. three-qurter socks very commonly. The popularity of the different types of hosiery have varied over time, to an extent following basically European fashion trends. There were also gender and age conventions which varied over time.


Australian fashions generally followed English styles. One exception was hosiery. In the warm Australian climate, many children went barefoot. Wjen they did wear shoes and socks, they generally wore the same types as in England.


As far as we can tell, the hosiery worn by Austrian children is essentially identical to the hosiery worn by German children. We do not have much information on the 19th century yet. Children in the early 20th children wore three-quarter stockings and long stockings when the weather got cold. Long stockings were not just worn in cold weather. Modesty and formality were other factors. After World war I, knee socks became popular and were widely worn into the 1960s. Both long stockings and kneesocks were worn. We also notice girls wearing white ankle socks. Various age and gender conventions affected the type and color of hosiery. At about that time both long stockings and knee socks went out of style. Long stockings disappeared first and knee socks in the 1970s. This was in part because fewer Austrian boys were wearing short pants, especially in the cooler months. We have less information about tights, but assume trends were similar to Germany.

Figure 3.-- European children in the late 19th abd early century tended to wear socks more common than American children who generally wore long stockings.


Belgian hosiery trends have generally followed those in France, although Flemish boys were also influenced by Germany. HBC still has very limited information on Belgian 19th century hosiery styles. We believe that long over the knee stockings were common, although like in France, not as common in America. This may have especially been the case in the winter. Three-quarter socks seem to jave been popular in the early 20th century, especially for younger children. Long stockings were worn both for warmth and as dress or formal wear. As with much else, we believe that they generally followed French styles. Kneesocks were commonly worn by Belgian boys, especially after World War I. They generally replaceclong stockings during the 1920s, although some younger boys continued to wear them for warmth during the winter. They continued to be worn after World War II, but began to decline in popularity during the 1950s. Boys in some private Catholic schools wore white kneesocks although I don't think that was common outside of school. Increasingly in the 1950s ankle socks became more common, especially during the warmer summer months.


Long stockings were commonly worn in the late 19th century and persisted somewhat longer in Canada than America. They were worn with both short pants and knickers, although kneesocks had become more common by the 1930s. The kneesocks worn in Canada, were often quite heavy, thick styles. During the winter long stockings and kneesocks were probably also worn with long pants--although this is difficult to determine. Long stockings appear to have been worn with short pants as a dressy outfit more commonly than in America. HBC has only limited information on hosiery at this time, but the long stockings that we have noted had all been dark--probably black.


We are not sure to what extent long stockings were worn. We suspect the pattern may have been similar to Germany. We note boys wearing kneesocks and long stockings during the inter-War era. An example is the Muller family in 1935. The boy here wears kneesocks, probably in the 1940s. We note boys weearing both kneesocks and long stockings and ankle socks by the late 1950s. We note a few boys wearing smocks, but am not sure how common it was.


Long stocks seem to have been wideky worn un Denmark as in the other Scandinavian countries. Here climate was a factor. After Workrd War I many boys began wearing knee socks. After World War II, ankle socks begin to become popular.

Figure 5.--After the turn of the 20th century, knee socks becme very common in England They were worn with many outfits, including this boy's sailor suit. Baden Powell's Boy Scouts helped to populsrize them.


English boys in the 19th century wore both socks and stockings. Generally the younger boys wore socks and older boys wore log stockings. At mid-centuiry many boys wore white stockings. For a while striped stockings were popular. After the turn of the 20th century, knee socks became very common in England. Long stockings for the most part disappeared for boys wear. Boys instead wore knee socks. They were worn with many outfits. Baden Powell's Boy Scouts helped to populsrize them.Knee socks were commnly worn year round for school, play, leasure events, and formal wear. British boys commonly wore turn-over-top knee ocks which were along called long socks. During the summer many boys might wear ankle socks or even sandals without socks. But knee socks were also orn even in the cold weather. Boys normally wore shorts and knee socks even during the winter. Long stockings were unusual although girls didwear them. Knee socks were worn with a variety of shoes, inluding sandals. After World War II, ankle socks began to become more important. As boys wore short trosers less many mother begn buying ankle socks. When tights appeared on the continent they were not adopted for boys wear in England, although girls did wear them.


Estonian boys commonly wire long stockings. After World War I, knee socks were also common.


Finnish boys like boys in neigboring Russia and Scndinavia commonly wore long stockings. After World War I, knee socks became popular, but many boys still worevlong stockings during the winter.

Figure 4.--French boys tended to wear ankle socks with rompers. This liitle French boy was photographed in 1946.


French boys in the early 19th century wore white socks with skeleton suits. In the late 19th century, three-quarter stockings were commnonly worn. Unlike neighboring Germany, long over the knee stockings do not appear to have been very common. In the early 20th century three-quarter length stockings remain common, although kneesocks begin to grown in popularity as short pants begin to replace kneepants. Kneesocks do not appear to have been as common as in England. Although commonly worn in the inter-War years, they were worn more seasonally than in England. After World War II (1939-45), kneesocks became increasingly seasonal. HBC has not noted any reference to French boys wearing tights.

Figure 4.--These German children were photographed in their back yard during in 1929. They wear the beige colored stockings that had become popular.


German boys commonly wore long stockings at the turn of the 20th century. As in other countries, black was the most common color for long stockings. Three-quarter socks were worn, but not as commonly as in France. These were generally repalaced with kneesocks in the 1910s. Younger boys continued to wear long stockings during the colder winter months, often with short pants. Germany can be quite cold in the winter and those those boys that wore shorts all year round might wear long over-the-knee stockings when it was cold. Kneesocks were more popular with older boys, both they might wear knickers rather than shorts during the winter. White kneesocks had a dressy look. After World War II, long stockings began to disappear, but some younger boys beginning in the late 1950s began wearing tights during the winter instead of long stockings. Tights are still worn by younger children. Older boys also wear tights, but usually for winter sports. .



Japanese boys often wore white socks, both ankle socks and kneesocks. Tube socks caught on very big in Japan during the late 1970s, reaching a peak of popularity in the mid 80s when the great majority of boys out of uniform wore very short shorts and tube socks, often with even more elaborate stripes than were true in the States. Even boys in school uniforms wore striped tube socks at schools that had no sock uniform requirement. Other than blue jeans (resisted by many schools and many parents), that was the first piece of American boys fashion to catch on big in Japan. Other American styles were to follow in its wake--the baggy casual shorts. In fact, Japanese boys have hung on to tube socks and still wear them with the modern knee length shorts--it looks rather strange in comparison to how Japanese boys used to dress.

Figure 5.--This Amsterdam boy wears a kneepants suit with white long stockings. The CDV portrait is undated, but kooks to us like it was taken about 1870. .

(The) Netherlands

One Dutch contributor reports that at the turn of the 20th century, long black stockings were worn under the famous black trousers. Kneesocks becanme increasingly common by the 1910s, but did not entirely replace long stockings. Younger Dutch boys continued wearing long stockings into the 1940s. They tended to be lighter colors than had been worn earlier. They were worn by boys wearing shorts in colder months. I'm not sure if Dutch boys wore tights like German boys.

New Zealand

British boys mostly wore long stockings during the late 19th century, in part because of the climate. Mew Zealand was a British colony and children fashions in New Zealand generally followed Britoish fashions. There was one major exception. A lot of New Zealand boys and girls went barefoot, primarily because the climate was so mild. When dressing up, boys were more likely to wear stockings and shoes for formal occasions as was the case in Britain. For every day wear, howecer, going barefopot was very common. The same pattern continued in the early 20th century. By the 1910s when bous began wearing short pants instead of kneepants. They would still commonly go barefoot, but would wear shoes and long stockings and later kneesocks when dressing up. After World war II, knee socks began to decline in popularity, except for school uniforms and youth groups. American fashions becme influential after the War. And hosiery trends except for school were essentially the same as in America and now common patterns throughout Europe and North America. The only major difference is that going barefoot is still common in New Zealand.


Polish boys like German boys wore long stockings well after they went out of style in many other European countries. Polish readers inform HBC that tights were also common, although we do not know when they first appeared. As in East Germany, they appear to have replaced long stockings.


We have noted Russian boys wearing a variety of hosiery. Given the climate, especially cold winter weather, warm hosiery like long stockings were commonly worn in Russia. Russian boys wore tights during the 1970s. Here trends seem to have been some what influenced by Germany. I am not sure how this worked in the early Soviet era, but after World War II there was considerable trade between the Soviet Union and East Germany. We note Russian boys wearing sandals after World War II. Some wore them without socks, but with socks seems to have been more common. We also notice younger Russian childrencommonly wearing tights beginning in the 1970s. A Russian reader reports that long stockings were commonly worn through the 1960s, but that after tights appeared about 1969 they rapidly replaced long stockings. They were little seen in Russia after 1972. A Russian reader reports that in the 1960s he wore long stockings up to the age of 10. Some boys wore them to the age of 12. Younger boys wore tights. Knee pants with long stockings and tights for boys gradually vanished in Russia only at the end of 1970s.



Swiss boys like German boys also continued wearing long stockings in the 1920s as they were declining in popularity in other countries. Swiss boys also wore tights. A Swiss reader from a french-speaking family reports that going to primary school in the 1940s that boys mostly wore short pants under their smocks. During the winter some boys switched to knickers. The other boys that kept wearing shorts would commonly wear over-the-knee stockings. HBC is unsure at this time as to when tights began to replace long stockings. Tights were weorn by younger boys in several European countries. Most of the countries were northern ones, but the high elevations in Switzerland means that the weather there canb also be quite cold. HBC has only limited information on long stockings in Switzereland. Readers have provided varying accounts, and HBC is unable to assess the situation in Switzerland at this time.


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Created: May 26, 2001
Last updated: 9:47 PM 1/23/2010