Hosiery: Stockings, Socks, and Tights: Wearing Conventions

Figure 1.--Often, especially with younger boys, the choice of hosiery and how it is worn was dictated my mother. This American boy wears white long stockings with his bloomer knickers fixed above the knee. This boys nother clearly saw to it that he did no go around with one of his stockings falling down.

An HBC reader has noted substantial variations not so much in the specific type of hosiery a boy might wear, but in how he wore his hosiery. Often the hosiery selected and the manner in which was worn was mother's choice, but as boys got older they exerted more influence on how they dressed and this included hosiery. In most cases this dealt with socks as there were fewer alternatives ways in which tights and long stockings could be worn. In addittion as boys got older they were more likely to wear socks.

Reader Question

Our reader writes, "One of your HBC pages remarked that a boy was wearing his knee socks cuffed. Is there any significance to HOW a boy wears his socks?" HBC believes that is indeed a signicance as to how a boy wore his socks. There is a reason behind every conscious human activity. It might not be coherent or reasobable, but there is a message being sent by how a boy weras his socks or indeed how his mother insists he wear them. The ways that boys wore their hosiery can often be ascribed to boyhood carelessness and lack of interest in such mundane matters as keeping his kneesocks pulled up so that he looked smart. There have been, however, definite trends which developed among boys over time.We believe that we know some of the reasons invplved, but would appreciate readers providing hat ever insights thaey may have.

Hosiery Types

We note some variations in how differenty types of hosiery was worn.

Long Stockings

Long stockings were alwats worn held up and there were a variety of devices to ensure this. Only occasional do images show boys with their long stockings falling down.

Three-quarter socks

Three quarter socks were commonly worn buy boys and girls in the late 19th and early 20th century. We have no information, however, on how these socks were worn.


We do not a curious style that was observed in America during the late 1910s and early 1920s. The boys wearing above the knee knickers duruig this period sometimes wore them with kneesocks, always pulled up. Parents wre insistant that a boy should keep his kneesocks pulled up. For them falling kneesocks were a sign of slovliness. Boys in many cases either could not be bothered or objectyed to the idea of kowtailing to their parents and looking smart all the time. Of course the most famous boy with falling down socks in Just William. For school uniform knee socks many schools had a "thing" about wearing them. A HBC reader says that "I think one of your knickerbocker-style Lederhosen pages shows a boy with his knee socks "rolled down".

Tube socks

Tune socks wre normally worn pulled up to just below the knee. We have, however, noticed some ususlly younger boys who in the 1960s and 70s pulled them up their tube socks over their knees. This was especially common with boys playing soccer. I am not sure as to attribute this to a look the boys preferred or to the tendency just to pull the socks up as far as they went without really thinking how they looked. One reader writes, "If it's not because it's cold, I think they do it just because their lazy or it looks "cool" Many boys in the 80's would fold the top over (like Uniform socks) if the socks were too long. This was also a "cool" look at that time. Also in the 80's ,soccer socks for some leagues were cheaply nylon types that either didn't reach the knee (if shin guards were worn) or were always falling down. Some boys would byy tube socks with the same colors on them and wear them under the soccer socks. Looked a little strange, but it worked for them.

Soccer socks

A HBC reader writes in 2002, "Some kids today are real particular as to how they fold over their soccer socks. Some will pull them up as high as they can go, then fold the tops down as far as they can, then fold them back up several time to get that "perfect look. Others just fold them over once. Since they must be worn over the shin pads now, the look is more important now. In the 80's when the pushed-down tube socks look was popular while wearing shorts, a lot of kids would push down their soccer socks even though they were wearing shin guards. It looked terrible. Now FIFA rules state that shin guards must be worn and socks pulled up and shirts tucked in. (Sounds like an English Prep School, except for the shin guards and minus the blazer)."

Ankle socks

For many ankle socks, rolled up is the only way to wear them. Many younger boys wore ankle and crew socks "cuffed" -- tops turned down once). A number of child actors show up this way, including Mark Lester. Also athletic crew socks are often worn this way.
And I have even seen boys with ankle socks rolled down. A modern trend is to wear them "slouched" or pushed down. Some women's socks are even specially made to be worn this way.


HBC know of no alternative ways of wearing tights.

Sport Socks

Chronological Trends

A HBC reade writes, "It's interesting how boys wear their socks in 2002. While ankle socks are still popular, boys are also wearing the very low white socks that barely peak out of the top of their shoes. They are expecially popular for basketball players and they can be either white or dark colored. Other boys playing BB may wear Tube-sock like white socks that go up to the bottem of the knee. Coupled with the long baggy basketball shorts, it makes them look like they are wearing girls bloomers or something A lot of boys still prefer white ankle sock pushed down slightly with shorts, but also like the quarter length socks which are in between crew lengh and the very low cut ones mentioned above. Some boys will also (literally)roll down crew length socks which looks kind of silly, but try telling that to a 12 year old boy. I think that English boys stil like to wear longer soccer style socks, but wearing them pushed down to just above the ankles. This is not so popular in America though."

Christopher Wagner

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Created: September 30, 2001
Last updated: December 6, 2002