U.S. Knickers: The 1920s

Figure 1.--This unidentified portrait of a brother and sister was taken in 1922. The girl wears a whote dress and stockings with a large white hair bow. He brother wears a short-sleeved white shirt with knee-length knickers and black long stockings. The children here look to be about 8-11 years of age. The absence of a jacket in such a formal portrait is notable, reflecting the grwing informality after World War I.

Most American boys wore knickers in the 1920s. Kneepants were still worn by younger boys in the eraly 1920s, but by the mid 1920s had almost totally been relaced by short pants or knickers. Quite old boys were wearing knickers in 1920s, but the age boys began wearing long pants declined during the decade. At the beginning of the decade, above-the-knee knickers with long stockings were common, but below-the-knee knickers with kneesocks became more common as the decade progressed.

Age Trends

We see some younger boys still wearing knee pants in the early 1920s, but most boys by about age 8 were wearing knickers. Knickes were almost universal in primary schools and very common in secondary schools. By the mid-1920s knickers were the dominnt tyoe of trousers for boys. Some boys wore short pants, but knickers were much more common. A good idea of the importance of knickers and the age trends is abailable in 1920s catalogs.


Boys for the most part in the 1920s wore knickers long stockings. Blacl long stockings were still common, but we begin to see beige-colored stockings as well. We see some boys wearing keesocks, especially in the late 20s, but long stockings were much more common.

Sport Style

Knickers were worn by most boys as a juvenile style of pants. We also see older teenagers and young men wearing knickers as a sport style. Knickers were orifinally created in the late 19th century by a British aeistocrat who didn't want to get his trousers dirty on country jaunts. The style did not catch on in America for many years. We do begin to see knickers being marketed as sporty outfits in the 1920s. These knickers did not have the juvenile connotations of the knickers boys wore. Knickers became fashionable in the 1920s as a sporty way to dress for teenagers and young adults. The fashion seems to have been partly borrowed from golf which like tennis was associated with country clubs. The fashionable Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII) was sometimes seen wearing them as a very young man. It was considered sophisticated to wear knickers in the 1920s by both boys and men, and girls sometimes imitated the style, as we see in this photograph. These sporty knickers were worn with kneesocks, often socks with bold patterns like Argules. We note Sears offeering knickers for young women at the time. One of the boys wears a bow tie, the other a long (or four-in-hand) tie. Notice the tendency of trendy girls to imitate the clothing of their boy friends. They all wear plain colored socks or stockings. The photo is American, but we know nothing else about it. Knickers were regarded as a somewhat upper-class, country club, kind of dress. The famous novelist, F. Scott Fitzgerald (whose characters were often the rich and well-connected), often wore knickers as a student at Princeton and afterwards. By the 1930s knickers had become (for grown-ups) only trousers for golf, whereas most boys had to wear them until their early teens, and in many cases disliked them.

Year Trends


.Kneepants were still worn by younger boys in the eraly 1920s, but by the mid 1920s had almost totally been relaced by short pants or knickers. Quite old boys were wearing knickers in early 1920s. Most boys wore above-the-knee knickers with long stockings.



We sill see boys weating knee-length knickers in 1922 (figure 1). Black long stockings were also still very common.





The age of boys began wearing long pants declined during the decade. Below-the-knee knickers with kneesocks were becoming increasingly common as the decade progressed.







The mass retailers in 1929 offered both short pants and knicker suits for younger boys. The knicker suits for younger boys were in sizes from 4/5 to 9/10 years of age. Older boys wore either knickers or long pants. Patterned suits were still the most common. They were increasingly being worn with knee socks, but some boys still wore knickers with long stockings.

School Photography

Fashion trends can be esily followed in school photography. As virtually all schools had an annual portrait taken of each class. There is an enormpus photographic record. And it shows tht some younger boys wore knee pants and short pants, most boyswore knickers and long stockings, not uncommonly whole classes are wearing knickers and almost always with long stokings, mostly black long stockings. We do not begin to see knee sovks until the end of the decade and only to a limited degree. The only exception to this general trend is the small rurl schools where many boys wore overalls.

Mail Order Catalogs

We also see knickers dominating the mail order cataloga offerings in the 1920s. There were short pants for younger boys and long pants for older boysater the early teens. Choices here varied from family to family and social class was a factor, but the dominant seller reflected in the offerings were knickers throughout the decade.


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Created: August 2, 1998
Last edited: 1:41 PM 1/10/2018