England (Southeast): 1950s Boys' Clothing

My family was thrifty,working class. My mum did not work and so was at home all the time to look after us. As a boy growing up during the early 1950's in southeastern England (Kent) ,I don't remember being clothes conscious. In fact I don't think boys in general gave a great deal of thought to clothes, unlike boys today.

Boys' Clothing

All my friends and I were dressed the same. In retrospect rather drably compared to modern terms. We wore grey long socks , long baggy flannel short trousers and my shirts were the blouse type with long sleeves. I don't think I had any with a tail and certainly no T shirts.

The short trousers that we wore were virtually the same as any picture of an English school boy of the 1950's inshape and length, in other words--drab!
Material: I remember some shorts I had around 7-9 were a woolen flannel mixture and although lined with cotton used to make the insides of my legs sore where they chaffed. Some shorts were a more friendly rayon worsted fabric.
Pockets: They all had side pockets-how else could you look scruffy if you couldn't put your hands in your pockets?
Belts/braces: Some of my shorts had belt loops. Others were partley elasticated at the sides with button front and flies. Until about age 8 some of my shorts were worn with braces. The shorts were fitted with buttons outside the waist for attachment. A minor desirable item for your trousers was a snake belt. This was an inch or so wide, striped, adjustable elasticated belt that buckled together with a hook shaped and stamped like an 'S' on its side.]

We boys never really noticed the length of the shorts. I remember one of my friends sometimes wore khaki shorts, especially during the summer, that were quite brief and I vaguely remember how much smarter he looked in them. At one time there was a vogue when wearing ordinary khaki shorts to wear them with the legs turned up to make them shorter.

Our Clothing

I had two brothers, slightly younger and my mother was a very good all round dressmaker and knitter so quite a lot of our clothes were made for us and of course patched and repaired when neccersary. Mother made no distinction in our clothes that I remember, even though I was older than my brothers.

Mum was always knitting and the wool in those days was always supplied in skiens that had to be rewound into a tight balls for practical convinience. I rember having to hold these skiens with outstreched arms while mother wound it into a tight ball. The only things knitted for us were jumpers,pullovers,and cardigans and as baby's bootys etc.

School Uniform

I started infants school at age 5. We didn't wear uniforms at that age. No uniform was needed until at age 7 I moved to primary school. The uniform there was an optional school cap. As I remember there was a plain green blazer worn with short or long trousers and any shoes and socks.

At age 11 years I changed moved again to secondary school. The uniform was optional, a dark, plain maroon blazer short or long trousers and cap. I turned up the first morning wearing a cap and had comments from 1 or 2 boys that I knew about wearing one. Until then I had never heard comments that I can remember about the clothing that I wore. The cap was dispensed with forthwith never to be seen again.


I never joined the cubs or scouts but the uniforms of my friends who did was usually the same as worn for school with a couple of additions. Garters were worn under the turned down top of the long grey socks these elastic garters had a couple of green tabs about 2 inches long sticking out under the turnup. A green cub cap and green woollen jumper with various badges sown on completed the outfit.


Shoes were quite ordinary lace ups and I wore sandals with crepe soles in the summer. Sandals were quite acceptable for play and school and were quite comfortable. I wore them until about 8-9.

I always had a facination with shoes that had steel tipped heals that some people wore,I liked the noise they made when walking but I never managed to get a pair myself.

We had rubber Wellington boots for the usual (in those days) winter snow.

I wore mostly turn-over-top socks. I think some had a dark band at the turn-over tops. Mum being thrifty, darned all my socks after I wore holes in them, particularly the heels. In summer I wore short grey socks or none somtimes, especially when wearing sandals.

Outer Wear

Outer wear that I had for the colder months is a bit difficalt to recall;I had at various times until about age 11 a rubberised raincoat, a "windcheater" this was a thin rubberised fabric jacket style,hoodless zipperd coat gathered at the waist , and later after some pestering a duffle coat which I wore home afer puchase with the hood up although the weather that early evening was not cold.

Head Gear

Head wear was very little; at age 5 on starting school I had a cap to wear chosen by me for the very bright colourful badge-motiff on the front.I remember at about 8-9 seeing other boys wearing wearing a thin leatherette flying helmet style hat that did up under the chin which I thought desireable ,and after getting one wearing it about twice before realising how uncomfortable it felt to have my head covered.

Jeans and Long Trousers

I wore short trousers all the time summer and winter I don't remember having any long trousers to wear. Eventually at about 10 I was given my first pair of denim jeans and they were fairly good thick quality.After putting them on I remember now my feeling of how protected my knees felt,it was a never to be forgotten experience.My younger by 2 years brother, for some reason had a pair of jeans about 6 months before me.

My first pair of long trousers was about 10-11 when I started secondary school and I never wore shorts afterwards.


I'm not sure if I had a suit as such with short trousers ;I have a picture of me about 6 with what appears to be a short trousered suit but I think it was a jacket with similar colour grey for the trousers.

Christopher Wagner


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Created: March 17, 1999

Last updated: March 10, 1999