Knickers: Chronology


Figure 1.--This American boy in a photograph taken in the 1920s wears a Norfolk knicker suit. I am not sure about the socks, one seems to have fallen down.

Knickers are today generally associated with the 1920s and 1930s, but modern knickers were worn as early as the 1860s. (This is the earlist that I have noticed them, but this may be because the photographic record became more complete in the 1860s. There seem to be little evidence of them in the the 1850s. The sons of Alfred Lord Tennyson, for examople, were outfitted in tunics and knickers during the 1860s. How widespread knickers were in the 1860s I do not know, but they seem to have become widespread in England by the 1870s. Knee pants appear to have been more common in America during this period. Knickers came into their own in the 1910s. The greatest change in children's clothing in the postwar period occurred when dressing boys in skirts until the age of four or five was discarded. Instead, little boys wore romper suits or short pants. School-age boys wore knickers of corduroy or wool with knee-length socks, and the change from knickers to that first pair of long pants was symbolic of the change from boy to man. Little girlswore dresses cut much like those of their mothers, straight and unfitted.

The 19th Century

Knickers are today generally associated with the 1920s and 1930s, but modern knickers were worn as early as the 1860s. (This is the earlist that I have noticed them, but this may be because the photographic record became more complete in the 1860s.

The 1850s

There seem to be little evidence of knickers in the the 1850s. This could reflect, however , the still limited number of photograpic images. Most boys still wore long pants in the 1850s. We do note in the 1850s that fashionably dressed boys were wearing fancy suits, often with military styling, with short-length pants that were blouced. I'm not sure what they were called. More common were straight kneepants like Pen Browning wore.

The 1860s

The sons of Alfred Lord Tennyson Lionel and Hallam, for example, were outfitted in tunics and a kind of bloomer knickers during the 1860s. How widespread knickers were in the 1860s I do not know. Long pants for boys were still quite common in the 1860s. Wenote some boys, like the boys in the Haigh family going right from dresses to long pants suits. Other boys, like Charley, wore bloucing knicker pants. I'm not sure the term knickers or knickerbockers was commonly used in the 1860s.

The 1870s

Knickers seem to have become widespread in England by the 1870s. Knee pants appear to have been more common in America during this period. A klondon taylor named Isaac Genese (1839-1912) appears to have played a rile in popularizing knickers furing the 1870s, but we are not yet sure yet just what he did.

The 1880s

Knickers were well established by the 1880s, but many boys wore straight-leg kneepants rather than knockers. One example in England is the Sheppard family. We notice that English boys at boarding school were more likely to wear knickers than kneepants. American boys generally wore kneepants Fauntleroy suits. Boys in Europe were more likely to wear knicker Fauntleroy suits.

The 1890s

We do not have a lot of information on the 1890s. We seen younger boys commonly wearing kneepants. The pattern for older boys was nore varied. A lot f private Briish schoolshad knickrs uniforms. On the continent we see boys wearing both knickers and kneepants. Keenpants seemed more common in America.

The 20th Century

Knickers were much more common in Europe than America in the 19th century. This changed in the 20th century. We tend to see boys weaing kneepants more in the early 20th centuty than knickers. Gradually kneepants went out of style and knickers and short pants became more common. These trends varied substantially from country to county. On the continent younger boys tended to wear kneepants and later knickers. In America kneepants were common in the 1900s, but gradually knickers became alost universal for boys, although some boys wore short pants, mostl;y younger boys. Knickers generally went out of style in the 1940s, but some boys still wore knickers in the early 1950s. This was more common in Europe.

Types

There are quite a number of types of knickers. The time line for these different types varied. HBC has noted knickers being worn by younger children under tunics as early as the 1860s. I am not sure when English country gentlemen began wearing them, but English school boys were wearing knockers as school uniform by the 1880s. HBC's chronological assessment of knickers requires more reserch.

Countries

The time line and popularity for knickers varies from country.






HBC




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Created: August 2, 1998
Last edited: 1:20 PM 10/19/2006