Long Stocking Lengths: Country Trends

Figure 1.--This boy from Williamsport, Pennsylvania was probably photograpohed in the 1880s. Note the white collar and relatively small bow. His kneepants are well over his knee. This wa also common in Europe. As far as we can tell, long stockings in America and Europe were made at about the same length.

We do not have detailed data on the precise length of long stockings in various countries. Our best evidence is catalog entries, but rarely did the catalogs details the actual length of the long stockings, although some of the catalogs do indicate that they were longer styles. Thus we have to look primarily at the style of pants being worn with them. Here we can use the photographic record to make some assessments. We notice some differences among countries, but the major differences seem to be more chronological than national. The chronological shifts were similar in many countries, but there were some time-line differences among countries. We note some differences between American and European boys. We do not note important differences during the 19th century. This difference primarily appeared as best we can tell in the 20th century, especially after World War I. There were also differences between Soviet/Eastern European and Western European boys after World War II.


The HBC categories of stocking length--(1) short, i.e. barely over the knee; (2) medium length (mid thigh); and (3) extra long (covering most of the upper thigh) are generally very useful, and, in general, the historical sequence seems pretty accurate. The general movement is obviously from shorter long stockings to longer and longer ones. But there is clearly some overlap. Long stockings during much of the 19th century did not have to be very long. Boys worn kneepants that often came well below the knee, sometimes even down to the calf. We believe that kneesocks were generally made to just above the knee, in part because girls might wear dresses cut just below the knee and most long stockings were made for both boys and girls to wear. Up until World War I long stockings in America tended to be just over the knee and not much longer. An example is an advertisement is Iron Clad stockings (1904), showing knee pants and stockings just above the knee. During the 1920s and 1930s there seems to have been some variety of length. We see images of boys with longish short knee pants and medium-length stockings in the early 20th century. We see both boys and girls wearing shorter length cloyhing with the relatively short long stockings that had beeen common earlier. An example is a Wards's ad for long stockings (1922) showing agirl with short long stockings, just over the knee. Boys wore long stockings with both kneepants and knickers--both ablove and below the knee knickers. We note an American boy (1921-22) wearing above-the-knee knickers with medium length long stockings. And yet the First Communion suit of a Brooklyn boy (dated during the same period--i.e., the 1920s) shows extremely long white stockings worn with quite short short pants. But the advertisements for long stockings during the 1920s and early 1930s often don't say anything about extra length although the pictures shown in the catalog make the stockings look somewhat longer. When shorter skirts and pants started to be popular in the late 1920s and 1930s, the stockings seem to have become longer but still probably not extremely long. The first ad for "extra long" stockings I have found is Ward's 1933 add for "Extra Long Playhards". We note Ward's Playhard long stockings--made extra long so garters won't show under shorter trousers and skirts, 1933) Of course "Extra Long" is a relative term. The stockings seem to have gotten even longer in America in the period from about 1936 to 1945. The Sears ads for long stockings in 1940-41 and 1943-44 show boys wearing stockings that cover almost the entire thigh and being worn with quite short shorts. We notice Sears offering >very long stocking which they refer to as "full-length" stockings--long enough to be worn with shorter short pants (1940-41). Another Sears catalog showed very long stockings worn with short pants (1943). A HBC reader writes, "It is these extra long stockings that I remember wearing myself during that period." We have testimony from several American readers who complain that the boys' stockings were shorter than the girls' stockings and that therefore the garters tended to be exposed. But the catalogs of the period show no difference at all between stockings for boys and girls--at least in terms of length. If there was a difference, it was a difference of color and weight rather than of length.


We have relatively little information about long stockings in Austria. We believe that the conventions and lengths were similar to those in Germany. We see Austrian schoolboys at a Vienna gymnasium in 1919. This was the school that film director Billy Wilder was a student. Notice the knee pants and the black long stockings. The stockings seem to be a bit longer than just over-the-knee. We also note Vienna boys in 1936 wearing short pants suits with tan or brown long stockings. Mid-thigh length almost certainly. Note the extra-long beige long stockings worn by this Austrian boy in the late 1930s. After World War II we We note an Austrian primary class in 1953. Note that one boy on the right sitting on a wall wears extremely long stockings tan or beige with short pants.


The Belgian royals (Prince Charles and Prince Leopold) wore very long white stockings with short pants (1912) There clothes were perhaps exceptional, but the royals at the time did influence fashions. We note a few images of Belgian boys wearing long stockings. One Belgian boy wears longer length black long stockings (probably mid-thing length) with his First Communion suit in the 1920s. The boy wears kneepants cut at the length of short pants above the knee.


The length of long stockings in Canada seems quite similar to those worn in America, although the popularity of knickers in Canada makes them difficult to fully assess. The time-line is somewhat different. It in that boys continued to wear both knickers and long stockings a few years longer than in America. There also seem to be ethnic differences with long stockings more popular with French-Canadians than English speaking Canadians. Canadian boys like American boys commonly wore kneepants and long stockings in the early 20th century and the knee-length style was similar. We note an older boy wearing kneeants with short-length long stockings in 1901. The boy looks to be wearing long stockings that were a little too short for his kneepants. We note Eatons offering medium length stockings (mid-thigh length stockings) in 1922. We note a Canadian boy wearing a First Communion suit with rather long black stockings, at least mid-thigh or longer, in the 1920s. We note a Quebec schoolboy wearing very long stockings with short pants in 1942. We note a playing the piano in Quebec City in 1950. He wears extra long stockings with rather short cut short pants.


We see the the Gibbs boys in 1906. They wear black long stockings with knee pants. It looks as though these stockings are about mid-thigh or at least longer than just over the knee.


We note an Estonian boy during 1937 wearing a an overcoat with long brown stockings. We can't see his short pants, but they are probably standard length for German and other northern European boys. Therefore the long stockings would be mid-thigh length, which is standard for the period all over Europe in the mid-1930s.


Long stockings do not seem to have been very popular in France. We do however, see some French boys wearing long stockings.


Gemany is one of the countries in which long stockings were especially popular and continued to be worn even when they went out of style in many other countries. The German clothing industry until after World War II was very important and German fashions affected styles in many neighboring countries, including Scandinavia and Central and Easter Europe. German boys up to their teens very commonly wore long stockings. We note boys wearing short, mid-length, and long long stockings. It is difficult to fully assess the length of those stockings as the boys in many images are wearing kneepants or longer-length short pants and we have virtually no catalog information. Most of our information from from portraits and snapshots. We have begun to collect information on different lengths of long stockings. We also have inforrmation on diifferent decades which provides some insights on chronological trends. German boys until the 1930s mostly wore long stockings with kneepants and rather long, knee-length short pants. With knee-length pants, the length of the stockings were normally just a little above the knee. German boys up to their teens very commonly wore long stockings. We note boys wearing short, mid-length, and long long stockings. We also have information on diifferent decades which provides some insights on chronological trends. German boys wore long stockungs in the 19th century, but our information is very limited on the lengths prevalent durng this period. We believe that they were relatively short because of the long length of the kneepants boys were wearing. We have much more iunformation on the 20th century. German boys wore long stockings throughout the first half of the 20th century.


We notice a Hungarian boy participating in a wedding as a ring bearer in the 1920s. This boy wears the most unusual short long stockings with short pants for his wedding costume. I do not think that it is at all typical, although our information on Hungary is very limited.


A 1934 photo of Vartan Gregorian shows him wearing very short long stockings in Iran. This length is quite unusual--the stockings barely covering even the boys' knees but nevertheless worn with hose supporters. These stockings may be hand-knitted. Possibly the boy has simply grown too tall for them as originally knitted.)


We do not have very much information about long stockings in Italy. They were worn in Italy, but not as commonly as in northern Europe because of the warmer climate. Many of the few images we have show boys wearing them during the colder Winter weather. We do note an Italian boys wearing long stockings with his Balial uniform in 1938. The stockings the boys are wearing vary somewhat. Some of the boys are wearing quite long-length stockings. This suggests that stocking lengths in Italy followed the same pattern as in GFermany and other northern European countries.


Japanese nbous before World War II commomly wore long stovkingd. Prince Ahkito in 1939 shows him with the rest of the family. He wears European dress--short pants and white long stockings--mid-length at least. We see a Japanese boy (figure 6) wearing long stockings that look to be mid-length. We at first thought that the boy here was wearing long stockings, but now I think he is probably wearing tights.


We see the children in one family all wearing long stockings in 1932. Some of the children wear long stockings well above the knee, although because of their clothing it is difficult to tell just what the length of the stockings is.


A Dutch boy wears long stockings with short pants during 1949. His long stockings are very long.


We see some rural Norwegian boys in 1940 on the eve of the NAZI invasion. A rural boy wears long stockings with shorts. The shorts are not particularly short, but the stocking length is as at least mid-thigh. The Norwegian conventions on stocking length were apparently very similar to those of Germany and Sweden during the same period.


Long stockings in Germany, Poland, Russia, and northern Europe tended to be made long enough to cover almost the entire upper thigh in the period from the late 1930s until about 1971 when tights often replaced long stockings. We note an orphanage in Warsaw during 1930. It was Dr. Korczak's orphanage. Some of the boys wear long stockings with kneepants or long shorts. Thus the stockings did not have to be very long, although we are unsure just what length was common. After World war II, Polish boys wore shorter short pants and often quite long stockings.


We see a Russian boy (figure 2) at the end of the 19th century in St. Petersburg wearing long stockings. The boy here wears very long black stockings with tight-fitting bloomer knickers. This is another exception to the general principle that long stockings in the pre-World War I era were short and only extended to a little above the knee. These stockings are thigh-high. We note a Russian school boy wearing long stockings in the 1950s--obviously knit quite long. Note the Russian boy listening to violin music--in 1954. He wears quite long long stockings, covering most of the thigh. This was typical of the 1950s. A Russian boy selected for special training wears rather long stockings in 1962. The stockings cover the entire thigh. An image from a Soviet Kindergarden in 1964 also shows a very long length of long stockings.


We note a Swedish boy in 1936 wearing beige or tan long mid-thigh length long stockings, probably but very long short pants make it difficult to tell. Most long stockings were at least to mid-thigh by 1936, and some were extra-long. We note Swedish boys wearing long stockings in the 1940s.


Related HBC Hosiery Pages:
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Created: 10:12 PM 5/25/2005
Last updated: 8:37 PM 6/20/2005