Tights: Country Trends

Long stockings went out of style in most countries during the 1920s as boys began wearing either short pants or knickers which were worn with socks, either ankle socks or kneesocks. In some countries, mostly northern countries, younger boys comtinued wearing them during the winter when many would wear short pants. In the late 1950s and early 1960s when inexpensive tights bcame available, many of these countries adopted them for children's wear. One of the major countries were tights were adopted was Germany. They were also adopted for boys' wear in Austria and Switzerland. They were also widely adopted for boss' wear in the Soviet Union, Poland and other eastern and northern European countries. Boys common wore tights in all of these countries. To a lesser extent they were even worn in France and Spain. Asian boys also wore them, especailly Japanese and Korean boys. They do not appear to have been widely worn in China, probably people there could not afford them. Of the northern hermesphere countries it was only English speaking countries (England, the United States, and Canada) that boys did not wear tights. American girls commonly wore ights, but only rarely have American boys wore them. Today tights are mostly worn by girls, but younger boys in several coutries also wear them.

Australia

HBC has not noted Australian boys wearing tights. An HBC contributor, however, in Australia provided the following report: "Here is one of my early experiences as a boy growing up in Australia. It remains a stong memory of my boyhood. As a boy I grew up in Sydney on the northern side of the city. It was a leafy and settled place for a child. The area was a relatively affluent one. My own life and clothes were quite ordinary as per the style of the time. We spent our time, as children, in light shirts, shorts, socks and shoes, for both boys and girls. Girls, but not boys, commonly wore tights in all styles and for all reasons. The usual things like dance applied but also tights under skirts applied. Both tights and the thinner pantyhose style were worn but tights were more common. Up to that point I was satisfied and not at all concerned about what I wore. Not far from my home was a family with children of our own ages. The father was involved in the media. One son, Tom was a close friend and constant companion. I was about 8 he was the same, I was close to him as a friend for about 2 years. He was often sick, I remember that well. But more than that I remember that the families clothing choices. The children both male and female were dressed in a t-shirt and tights. The tights were only worn in the home, and around it and on the street adjacent to the house. I never saw him in tights in a more public place like the local shopping centre. He never wore them with short pants. He wore them as pants, just as you and I might wear shorts today. It was natural and normal for him. Issues as to how people might perceive it and never came up. I cannot recall ever discussing the wearing of tights with him. I know I would have wanted to say. Tom was about 10 (maybe 11) when I moved away, he was in tights until then. Colors were plain browns and green and looking back I guess they swapped tights like others swap socks. I thought this was brilliant and longed for this freedom myself. The kids ran around totally unaware that this was atypical. How free and how practical this was. This took place in the early 1960s.

Austria

We believe that Austria boys in the 1950s and 60s did wear tights. Trends in Austria were probably similar to Germany, but HBC at this time has no details.

Canada

HBC has no information about Canadian boys wearing tights. Given the cold climate, however, it was a distinct possibility. One Candian HBC reader reports that he wore tights as a young boy in the 1980s. Unlike Europe where they were sometimes dress wear, in Canada they were mostly worn as cold-weather wear.

Croatia

Some younger boys wore tights in the 1960s and 70s. Usually they were worn with long pants during the winter. Boys' clothing styles were influenced by German fashions. HBC has little chronological information on tights in Croatia. One HBC observer reports wearing them during the 1960s as a nursery school boy. He indicates that other boys also wore them

Czechoslovakia


England

HBC can find no indication that English boys wore tights. Some younger boys may have worn tights for formal occasins, but for the except on rare occasions, English boys have not worn tights. We note that English boys have continued to wear knesocks to some extent which are now rarely worn in Europe, but hey have never worn tights. An English reader writes, "You may be interested to know that footballers and rugby players over here have started to wear tights like bottoms when training in colder weather. These are lycra type outfits not dissimilar to what some cyclists and skiers wear but full length. They look totally ridiculous to me but I suppose they serve their purpose."

Finland

Boys appear to have worn tights in Germany, Poland, Russia, Japan, and several Scandinavian countries, principally they were warm garments during the winter. Some mothers also considered them dressy attire. Younger Finnish boys also appear to have worn them, but they do not appear to have been very populae with Finnish boys.

France

HBC has litle information on French boys wearing tights. HBC did note that during the late 19th and early 20th century when American boys mostly wore long over the knee stockings that French boys commonly wore three-quarter length socks. While boys in Germany, Switzerland, Scadanaviam, and other countries wore tights for warmth. HBC has not noted this in fashion trend in France. We are not sure at this time why France differed from neighboring countries like Germany and Switzerland. The only factor that HBC can see may be that the climate in southern France is warmer than Germany and Scandanavia and thus warm weather wear like tights may have been less needed. While French boys do not appear to have commonly wore tights, we have toded a few images of boys wearing them.


Figure 1.--This German boys wears patterned tights with his leather lederhosen.

Germany

Tights appearto be more popular in German than in many other European countries. The full history of tights in Germany is not fully understood. German boys commonly wore long stockings in the winter, even after the 1910s when they generally went out of style in many other European countries. Younger boys in the inter-war years might even wear them with short pants. Tights may have also been worn during this period. After World War II (1939-45) some boys appeared to have begun wearing tights rather than long stockings, although HBC has little information on this. Some German boys continue to wear them in the 1990s. Even older boys might wear them during the winter for football (soccer) practice. There are a wide variety of tights availablr for boys in Germany in many different colors, patterns, and styles. HBC believes that Germany was the first country to make and market tights for boys and girls. Initially mothers brought them for both boys and girls, although eventually they became more popular for the girls.

Italy

HBC has very limited information on tights in Italy. One Italain reader has provided some information about tights and kneesocks. He tells us, "I especially refer to the 1970s and 80s when I was a young boy. White knee socks were worn by girls on dress occasions. Many young girls wore them extensively on Sunday. In some Italian regions, such as Piedmont, girls MUST wear white knee socks on Sunday. Boys, as a result, often refused absolutely to wear any kind of white socks as a dress accessory, and they preferred to wear dark colors (such as blue). Italian men HATE to wear white socks, although in the 1970s some youngster wore white knee socks in the hope of charming girls; instead many girls think of boys or men in white socks as ridiculous and think dark color socks as more sitable for boys and men. By the late 1970s, a new fashion trend started; girls--often the most fashion concious--began to wear plain white knee socks (and some also started to wear white tights) with shiny loafers or boots. White knee socks were worn also with pale shaded or tan tights, as a complement to white dress, a sort of a romantic attire that charmed many boys."

Japan

I know little about tights in Japan. I did notice that little boys and girls wore brightly colored tights in the winter. The boys wore them with short pants the girls with skirts. This was he case in the 1970s, but almost surely began before that. Some schools in the 1990s had younger boys and girls wear tights instead of kneesocks. The boys most commonly wore white, grey, and dark blue tights while girls might wear brighter colors. A Japanese contributor informs HBC that polyester tights made, especially for boys became popular during the early 1960's. Boy's tights had no difference from women's except for a front slits for use in rest room. Most of them were made of 100 percent nylon (fabric brands are "Woollie Nylon", Helanca Nylon" etc.). Boy's tights were mainly worn for warmth in cold seasons. For this reason, older boys (up to 12) tend to wear tights under long pants, especially in northern districts in Japan. Another reason to wear tights was formal fashion. At these situation, they prefered white tights, while they wore dark color (black, brown, dark blue etc.) for casual fashion. Of course, the formal fashion indicates tights worn with short pants.

Korea

I know little about tights in Korea, but they seem go be widly worn by both boys and girls. I did notice that little boys and girls wore brightly colored tights in the winter during the 1970s. The boys wore them with short pants the girls with skirts. We note a Korean catalog in the 2000s showing children still wearing tights.

Lithuania

Lituanian children by the 1980s seem to be weating the same styles and garments as children in the rest of Europe. An exception appears to have neen tights. Long stockings were very common in Lithuania through much of the 20th century. They continued to be worn in the Soviet Union zfter they went out of style in Western Europe. They were replaced in the late-1960s by tights. Both boys and girls wore them. Girls tended to wear bright colors thast were not as popular with boys. Boys more commonly wore tights in the Soviet Union than the rest of Europe. And this appears to have been the case in Lithusania as well. We note a Lithuanian film, "Electronic Granny" (1985) in which both boys and girls wear tights. The boys wear them with short pants. That was not particularly unusual in the Soviet Union. Less common was wearing tights with socks. We do not know if that was common in Lithuaia at the time.

Malaysia

Soccer is the most popular sport in the world and played in virtually every country. A reader tells us that at least some boys in Malaysia wear tights under their soccer shorts. He noticed a team with blue shorts wearing dark blue tights. We are not sure how common this is in Maylasia. Nor or we sure why they wear tights. We notice this practice in Germany and other countries with cold winters. Here the boys wear tights for warmth or to avoid skin burns from the synthetic turf used for indoor facilities. Neither of these reasons seem to explain wearing tights for outdoor play in tropical Malaysia. Perhaps they are worn as aresult of Muslim modesty. We are just not sure at this time.

Norway

An HBC contributor reports that before World War II (1939-45) some little boys in Norway wore shorts and over-the-knee stockings. By the late 1940s, young boys used long stockings, if they were 10 or younger, and only in winter. The stockings were very long, allmost all the way uop the leg, and held by strops from a short bodice. This bodice was worn by boys and girls. Dressing was complicated. I'm not sure yet, however, to what extent Norwegian boys actually wore tights. We know they are worn, but our informatin is very limited at this time. We do note that Norwegian knitting magazines show boys and girls wearing tights for winter wear. Long stockings and tights havve been worn as dresswar as well as for cold weather. At this time, however, as far as we know, Norwegian boys have worn tights primarily for warmth during cold weather.

Poland

Polish boys like German boys wore long stockings well after they went out of style in many other European countries. Polish readers inform HBC that tights were also common, although we do not know when they first appeared. As in East Germany, they appear to have replaced long stockings. Polish boys in the 1980s and 90s commonly wore tights. Boys wore them until about 9-10 years of age, but a few boys even at 11 also wore them. The most common was to wear up to about 10. That was the standard, because at age 10 kids finish there first primary education. Polish readers tell us that boys still commonly wear tights in Poland.

Russia

Russian boys like German boys wore long stockings well after they went out of style in many other European countries. A Russian contributor to HBC reports that almost all Russian boys wear tights till 6-7 years as a part of their daily clothes. Often around in the house they have only tights without pants. Many Russian homes are not well heated and the tights feel good on cold winter days. When they go outside they wear pants with tights underneath. In the winter nowadays they wear long pants. In the spring when the weather begins to warm, some younger boys may wear tights with short pants. After age 6-7 years most boys stops wearing tights, but a considerable number continue to wear tights till 9-10-11 years--usually because their mothers insist. Only few older boys wear tights, even at home. Boys in Russia now view tights as more appropriate for girls.

Slovakia

Tights appeard to replace long stockings in the late 1950s. A Slovak reader tells us about 1955, but we can not conform this date. We thought it was a little later. They seem to have appeared at about the same time tey apeared in West Germany. Slovakia was at the time part of Czechoslovakia, The trends in both Slovakia and the Czrch Republic are very similar. Both boys and girls wore them and still do. Younger children from 1 to 5 years of age commonly wear them all year. older children wore them mostly in Winter. Boys most commonly wore tights to ages 10-11 years. Older boys might wear them to about 13-14 years, mostly with long pants in the Winter, but it became increasingly less common after age 11 years. Younger children at hime might only wear tights, much as Ameican children wear pajamas.

Slovenia

Boys in another former Yugoslavian republic, Slovenia, also wore tights. Again it was probably the Austrian and German influence. There is a very popular factory in Slovenia that sells their clothing, including tights, all over eastern Europe. The market their tights as for "Boys and Girls" are Slovenian made (another country which was in former Yugoslavia). You can find their website at: slide 6. Because the site is in the Slovenian language, this glossary might help: tovarna = factory, nogavice = socks, hlacne nogavice = tights, hlace = trousers, damske hlacne nogavice = lady's tights, moske hlacne nogavice = gentleman's tights, and otroske nogavice = kid's socks. Our HBC Slovenia corresponsent reports that at this slide there is not visible that it is tights (on the picture are only girls), but in the stores I note the tights are advertizwed as for boyh "Boys and Girls").


Figure 2.--This 1969 German ad shows a boy wearing dark green tights. Americans are often suprised to find that some European boys wear tights.

Sweden

Swedish boys, like other Scandinavian boys, wore long stockings well after they went out of style in many other European countries. I do not know if they also wore tights. Unconfirmed reports suggest that was almost a norm for boys to wear cotton tights in Sweden, but HBC can not yet conform this.

Switzerland

Swiss boys through the 1960s still commonly wore short pants. An exception was often made during the winter when it was very cold, but some boys even wore shorts in the cold weather. Boys in the in Spring, Summer and Autumn wore short socks, but in the Winter or in quite cold weather, many younger boys wore tights. During the weekdays for play and school, boys might wear different colored tights. For Sunday, however, many boys would often wear white tights from "Helanca"! Tights are no longer as common, but are still worn by younger boys.

Tajikistan

In Tajikistan tights are worn by girls and very young children. Boys of any age do not wear them. Apparently this was a Soviet style that never caught on in Tajikistan.

United States

American boys and men appear to have worn tights for athletic endevors at the turn of the 20th centry. Boys in the 1910s ands 20s wore long white and dark stovkings, but I do not beliecve that tights were common. Tights are commonly worn by girls in the United States, but not by boys--even younger boys. Some younger boys in the 1950s and 60s did wear white shorts as part of very formal outfits--usually with strap shoes. This was, however, not common. In fact most American HBC participants express surprise that European boys wore tights, and that some still do--even wearing tights especiallu styled for boys.

Unknown Countries

We have noted some images of boys wearing tights, but are unsure about the country or countries involved. Some of the more recent images show boys wearing tights with short pants in warm Summer weather. We are not sure how common this was. We have noted German boys wearing tights for playing soccer in cold weather. We have noted European boys wearing long stockings with short pants into the 1950s, but we have not noted them wearing tights wih short pants, especially for casual wear during the Summer. We are not sure how common this is or just where the boys are from. We would guess somewhere in northern Europe, probably Germany, but we are not at all sure. Perhaps HBC readers will know.






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Created: August 3, 1998
Last updated: 4:58 AM 2/24/2010