School Clothes: Individual U.S. Schools--Grafton School: 1921

Figure 1.--This class portrait at the Grafton School shows 7th and 8 graders in 1921. Almost all of the boys wear kicker suits.

Many of the boys in the 7th and 8th grade at Grafton School wear knickers and long stoclings. Kneesocks were still not common. Several boys wear canvass sneakers. Most boyus wear ties with suit jackets. Quite a few girls, n\but none of the boys, wear middy blouses.

The Class

The photograph wasc a combined group of 7th and 8th greaders. This main mean that the 7th and 8th grade was instructed together with one teacher. At the time, many boys did not go beyond the 8th grade to high school. A high school education at the time was a major accomplishment.

Helpful Information

Readers may find other HBC sections of interest in evaluating the fashions that the boys were wearing in 1921.

1920s chronology page

The 1920s was a major turning point for boys' fashions. Short pants in Europe and knickers in America worn with knee length socks rapidly replaced knee length pants and long stockings. The growing popularity of the Boy Scout uniform played an important role in popularizing shorts. The trend was particularly rapid in England and Continental Europe. Quite old boys were soon wearing short pants suits and sporting bare knees.

Figure 2.--While almost all of the boys wear ties and knicker suits, one boy has long trousers. Note the boy with out the tie wearing canvas sneakers. Also notice the boys holding their caps.

U.S. 1920s chronology page

A dramatic change occurred in the clothes worn by America boys after the First World War which ended in 1918. Dresses and kilt suits for younger boys dissappeared as did Fauntleroy suits and kilts during the 1920s. Sailor suits were still worn, but mostly by younger boys. Knee pants disappeared entirely. Some boys wore the new short pants with kneesocks imported from England, but knickers proved much more popular in America.

U.S. 1920s catalogs

Mail order catalogs show major changes in American boys clothes during the 1920s. Younger chilren were wearing rompers. Kneepants were still worn in the early 1920s, but were completely replaced by short pants and knickers by the mid 1920s. American boys fashions for the first time exhibted major differences from Europe. For the most part only younger boys wore short pants, although knickers were much more commonly worn than in Europe. Kneesocks increased in popularitym but many younger boys still wore long stockings.

Boys' Garments

While almost all of the boys wear knicker suits, the boys were wearing a variety of different outfits.


Several of the boys have brought their caps along for the photograph. The portrait, however, is not detailed enough to make them out. They look mostly to be flat caps.


Virtually all of the boys are wearing suits with ties for the portarit. Two boys are wearing shirt and ties without a jacket. and a third boy wears a sweater. The portrait is not clear enough to determine the jacket styles, but it looks to be mostly single breasted jackets.


One boy wears a dark short jacket with light=coloredc knickers. While the jacket is a casual style, he wears it weith a tie like most of the other bots.


Whiloe most boys are wearing suits, two boys wear sweaters. One is a dark sleevelass sweater. The other appears to be a kind of turtle-neck.

Figure 3.--One boy here wears a colored shirt instead of the white shirt most of the other boys wear. He also wears a rather flashy tie. The boy beside him wears canvas sneakers. I wonfer if his mother approved of that.


Virtually all the boy wear white dress shirts. I only note pne boy wearing a colored shirt. They all apper to be plain colored dress shirts.


Most of the boys wearing ties are wearing neckties. I don't see any bowties or oldfashioned neckwear. Neckties were a fairly recent development, they were not at all common at the beginning of the 1910s.


All of the boys except one wear knickers, at least the boys in front so you can see what they are wearing.. Several look to be rather full cut, below the knee knickers. Only one boy wears long trousers and he looks older than most of the other boys. Clearly it was not common for boys thisd age to wear long trousers. A HBC reader reports, "The knickers all appear to be below the knee knickers although most advertising at the time and most portrait pictures of the same seem to show the boys of about the same age wearing above the knee knickers. This could be just the fact that boys preferred to wear them below the knee and pulled them down after leaving home. One is reminded of the scene in The Music Man. THis may have ovccured, on the other hand many of the boys are wearing below the knee knicvkers, although in many instances the photograph is not clear enough to determine which type of knickers the boys are wearing.


All of the boys wear long stickings. They are all dark, probably black. None of the boys have yet begun to wear kneesocks that were quite common later in the decade.


Most of the boys wear low-cut Ocford style leather shoes. A few boys wear canvass sneakers. I', a little surprised they would wear sneakers with their suits.

Girl's Clothes

Middy blouses seems the most popular style for the girls. None of the girls are wearing pinafores, a style once commonlu seen in primary schools.


Most boys are wearing ties for this photograph. I'm not sure if the boys wore ties for the photograph or normally came to school in ties. A HBC reader believes, "Since this was a school picture, I assume that the children are wearing their best clothes." Clearly casual dress is not yet considered appropriate for school.

Christopher Wagner

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Created: June 3, 2001
Last updated: June 3, 2001