Patterns for Patterned Stockings

Figure 1.--The usefulness of photographs as historical documents is strongly correlated with their provinence. They are most useful if we know who the people are and when they were photographed. Often HBC acquires images with no provinance. All that HBC knows about this image, for example, is that it is American. We can only guess the date, probably about 1880. Note the boys' small collar and lapel and his watch fob. Also note the checkered stockings. We have very few examples of patterns like this. We are not sure why they were not more popular.

Our information on patterened long stockings is incomplete at this time. Our information based primarily on the photographic record is limited. Our information at mid-century, especially in Europe is limited is limied, This changes with the appearance of the CDV in substantial numbers. We thus have a detailed record beginning in the 1860s. We mostly see plain or solid colored stockings in the 1860s. We are not yet sure about manufacturung technology. It is clear, however, that mills were capable of complicated patterns. We see one French boy in the 1860s with a complicated diagonal crossing pattern. So we know that mills could produce such stockings. The fact that there are so few examples in the photograohic record suggests that for some reason these patterns were not popular. We have not yet seen similar examples in America. But we do begin to see patterned stockings with horizontal stripes or bands. There were a wide variety of striped patterns, but most of the available patterned were stripes. Hotizontal stripes were very common in the 1870s and early-80s. We have noted verical stripes as well, but they were not very common we have noted only a very few boys wearing them. There were also a variety of other patterns used, but they were not very common. A much less popular style was various checkered or plaid patterns. We see them in the late-1920s when brighly patterned knee socks began to become popular. For some reason patterened long stockings did not.


These patterned stockings were most common in the late 19th century, especially the 1870s and 80s. They were also worn in the 1860s, but we have less information on how common they ere at tht time. Long stockings were not as common in the 860s and kneepants were not yet a standard for boys.

Pattern Types

Stripes or more accurately bands were by far the dominant pattern for long stockings, but they were not the only pattern. We note them in awide range if colors and stripe withs of various withs. We have noted over time quite a rangeof different patterns, including some rather rare ones. We do not know at this time why the striped patterns became so popular and the other pattens are rarely seen.


Patterned stockings were made in horizontal stripes. HBC know of no vertical stripes. There were a wide variety of striped patterns, but most of the available patterned were stripes. The stripes varied in width. There were both wide and narrow stripes, usually two colors with white or other light color commonly one of the colors. Other patterns were stripes with different width bands, including narrow lines. We have noted vertical stripes as well, but they were not very common and not as far as we know worn by boys.


A much less popular style was various checkered pattens. These patterns varied widely. Generally they had a solid background in a dark color with a variety of horizontal and vertical lines, somewhat similar to plaid. HBC at this time has so few images of children wearing this pattern, we are unable to access it in any detail.

Diagonal patterns

Diagonal patterns are another rather rare pattern-type for long stockings. We were surprised to find a CDV showing a French boy wearing long stockings with a very complicated diagonal pattern. Yhe CDV is undated, but looks like the 1860s . It is similar to an Argyle pattern, but not quite the same. We have not seen a similar pattern in America until colorful knee socks (golf socks) appeared in the late-1920s. Of course Scottish Argyle knee socks appeared in the 19th century. We do not see them, however, done as long stockings. We are not sure why these complicated diagonal and similr patterns wee not more common. The only patterned stiockings we see in any numbers are the striped or nore curated banded stickings. We wonder of these complicated patterns werenot more expensive. Butin fashion terms we have no idea why these patterned stiockings were not more popular. It is possible that they may have been more popular in some countries, but our Europen archive is now large enough to indicate that this wa not the case.


A reader writes, "I notice there is no mention made there of the argyle pattern (a sort of plaid worn diagonally so it looks diamond rather than rectangular shaped). It was a very common pattern with short socks and knee socks -- especially knee socks worn with kilts. Do you know if there were argyle pattern stockings, or was the argyle pattern reserved for knee- and ankle-length socks?" This is interesting. Of course Argyles became one of the most come sock patterns I remember that boys used to very commonly wear Argyle ankle socks. But we have never noted Argyle long stockings. We are not sure why this pattern was not used. We do see occassional examples. We note a Swiss girl in 1944. Unlike knee socks, however, the examples are relatively rare.


We have occasionally noted boys wearing other patterned stockings, but am not precisely sure at this time how to describe the platterns. Boys wearing these patterened stockings are generally yoinger boys not yet breeched or boys wearing fancy Fauntleroy suits. This is largely a late 19th century fashion, although some boys may have worn these other patterned stockings in the 1900s, but we have not noted them in the 1910s.


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Created: December 29, 2000
Last updated: 10:24 AM 12/23/2012