Long Stockings: European Country Trends

Of all the different regions, long stockings were most common in Europe. They were widely worn from the mid-19th to the mid-20th century. We begin to see long stockings when boys began wearing shoertened-length pants and girls shorter skits in the mid-19th century. Both boys and girls wore them into their teens. This varied widely from country to country on a geographic basis. Long tockings were most common in the more northerly countries, including the Baltics, Germany, Poland, Russia, Scandanavia, Switzerland. We also see them throughout Eastern Europe where the climate was similar to northern Europe. Our archieve is fairly limited for some of these countries, but we have a very extendive German achives and see children wearing long stockings into the 1950s. They were worn even later in the Soviet Union. The reason of course was climatic. Northern Europe is much colder than balmy southern Europe. Britain was an exception. Long stockings were less common there, at least in the 20th century. And of course the British climate is milder than the rest of northern Europe. Long stockings were much less common in southern Europe (Greece, Italy, and Spain). While the main reason was climatic, poverty was another factor. Even in the south, however, we do see some children wearing long stockings for formal occasions. The pattern was more varies in countries and regions midway between northern and southern Europe. We do not see many French children wearing long stockings, especially in the 20th century.



We do not yet have information about long over-the- knee stockings in Belgium during the early- and mid-19th century. We do have iunformtion on the late-19th century. Long stockings were common in the late-19th century, especially during the cold winter months. 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. Long stockings were worn both for warmth and as dress or formal wear. We note that Belgian boys commonly wore long dark stovkings for church and other formal occassions even after knee socks became prevalent in the 1920s. Through the 1920s, boys always wore black or other dark rather than white stockings. As with much else, we believe that they generally followed French styles, although Dutch and German styles may have been important in Flanders. We have very little information on color. Black long stockings were commonly won for formal wrar. We notice striped long stockings in the 1870s, but do not yet have much information on them.


No informationa available yet.

Figure 3.-- This is a scene in Trlinaks, a typical Czech village. The photograph is undated, but was probably taken about 1905.


We believe that long stockings were quite commonly worn in Czechoslovakia. We believe that hosiery trends were quite similar with those in Austria and Germany. This includes both the 19th century when what became Czechoslovakia was ruled by Austria and becme part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Hosiery conventions seem to have continued to be similar to Germany and Austria after World war I when the country became independent. This probably reflects both cultural ties as well as economic ties with Austria abd Germany. We know that long stockings were still worn in Czechoslovakia after World war II, We are not sure just when they disappeared, but suspect that the time line followed that of East Germany rather thn West Germany. We do not yet have sufficent data to address this topic in detail.


No informationa available yet. We believe that long stockings were commonly worn in Denmark, much as they were in Scandanavia and Germany.


We know that long stockings were commonly worn in England. We also see kneesocks appearing substantially before they were common in America. At this time, we have little information indicating the prevalence of lonf stockings and kneesocks in the late 19th century. We do know that long dark stockings were considered more suitable for older boys and short white socks for younger boys. An English family that we have acquired some information on this and it is shown in how two brothers were dressed about 1900. After the turn of the 20yj century, especially with the foundation of Baden Powell's Boy Scouts, kneesocks rapidly replaced long stockings in Britain. By the 1920s it was unusual to see an English boy wearing long stockings. We note an English boy wearing white long stockings in 1916.


Long stockings weree commonly worn in Estonia. We believed that this continued until the late 1960s and early 70s when tights appeared in the Soviet Union.


No information available yet. We assume tht long stockings were worn in Filand as they were commonly worn in both Scadinavia a Russia. (Finland before the Revolution (1917) was part of Russia.


French boys even on the late-19th century were not all wearing long stockings, as was often the case in America. French boys also wore long stockings, but it was quite common for French boys wearing kneepants to wear three-quarter length stockings rather than long stockings. HBC notes that French fashion magazines commonly show French boys wearing three-quarter length socks rather than long stockings in the late 19th century. HBC believes, however, that French boys also wore long stockings, but it was more on a seasonal basis and they it was not nearly as common to wear them year round as was the case in sime other countries. Our information on long stockings in France, however, is very limited at this time.

Figure 5.--This East German boy in the 1960s wore over the knee stockings with short pants to keep warm on chilly days.


The most prominent country where long stockings were worn was Germany. A major factor was of course Germany's northern location and resulting cold climate. This was also in part because German boys mostly wore short pants all year round. Apparently German mothers were more concerned about their boys wearing short pants during the winter than British mothers. Photographs from the 1930s show entire classes of boys wearing shorts and long stockings during the winter months. The fashion continued in Germany after World War II although we have only limited informnation at this time as to how common it was. Preliminary reports suggest that long stockings were worn in the GFR (West Germany) through the 1950s. Tights appeared in the late 1950s and soon replaced long stockings. HBC believes that long stockings were also worn in the DDR and we believed were not relaced by tights until some years later.


Long stockings were commonly worn in Hungary, but HBC has few details at this time. We believe the pattern was similar to that in neighboring Austria. Hungary until after World War I was of course united with Austria in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.


We have been able to find very little information on Iceland. We suspect clothing trends were similar to Scandanavia, especially Denmark. A World War II image shows an Icelandivc boy wearing short pants with long stockings.


HBC has little information available on the use of long stockings in Italy. HBC believes Italian boys wore long stockings, but as with many topics, HBC has only limited information available on Italian boys clothing at tis time. We have noted some images of Italian boys boys wearing long stockings. Some school images seem to show boys wearing long stockings, but is is not always clear. We believe that the boys wearing knickers normally wore kneesocks, but we are not possitive about this. We also note some boys in the youth organization Balilla wearing dark long stockings with their short pants uniforms. A reader writes, "Long stockings were sometimes worn by Italian boys in the 1930s, but HBC is right that it was not as common as with European countries to the north." A major factor affecting the use of long stockings in Italy was certainly the warm climate, especially in southern Italy.


HBC believes that long stockings were widely worn in Latvia. While we have only limited information, we have noted a 1920s photograph of Latvian Boy Scouts. All the boys wear a short pants uniform with dark kneesocks. One boy about 12 or 13 years old wears dark long stockings with his short pants uniform. A Latvian film set in 1935 touches upon long stockings which a boy did not like to wear with short pants. We note a portrait of an unidentified Latvian boy wearing H-bar shorts and long stockings in the 1930s. After World War II, long stockings continued to be worn in Latvia as they were in much of the Soviet Union into the 1960s.


HBC believes that the trends for wearing long stockings in Lithuania were similar to those in Latvia, although we have no detailed information at this time.

(The) Netherlands

Long over-the-knee stockings with kneepants were common in the late 19th century. They were usually black or other dark color--always solid colors. Long stockings declined in popularity after World War I (1914-18) when boys mostly switched to socks. Yonger boys continued to wear them, with short pants during the winter. Lighter colors, especially tan appeared. They do not appear, however, to have been as common as in neighboring Germany. A Dutch reader writes, "When I started to go to school in a rural area of the Netherlands in 1935 long stockings were nearly only worn by the sons of the farmers. The other boys, who lived in in towns and villages, did not wear long stockings. We wore knee socks up to just under the knee, often with a pattern in different colors. The long stockings were usually black or dark blue. In other words there was some kind of a class distinction associated with long stockings.

Figure 7.--American boys wore long stockings with below the knee pants, many European boys, like this Polish boy, wore them with short pants. Actually they may be tights. This image is presumably from a movie, but we do not know the title.


We note many images of Polish boys wearing long stockings. We have very little information on the 19th century. We do note boys extensively wearing long stockings in the 20th century. This appears to have been the case throughout the 20th centuyry through the mid-20th century. Boys in Poland commonly wore knee pants in the early 20h century and then after Workd war I short pants. This was in part influenced by social class and demographics. Boys commonly wore shirts year round, even in the winter. It was common because many Polish boys wore short pants year round for some boys to wear long stockings with shorts during the colder weather. This continued even after World War II, although we do not yet know how common it was. Polish boys even in the 60s were wearing long stockings. There was a strong seasonal component to long stockings. They were very widely worn as a cold weather garment, in part because boys commonly wore knee pants and short pants even during the winter. While long stickings were most commonly worn during the winter, they were not exclusively a winter garment. Another factor was modesty. This seems o have been more a factor for girls than boys. Another major use of long stockings was formslity. Children when dressing up for formal occassions such as church or family events often wore long stockings. We see children in many First Communion portraits wearing long stockings, both white and black long stockings. Polish boys like German boys wore long stockings well after they went out of style in many other European countries. We note clothing trends in post-War Poland. We believe that some boys, probably in the 1970s also wore tights with shorts pants. Generally when tights became available, children stopped wearing long over-the-knee stockings.


Long stockings were much less common in Portugal than many other European countries.


No information available yet.


Boys in other countries such as the Baltic countries and Russia also wore long stockings. I don't have good information on these countries, but hope interested readers will provide some information. While they were commonly worn with short pants in Germany and Poland, this was less true in Russia where short pants were not as commonly worn--except briefly during the summer. Some younger boys, however, did wear shorts year round with long stockings. Some boys wore shorts to school with long stockings. We believe that long stockings were very commony worn in Russia. 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.


Long stockings were worn in Norway and other Scandinavian countries, but were unpopular with the boys. The principal factor in Sandinavia was, of course, the cold northery climate. In the more northerly countries it was less apparent as shorts were not as common as in Germany and boys more commonly wore knickers and long pants.

Figure 8.--Here we see a 5- or 6-year old boy sitting on the counter of a shop that deals in car repairs. Notice the tire being repaired at the left. The shelves are filled with automotive-related products. We don't know the location, but the cash register has the word "contas" ("price" in Spanish) in the window at the top, which suggests that the location might be Spain, Mexico or some other Latin American country. The boy wears a sweater, short pants, and long stockings (worn apparently not with supporters but with round garters). HBC thinks it might be Spain. The people in the image do not look Mexican to us. Also notice the beret.


We have little information about Spain in the 19th century. We notice most Spanish boys wearing three-quarter socks in the early 20th century. Some boys wore long stockings, but they do not seem to have been very common.


Long stockings were very commonly worn in Sweden as was common throughout Scandanavia. We note boys wering long stockings with both knee pants and short pants. A good example is Ingeborg and Holger Agerdal in the 1920s. We also note Arne Sohlstrom, a teenage boy in 1928.


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. A Swiss reader recalls wearing long stockings as a boy. HBC is unsure at this time as to when tights began to replace long stockings.


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Created: 6:43 AM 3/3/2013
Last updated: 6:43 AM 3/3/2013