Trevor's School Friend: Graham

Figure 1.--

One of my friends at school was Graham. When speaking with my brother, I asked him if he could recall any specific instances and, among others, he talked about one of my English schoolfriends whose German shorts became a topic of conversation among him and some of his chums, 4 or 5 years younger than me. Of course, I quickly remembered Graham and, although I have hardly thought about him for nearly 50 years, details soon came to mind and I have written an account, attached. We thought his father was wickedly cruel and the account, in a way, is as much about parental control as boys' clothing. It was rather poignant yesterday, talking to my brother about times past, as his 11 year old son hurtled around my house and garden, dressed for comfort and looking as happy as can be. What a contrast with Graham's life.

Clothes in Germany

I was 11 years old when we began to live in Germany and my rapidly acquired distaste for Lederhosen led me fervently to hope that my parents would not buy me a pair, which I would then have had to wear for years, since they never wear out. Some of my English friends wore them for playing in, during warmer weather, and seemed quite happy in their little leather shorts but one, nammed Graham.


My friend Graham was clearly not pleased with the arrangement. He was very slim, quite tall for his age and looked smart in his long-trousered school uniform. Quite reserved by nature, he was very shy with girls and I would come to see the torture he went through, forced to wear Lederhosen, especially in mixed company.

Our Games

There were woods behind our houses, ideal for all sorts of childhood games. In good weather a gang of us was always outside, playing cowboys and Indians and generally getting messed up. We were I must say a bit rough on our clothes. Most of our parents took it in their stride, understanding that this was paart of being a boy.

Play Lederhosen

Graham’s parents were extremely strict and one day he tore his clothes in one of our games, the result being that he was swiftly issued with Lederhosen, famous for being indestructible, and told to wear them whenever out playing and in all weather, until further notice. He wore them with a belt and looked like the rest of us, with our khaki shorts and T-shirts or pullovers, except, of course, that his shorts were very much shorter than ours. This only became really obvious when we were all sitting on the forest floor together, when Graham’s bare, white legs would stand out from the other, khaki-clad legs. (In colder weather, of course, when the rest of us wore long trousers, poor Graham stood out very much more). If a girl were to appear, he would quickly get to his feet and shuffle around, trying to look nonchalant. Actually, he was trying to push his shorts down so that they would look longer than they were. I recognised that behaviour – I did that when having to wear swimming trunks, forever plucking at the hems and pulling them down over my hips.

Church Parade

Sundays Graham and I attended Church Parade: I was dressed as an Air Scout but Graham wasn’t in the Scouts, as he was said to have a weak heart. To his great chagrin, his parents provided a Sunday pair of Lederhosen, to be worn with a halter harness fitted, which tugged the waistband well above his waistline, pulling the shorts as high as they would go. I remember often seeing him hooking his thumbs inside the waistband and trying to push it down, only for it to rise a couple of inches every time he let go.

Our Conversations

Privately to me, he complained long and hard about having to wear what he called “those horrible things”. We had an arrangement that I would sit by the aisle, so that he could have an inside seat, as it were. He just did not want to be seen. When it was his turn to go round the congregation with the collection plate, he was permanently flushed with embarrassment, because hefelt everyone was looking at his bare legs. Presumably, (I think now), the girls present, and the adults, thought he was a picture of cuteness.

Getting Older

In the 2 years we knew each other, Graham quickly grew taller and broader, his Lederhosen appearing to grow even shorter and tighter, yet still he had to wear the Sunday pair at church.

Christmas Service

At a Christmas service in 1958, he had to read a lesson to the packed assembly. Public speaking was no problem to him at school, stood in front of his peers and dressed, like them, in school uniform. But he was now 13 years old and, in church that day, the only boy of his age in shorts. Even 9 and 10-year-olds were in long trousers with their suits or school uniforms. Graham told me he’d pleaded with his parents to let him wear his school uniform, like most of the other children but his pleas had failed and he shook with nerves as he waited beside me. When the time came, he managed to get through the reading moderately well but I really felt for him as he stood in the front, on display, his face scarlet. My 9-year-old brother told me later that many of the younger boys were sniggering at the sight of Graham’s bare legs.

Lunchtime Drink Parties

Graham’s father was a senior RAF officer and sometimes held lunchtime drinks parties at home. These were smart affairs, sometimes attended by my parents. Children were also expected to attend and they were invariably dressed smartly, which meant school uniform. I well remember the last of these parties I went to before I departed for boarding school in England. Graham said miserably to me that I’d see him acting as a Roman slave. He was nearly 14 years old, as tall as his father and his voice was beginning to break. His role was to pass among the guests, offering crisps and nuts and being polite to them. You can guess what he was wearing… yes, the dreaded Sunday Lederhosen. By now, they covered less than inch of his legs. I thought that even some grown ups were looking at him sympathetically as he circulated, smiling politely, turning scarlet if he spotted any of the girls staring at his long, bare legs. Of course, expressing any concerns to Graham’s father was out of the question, he being so senior to his guests and such a stickler that rules be obeyed.

Strict Father

From his behaviour and from what he told me, Graham never seemed close to overcoming his hang-up about wearing Lederhosen. His father was known to administer corporal punishment freely and Graham knew what to expect if he complained too strongly about the rules he was set. I wonder now what his parents were thinking of. Couldn’t they see? Graham and I got on really well and we came to believe that this was his cross to bear. He won my respect for not cracking under the strain. I never saw him again after I’d left Germany for my boarding school but my brother told me recently that Graham was still in his embarrassing little shorts for several more months. I do hope his ordeal did not damage him and that he, in his turn, became not a martinet but a loving and sympathetic father.


Navigate the Historic Boys' Clothing Web Site:
[Return to the Main Trevor Düsseldorf school page]
[Return to the Main Trevor page]
[Return to the Main 1950s English individual experiences page]
[Return to the Main English individual experience page]
[Return to the Main English Lederhosen page]
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronologies] [Countries] [Style Index]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossary] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]

Navigate the Historic Boys' Clothing Web chronological pages:
[The 1930s] [The 1940s] [The 1950s] [The 1960s] [The 1970s] [The 1980s] [The 1990s]

Navigate the Historic Boys' Clothing Web style pages:
[School uniform] [Short pants] [Scouts] [Cubs]
[Caps] [Socks] [Jeans] [Suspender shorts] [Coveralls]

Created: 7:17 PM 7/9/2007
Last updated: 7:17 PM 7/9/2007