Most early images make it impossible to determine if medieval men are wearing long stockings or tights. Only a few period illustrations offers some clues. Here we have a 13th century painting showing two of the three kings (magis), Caspar and Melchior. The image is especially interesting because it shows the way stockings were sometimes supported as early as the 13th century. This French painting (13th century) depicts Kings Caspar and Melchior, two of the three kings who visited the Christ Child in Bethlehem to present their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. They wear long, thigh-length hosiery supported by straps suspended apparently from the waist--an obvious precursor of the hose supporter. Most early images make it impossible to determine if medieval men are wearing long stockings or tights.
The image here is apparentlt from a 13th century French "painting". We do not have any specifics on the painting. I think it must have been colored in the original, probably a panel painted on wood. We do not know where the original is located or who painted it. We thought it might be a wood cut If you look carefully, you can see that the image does not have the characteristics of a woodcut, though I suppose some sort of engraving is possible. Here we have a 13th century painting showing two of the three kings (magis), Caspar and Melchior. The image is especially interesting because it shows the way stockings were sometimes supported as early as the 13th century. This French painting (13th century) depicts Kings Caspar and Melchior, two of the three kings who visited the Christ Child in Bethlehem to present their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Most early images make it impossible to determine if medieval men are wearing long stockings or tights. Only a few period illustrations offers some clues. They wear long, thigh-length hosiery. It should be stressed that the illustration shows how nobels and the wealthy would have dressed in the 13 century. They wear extremely long stockings. This is not how the peasantry which made up the great bulk of the population dressed. HBC of course focusses on children's clothes. There were at the yime, however, no specific children's wear except for infant clothes. Children tended to wear the same clothes as their parents suitabled scaled down. We suspect that in the case of hosiery that children especually peasant children might have more commonly gome barefoot than their parents.
The long stockings are supported by straps suspended apparently from
the waist--an obvious precursor of the hose supporter. The mpdern stocking supporter was invented about 1875 and worn extensively by boys, girls and women from about 1875 to as late as the 1960s-1970s (in the case of European boys) and still worn by women today, although the use of pantyhose has made the hose supporter a minority garment in the 21st century. However, hose supporters are still worn by men and boys as part of ice hockey gear (attached to garter belts),
and of course some women, who find pantyhose a nuisance, still wear them
also. Hose supporters were worn by children (both boys and girls) in Germany,
Russia, and other parts of northern Europe until tights supplanted the use of
long stockings. In America children's hose supporters disappeared from the
market in the 1950s.
What is interesting in the 13th century image here is that the double pendant supporter (the garter with a single strap that then divided into a Y shape with two clasps for the tops of stocking) seems to have been a north American style (used almost exclusively in the United States and Canada), whereas the European hose supporter was ordinarily just a single strap without the two pendants. This 13th century illustration shows both styles. Caspar (on the left) wears the double-pendant strap whereas Melchior wears only a single strap. I think it is generally unknown that a version of the hose supporter was already apparently in use in France as early as the 13th century (religious paintings and depictions of biblical subjects tended to show figures in contemporary medieval dress).
This early use was apparently long forgotten by the time those interested in dress reform in the final quarter of the 19th century re-invented the hose supporter as an improvement on the round garter that had been used for centuries before that time. Round garters (especially elastic garters) restricted the flow of blood in the leg and began to be discouraged by doctors, parents, and those concerned with the modernization of corsets as unhealthily restrictive--especially in the case of growing children.
Hose supporters for boys and girls were considered both healthier and more comportable than tight round garters for supporting stockings, and they became the standard means of supporting long stockings for almost 75 years during a period when boys wore knee pants, above-the-knee knickers, and, later, short pants, with long stockings. In Europe (especially Germany) boys wore hose supporters for long stockings under long trousers (for warmth), although boys in America tended to wear long underwear under long trousers rather than thigh-length stockings. When children abandoned the wearing of long stockings (in the 1940s and 1950s in the US, in the 1960s and 1970s in northern Europe), the need for hose supporters likewise disappeared except for special uses such as ice hockey.
Hawthorne, Rosemary. Stockings and Suspenders: A Quick Flash (London, 1988). The history of stockings and garters is interestingly discussed. See especially, p. 11.
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