** United States boys garments -- hosiery








United States Boys' Garments: Hosiery


Figure 1.--Boys and girls in the 1910s commonly wore long stockings for foral occassions like First Communionm. This boy wears black long stockings with a knicker suit. Girls and younger boys might wear white stockings. I think this portrait was taken in 1914, but cannot be positive.

American boys in the late 19th century as the kneepants fashion became a convention for boys commonly wore long stockings, except for the very youngest boys. Striped long stockings were fashionable in the 1860s and 70s, but solid colored stockings were increasingly common by the 1880s, especially black stockings. After the turn of the 20th century three-quarter socks became more common for boys. Long stockings were worn during the winter and for dress occassions. Dark stockings were the most common, but girls and younger boys also wore white long stckings. Baden Powell's Boy Scouts helped to popularize knee socks in the 1910s. After World War I, black long stockings brecame less common and tan colors became the standard. Knee socks and ankle socks gradually replaced long stockings, although they did not disappear until the 1940s.

Chronology

American boys with knee breeches commonly wore long stockings in the 18th century. White was the most common color. German immigrants brought knitting frames to America in the early 18th century beginning the domestic production of hosiery. After the appearance of skeleton suits in the late 19th century, short socks became morte common and contuinued so in the early 18th century when most boys wore long pants. Industrial production of hosiery began in the 19th century using the inexpensive being produced on expanding southern plantations. American boys in the late 19th century as the knee pants fashion became a convenbtion for boys commonly wore long sdtockings, except for the very youngest boys. Striped long stockins were fashionable in the 1860s and 70s, but solid colored stockings were increasingly common by the 1880s, especially black stockings. We have developed some inforation on the early 20th century. After the turn of the 20th century three-quarter socks became more common for boys. Long stockings were worn during the winter and for dress occassions. Dark stockings were the most common, but girls and younger boys also wore white long stockings. Baden Powell's Boy Scouts helped to popularize kneesocks in the 1910s. After World War I, black long stockings brecame less common and tan colors became the standard. Kneesocks and ankle socks gradually replaced long stockings, although they did not disappear until the 1940s.

Types

American boys have worn a variety of hosiery, including long stockings and different kind of socks. There were major variations over time. The type of pants worn had a majpr inpact on the hosiery worn. Many American boys also went barefoot. American boys unlike some European boys have not commonly worn tights. We are not sure about the hosiery worn in the early 19th cenbtury. As kneepants became standard after the mid-19th century, long stockings became widely worn by all but the youngest children. Long stockings were the predominant hosiery until the turn of 20th century when chioldren also began wearing three-quarter stockings on a seasonal basis. Long stockings persisted through the 1930s, especially during cold winter weather. Beginning in the 1910s, boys began wearing kneesocks, although they did not begin to replace long stockings until the mid-1920s. Whith the rapis decline of kniclkers in the early 1940s, abnkle socks became oincreasingly common. White athlectic socks became very popular for boys after World war II, especially in the 1950s. A popular fad style was tube soicks in the 1970s, usually white socks with colored bands.

Material

We note socks and stockings made of wool and cotton. Hosiery in the 20th century was mostly made of cotton, but have also noted wool socks and cotton blends. Blends were first cotton with wool, but later blends with synthetic fibers appeared. A reader notes that some long stockings made in Minnesota during the 1940s. He writes, "Those in rayon and cotton are really smooth and silky. I don't understand why tights were never made in rayon . Maybe because elastane which was used in the 1970s had both smoothness and elasticity. But rayon was really first class.

Regional Trends

A reader writes, "I suspect that in Minnesota, there were a lot of kniting factories sending there stocks to Chicago. As you know, scandinavians and Germans used to dress their children (boys and girls) with long stockings. Rock Rib by example was a real great factory. It would be interesting to make some inquiry if about a possible relation between location and immigrants know-how. "

Conventions

We notice a variety of American hosiery conventions over time. A far as we can tell in the 18th century, American boys wearing knee breeches always wore hosiery covering the legs when wearing shoes. Although boys might go barefoot, especially in rural areas--and at the time most of America was rural. On the frontier boys might wear long pants, although we are not sure about that but going barefoot was common. At the turn of the 19th century, long pants became standard for boys, at least fashionable boys in cities. We are less sure about rural areas. The lack of photography severly limits the the available imagery and our ability to assess trends and conventions. We believe that American boys commonly went barefoot, especially during the summer. Wearing shoes and hosiery was more common in the city. We begin to get a good fix on changing hosiery conventions with the development of photography. An photographic industry quickly developed in America (1840s), althogh standard poses often did not capture footwear. This changed with the development of the CDV, but as boys almost always put on shoes for the portrait, assessing actual conventions outside the studio is complicated. We do begin to lean more about hosiery conventions because at mid-century we begin to see shortened-length pants for boys. The basic cionvention in America is that legs, even children's legs should be covered. Thus when shortened-length pants appeared, we see the children wearing long stockings, even very young children. In Europe younger children might wear socks, but this was much less common in America. There was one major exception, however, when going barefoot, legs did not need to be covered. Thus you almost never see children wearing shoes without socks or with short socks. This basic trend did not begin to change until the turn-of the 20th century. We begin to see boys wearing tunic suits and bloomer knickers with socks and younger boys wearing knee pants with socks, mostly during the summer. School age children almost always wore long stockings to school during the early-20th century. Boys in rural areas might come to school barefoot, but in the cities boys almost always wore knee pants and knickers with long stockings covering their legs. We begin to see knee socks in the 1920s, but they were not widespead until the 30s. And for the first time we see boys wearing knickers with ankle socks in the 30s. The convention of coverings legs disappered in the 40s, although boys began weating long pants to a much greater extent. And coming to school barefoot significantly declines. As sneakers became increasingly popular, we see some children wearing them by the 1970s with out socks. This was more common with girls than boys.

Sizes

The analysis of hosiery is complicated by the fact that the sizes specified in catalogs and advertisements have no relationship to the age of the child. We are no even sure that there were standard sizes among manufacturers. Some retailers provide customers corresponding shoe sizes. Others provide heighth information. This is further complicated because sizing standards have changed and are differnt from modern standards. Another complication is that there was a numbering system for smaller and larger children which appears to mean younger and older children. We have collected some of these size charts so that readers can assess the ages for which the stockings were made.

Associated Outfits and Garments

For the most part there were no specific American hosiery styles for different outfits and garments. Basically boys just wore the popular hosiery styles at the time with the outfits involved. We have some pages on poular outfits and the hosiery associated with them. This includes dresses, kilt suits, tunics, skeleton suits, sailor suits, Fauntleroy suits, junior Eton suits, and many other outfits. This was kind of running story as both popular outfits and hoisiery changed over time. Of course we are only able to assess this for outfits with skirts and shortenened-length pants where we can determine the hosiery in the photographic record. There is some similarity in the outfits worn in other countries, but often hosiery conventions were different. There were, however, a range of conventions involved in choosing the hosiery for these outfits. Hosiery was of course most associated with pants and trousers. We have some inormation for the various types of shoetened length pants, including knee pants, bloomer knickers, knickers, and short pants. And certain garments became associatd some types of hosiery. Corduroy knickers during the 1920s-30s, for example, were commonly worn with loud, patterened knee socks. The sports-styled shrot pants of the 1970s and 80s became with athletic tube stocks with colorful bands.

Reader Comments

A HBC reader writes, "My friend in Texas tells me that her husband is in a play and will be playing the town lawyer and his wife and children will be playing his family. It's supposed to be in the 1890's in the Texas Panhandle and so far she will be making her 1-yera old son a longsleeve dress made out of a cotton "weaver's fabric". She is considering making him a striped jacket out of blue and crea flannel. We just need to know what to make for footwear. Would a child that age wear tights under the dress with knitted bootees on top? Would that be acceptable?" -- Yvette HBC streeses that we have not really worked on infants clothes. We can mention a few insights. First, children did not wear tights. Children's tights did not exist at the time. (They were worn by actors and gymnists/circus performers. Children's tights did not appear until the 1950s.) What you are probably referring to are long over the knee stockings--which of course in old photographs look rather like tights when the children are all dressed up. Second, long stockings were very common for American children until socks began to become more popular in the 1920s. The exception here is very young children. 1-3 years of age. They would more commonly wear socks, both short or three-quarter lengths usuall white. Third, when dressing up very young children might wear strap shoes. As to knitted booties, I just do not have information. By guess is that infants definited wore them, but as to the style I just can not help. I am sure that the Sears or Ward catalogs here will give you some ideas. Hopefully HBC readers might have some additional comments.






HBC






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Created: October 31, 2001
Last updated: 10:55 PM 12/11/2014