the same page with the short pants suits were short pants that could be purchased separately. These included both dress and play shorts. The play shorts were
called wash shorts as they were made of cotton and could be easily washed. Short pants in 1930 were still seen as an English style and were called English shorts.
By this I do not believe that a prticular cut of shorts was meant, but rather short pants cut above the knee were seen as an Englush styl. The term "short pants" in
America was used variously during the early 20th century. Kneepants werecommonly referred to as short pants. Like wise in Britain terminologu was often inprecise
with knivckers sometimes bring used for short trousers.
The Sears, Roebuck and Co., huge merchandising firm centered in Chicago was founded by Richard W. Sears (1863-1914) and A.C. Roebuck (1864-1948). Sears had begun a career in mail-order business in Minnesota 1886. In Chicago he and Roebuck joined resources and formed a corporation in 1893 as a mail-order business under title Sears, Roebuck and Company. In 1895 Julius Rosenwald (1862-1932) bought Roebuck's interest in firm and became president on Sears's retirement 1908. A retail-store system was added 1925. The first foreign store added in Havana, Cuba during 1945 and becane te first expropriated store in 1960. The Sears-Roebuck brought the production of industry to the fartherest corner of rural America, opening the cornucopia of the consumer age to rural America. All the
new things that were changing American life danced across their pages. Through it, a huge Chicago warehouse offers to modernize the farms and small towns of the
These suits were offered in the 1930 Sears catalog (Spring and Summer), p. 290.
Sears offered one short pants suits in the Spring-Summer catalog. It was for a boy from 4-9 years of age. A suit-like outfit was also offered, but this was an overcoat worn with shorts. On the page a knickers suits were also offered for this age group. There were many other knickers suits offered in large sizes. The rest of the page was devoted to invidiual pairs of shorts, some called "English shorts" and a button-on short for boys up to 10 years. It is interesting that only three suits were offered for younger children. This is an indication of the increasingly popular convention of dressing younger boys in casual styles. Sears' focus on knickers appers to reflect that most boys wore knickers and that short pants were seen as primarily suitable for boys yonger 8-9 years of age. Some readers have asked how reflective catalogs are of actual trends. While there are no perfect sources, we believe that major catalogs in America such as Sears and ards were a relatively reflection of actual conventions. We are less sure about European catalogs where mail order sales were less common. It is interesting that Sears obly offered three suits for younger boys. This appears to reflect the trend to dress younger boys with increasingly cassual clothes.
Sears offered three types of short pants they were offered separately. They were suitable for a range of occassions. Notice the self belts on the first two pairs.
We believe the term "Ebnglish shots" was a reference to short pants in general and not a particular cut (figure 1). The ad copy read, "Ideal shorts for active little boys. They are made in the extremely popular English short style, roomy, comfortable and convenient. Will wear
well and keep neat through long hard service. Choice of three handsome, sturdy fabrics. Full lined. Have belt made of self material with a buckle. Sizes 8, 9, and 10 have fly front, as illustrated. Other sizes have side openings. Two side pockets and one back pocket. SIZES 4 to 10 years. State age size. 40 V 3402--All wool Blue Cheviot Shorts. Postpaid $1.39. 40 V 3405--All Wool and Silk Brown Cassimere With Overplaid Decoration shorts. Postpaid $1.39. 40 V 3454--All Wool and Silk Gray
Cassimere with Overplaid Decoration Shorts. Postpaid $1.39." An English reader writes, "I had to have a laugh at this page. I've told you how I hated what my mum and my Grandmother considered to be my "smartest" shorts were of a check pattern. I wonder if that sort of pattern appealed to "particular mothers" on both sides of the
Atlantic and at different periods?" -- Bill
The washable shorts were done with patterns (figure 2). Te term "wash shorts" is also used. The ad copy read, "The new and very popular English shorts. All the little fellows are wearing them. Three serviceable materials as listed below. Pants are made to button to waist and have belt loops and belt of same material with attractive belt buckle. Bar tacked. Hip pocket and two side pockets. Sizes 8, 9, and 10 made with fly front. SIZES 4 to 10 years. State age size. We Pay the Postage. 40 V 3450--Tan Check Washable Cotton Crash. Postpaid 69c. 40 V 3409--Assorted striped patterns imported linen Shorts. Postpaid. 79c. 40 V3421--White duck Shorts. Postpaid 69c." It is interesting they were made in linnen and not cotton. They might also be referred to as play shorts. Remember in 1930, washing was a bigger operation than today. Many mothers did not have washing machines. Many families added washing machines in the 1920s, but hard times during the Great Depression of the 1930s slowed down such purchses.
This pair of shorts had an elastic waistband rather than a belt (figure 3). We are nor sure when elastic waistbnd were first used. The ad copy read, "Attractive, elastic waistband shorts for hard playing youngsters. Practical latest style; popular. The elastic waistband does away with all buckles, belts and buttons and keeps the waist tucked in no matter how
strenuously the boy may play. Fully lined. Strongly finished, with bar tacking at all strain points. Has two side pockets and one hip pocket. Either of the fine fabrics will give a world of long wear and satisfaction, and at outstanding values. SIZES--4 to 9 years. State age size. 40 V 3429--Gray Cassimere Elastic Waistband Shorts About Four-Fifths Wool and Silk. Postpaid 1.00 40 V 3420--Brown All Wool and Silk Cassimere Elastic Waistband Shorts With Rayon Decorations. Postpaid 1.19." This was another style of play shorts, but they were wool they were not easily washable. Note the refference to "buckles, belts, and buttons". This is a reference to knickers and underwear waists worn to hold up pants amd long stockings.
The ad copy read, " A new and stylish outfit the boys will like. Mothers, too, will like it
because it is really surprisingly low priced. The pants are the popular
straight style with self belt and buckle. They are full lined and have
two manly side pockets. The pants are made of a medium tan all wool and
silk cassimere with attractive and stylish Rayon stripes. The sweater is
rib knit of two-ply all wool worsted yarn in a Jacquard weave of tan and
blue. SIZES 3 to 9 years. State age size. 40 V 3338--Sweater and Pants.
Sears offered one short pants suits in the Spring-Summer catalog. It was for a boy from 4-9 years of age. On the page a knickers suits were also offered for this age group. There were many other knickers suits offered in large sizes. The rest of the page was devoted to invidiual pairs of shorts, some called "English shorts" and a button-on short for boys up to 10 years. It is interesting that only three suits were offered for younger children. This is an indication of the increasingly popular convention of dressing younger boys in casual styles.
On the page with the short pants were two types of button waists. Note that the term "waists" used in these advertisements refers not to underwear waists but to boy's shirts--especially those with waist buttons to button on to short pants. Underwear waists also had buttons, however, for the purpose of attaching outer clothing such as short pants as well as pin tubes to allow for the fastening of hose supporters. The use of the term "waist" for both boys' outer shirts and for underwear with waist buttons is a bit confusing for modern readers. Waists were very similar to modern shirts, but were not called waists because there were no shirt tails. Tails were not needed as the waists securely buttoned on to under-wear waists or the pants directly. They were presumably included on the page with short pants because they were most commonly worn with shorts pants. Tey were, however, not exclusively worn with shorts.
The ad copy read, "Very practical waists [i.e. shirts] with large buttons at the bottom to button to the little pants. All fast color cotton broadcloth materials. Lined collars and cuffs, sleeve facings. Open cuffs to button. Long sleeves and
regular style collar. Good quality buttons. They launder well. SIZES--4
to 10 years. State age size. 40 V 3534--Tan Pastel Shade Broadcloth.
Postpaid $69c. 40 V 3523--Blue Pastel Shake Broadcloth. Postpaid 69c. 40
V 3526--Plain White Broadcloth. Postpaid 69c.
The ad copy read, "An extraordinary opportunity to save on little fellow' waists. Button-on style with large buttons at bottom to button to pants. Will wash and
launder well. Open cuffs to button. Lined collar. SIZES--4 to 10 years.
State age size. 40 V 3518--Noveltry Pattern Doby Weave Cotton Broadcloth.
Postpaid 67c. 40 V 3522--Dressy Rayon Stripe Woven Cotton Broadcloth.
Postpaid 85c. 40 V 3501--Plain Blue Chambray. Postpaid 65c."
All these shorts show boys wearing them with cuffed knee socks. Ankle socks, apparently, were not worn much with shorts at this period. Note the patterned knee socks shown rather than socks of plain color. Some of the knicker illustrations suggest that long stockings were being worn. Curiously in advertisements for long stockings, they were often show being worn with short pants.
We believe that short pants suits were somewhat more common in Americ than suggested by te Sears catlog. This is because the Sears catalog primarily appealed to rural, middle-class, and bargain concious consumers. Affluent Americans especially those in the upper-middle class and upper class would not normally buy from sears. Especially for a suit, they woukld go to a men's wear store. We believe that such families were more likely to buy short pants suits than the average American family.
Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing catalog/magazine pages:
[Return to the Main U.S. 1930 catalog page]
[Return to the Main American mail order 1930s page]
[Main photo/publishing page] [Store catalogs] [Fashion magazines]
Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Main U.S. page]
[Main U.S. 1930s page]
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Cloth and textiles] [Clothing styles] [Countries] [Essays] [Topics]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Satellite sites] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]
Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Sailor suits] [Sailor hats] [Buster Brown suits] [Knickers] [Short pants]
[Eton suits] [Rompers] [Tunics] [Smocks] [Tights] [Long stockings] [Stocking supporters] [National descriptions]