Most long stockings were dark colors in the late 19th century. Children still wearing dresses before breeching might wear white stockings, but once they switched to kilt suits, they began wearing dark stockings. Fauntlroy suits in the 1880s and 90s were mostly worn with dark stockings. After the turn of the century boys began to wear white stockings with a variety of outfits, including tunic suits, Buster Brown suits, sailor suits, and Fauntleroy suits--but the dark colors were still more common. As long stockings declined in popularity during the 1920s, lighter, natural colors became more popular--neutral tones like tan, dark tan, brownstone, and suntan. These light colors were meant to look more like flesh tones. Dressy stockings were also available in white. Lock stockings were usually not made in bright colors.
We see many boys wearing white or light, natural colored stockings in the 18th century. White stickings were common in the early 19th century, although we are not sure about the length. We note many boys wearing white stockings when knee pants began to become popular in the mid-19th century. Gradually dark stockings became more popular. We also see stripped stockings. Most long stockings were black or dark colors in the late 19th century. We note both muted and bright colors. Children still wearing dresses before breeching might wear white stockings, but once they switched to kilt suits, they began wearing dark stockings. White stockings became more common after the turn of the century for both girls and younger boys. Dark stockings dominated for older boys. A variety of neurtral tan tones (with all sorts of names) appeared in the 1920s and became very common in the 1930s.
The colors of long stockings varied over time. The pattern varied somewhat from country to country, but therecare some similar trends. We note many children wearing long white stockings in the mid-19th century. This seems especially common in America. We also note striped stockings as well as stockings done in various colors. By the late 19th century black long stockings were dominant, especially in America. After the turn of the century boys began to wear white stockings with a variety of outfits, including tunic suits, Buster Brown suits, sailor suits, and Fauntleroy suits--but the dark colors were still more common. As long stockings declined in popularity during the 1920s, lighter, natural colors became more popular--flat tones like tan, dark tan, brownstone, and suntan. These light colors were meant to look more like flesh tones. We still note these flesh tones like beige being worn into the 1960s. A good example is two Soviet boys. Dressy stockings were also available in white. Long stockings were never made in bright colors.
Boys have worn different colors of long stockings. We note that in the late 19th and early 20th century that black was by far the domonant color worn. This changed rapidly after World War I and neutral colors, escially brownish shades like tan and beige were commonly worn. Grey was also worn, but the browish shades were more common. We are not quite sure why this changed occurred. Not all fashion changes can be easily explained. We do not know why the change occurred. One reader writes, "After having read the HBC texts on black or white stockings, I wonder why tan or beige stockings became so popular? Like the white ones, beige stockings shew also the dirt. Do you have an idea who initiated first this fashion in the 1920s. My interpretation is that beige stockings were perceived as more natural like when the boy or the girl had bare legs. The more natural look appears to have been the most popular. A HBC reader comments, "I think the reason for changing from black stockings to tan or brown stockings in the 1920s was chiefly a relaxation of formality. The tan stockings were more "modern" and casual in appearance without being as informal as knee socks or anklets. Also, washing machines and more efficient means of laundering made lighter colored stockings more practical. They showed soil much more readily but it was now possible to change them oftener."
We do not fully understandcthe conventions concerning long stockings at this time. Developing information on these conventions is complicated as they varied among countries and over time. Some patterns seem relatively clear. We note that stripped stockings were popular in the 1870s and early 80s. We note that various colors were worn, but the black and white photograph of the time makes it difficult to assess this. We note that black long stockings were very common until after World war I (1914-18) and afterwards brown shades and to a lesser extent grey shades dominated. But within this broad range we see many exceptions. White was popular for girls and younger boys. Even after World war I we see children wearing black long sockings, especially for formal occassions. Sometimes we see children wearing stockings that do not conform to these general rules. In some instance we see the children in a family wearing differebt colored stockings. Here we are not sure to what extent the color of the stockings were crefully thought out or if the different colors represent to some extent the complication of getting a large family dressed to take a family portrait. Here a Lithuanian Jewish family photographed in 1932. is a good example. Notice that two of the boys and one of the girls wear sailor suits. All the children wear long stockings, but in various colors, tan, white, black and brown.
Fauntlroy suits in the 1880s and 90s were mostly worn with dark stockings.
We have not yet assessed long stocking color trends in many different countries. We have developed some information on America and Germany. As far as we can tell, the trends in Germany are similar to other European countries where boys wore long stockings. Here it is difficult to assess a most available photographs are black in wide . At least the different shades show in the photographs.
We note that movies often do not accurately depict the extent to which long stockings were worn or various details such as color. Here European films often more accurately depict long stockings than is the case for American films. One important development concerning color was was after World War I that black long stockings became less common and associated more with dresswear. Children more commonly wore various brown and tan shades. a good example of this shift is depicted in accurately costumed films like "Fanny and Alexander" and "Der Laden".
[Return to the Main long stocking page]
[Knee socks] [White knee socks] [Striped socks] [White stockings] [Tights]
Navigate the Historic Boys' Clothing Web Site:
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Clothing styles] [Countries]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossary] [Satellite sites] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]