School Uniform Short Trousers: Linings

Figure 1.--Here is the white lining from a pair of English corduroy school shorts. White linings wre very common in England. This is the lining at the leg hem.

In our modern jeans wearing era, trousers are rarely lined. It once was common to purchase lined trousers, especially with a well-made suit. Better made school shorts in England, however, still are lined. Long pants for school, however, were not commonly lined. I am not entirly sure why shorts were lined. Some British reders have provided some insights, but we have not yet been able to find any definitive statement from clothing manufacturers.


HBC is not precisely sure why English schools shorts are lined. One English contributor reports that shorts were lined because many boys in the 19th century, especially poor boys did not commonly wear underpants. HBC is not positive that is the primary reason. Many shorts were spld to boys going to exclusive private schools. Their parents may have simply expected good quality trousers, short or long to be lined. Once the tradition was set, then manufacturers continued lining the shorts into our modern era. There are other reasons why trousers were lined. Lining avoids scratching from poor quality flannel or wool fabric from which some shorts were made. Some manufacturers tried to use inexpensive cloth to appdeal to parents who wanted inexpensive clothes. Flannel in particular could be uncomfortable. The lining also gave the fabric of the shorts added firmness. The linings also gave added sophistication to the clothes. Shorts that are lined looked better as they are not as baggy as unlined shorts, appealing to the fashion conscious mother. The drawback of lining shorts, of course, is the added price.

Some corderoy shorts were lined, but most--even those for schoolwear--came in unlined versions. This is because cord fabric is not scratchy, even on the reverse side. The fabric is much more comfortable to wear than the flannel/wool shorts that English boys traditionally wore. In addition, cord fabric is usually heavy and somewhat firm. They are much heavier than the modern Terylene/polyester shorts are lined to avoid this concern. Cord shorts are also generally considered to be less dressy than flannel/woolen, even Terylene shorts. They are supposed to be more outdoor clothes which do not require sophistication and many were designed to be less expensive than wool school shorts. One French HBC contributor reports that better made long trousers for adults in flannel/wool may be lined in front of the legs, from waist to knees. HBC has not noticed this partial lining in the United States. Corduroy trousers are never lined.

Color and Material

Short trousers were originally lined in white cotton. During and just after the war years, linings did not generally form part of the garment. During the 1950s white cotton linings became almost universal. During the 1960s white nylon linings became the norm, though in recent years white cotton has returned. Light blue linings did appear for a while in the 1970s and 1980s. They were mostly Trutex and Jonelle brands. One firm in Scotland does still supply short trousers with grey linings, but this was an anomally. New Zealand winter-weight short trousers followed the same pattern regarding linings as in England, but have in 1998 introduced khaki linings. HBC does not understand why school shorts are mainly lined in white, which contrasts with the fabric color whereas skirt linings or linings in mens' trousers are always a similar color to that of the fabric, never a contrasting color.


Seasonality was an important factor in lining because some schools had destinctive summer and winter uniforms. This was very common in Australia abd New Zealand, but also the case in quite a few English schools. The winter-weight flannel, Terylene worsted , and corduroy shorts were commonly lined. Light-weight cotton shorts in England, New Zealand, and other countries are never lined.

Inexpensive Shorts

The current situation is that most chain stores produce less expensive short trousers without linings (Marks and Spencers, BHS, Littlewoods) whilst the most popular brands like Trutex and Jonelle now have white cotton linings. These shorts were widely worn at state prtimary schools and for Cubs. Commonly preparatory schools had uniforms specifying the more expensive liined shorts.


The linings normally start at the waistband and end about one inch above the leg hem.

Country Patterns

The short pants sold in various countries differ as to the linings. Much of our informaton on linings comes from Britain or British Empire countries like Australia and New Zealand. British shorts were very commonly lined, evern cord shorts. The exception was light-weight summer shorts. And British Empire countries tended to follow British conventions. Better-made French shorts were lalso ined, but in general lining was less common in France than in Britain. We do not yet have information on Germany and Italy. These countries, of course, did not have widely worn school uniform shorts. American shorts are generally unlined.

Reader Comments

Sveral British reader have provided comments on this page. One British reader writes, "Just as a personal observation, I think short trousers that are lined look much better than those that are not." Another reader writes, "As a boy during the Summer when we had the very hot weather I often wore lined corduroy shorts. They were much more comfortable to wear, as my unlined long trousers can be a bit itchy at times." Amother reader writes, " Many years ago, I once saw a letter in a Sunday paper addressed to the docotor's page. It was from a woman asking advice about her nine-year-old son who couldn't wear long trousers becuase his legs broke out in a rash due to the fact that he was alergic to the material the trousers were made from. The doctor advised her to have his trousers lined with cotton. I don't know if this worked as the woman never wrote another letter to the paper."

Another British reader tells us, "I thought I would put my four pennyworths into the debate over grey school shorts that you have had recently on the HBC web-site. I do not readily accept the contention that the shorts had an inner lining due to the number of boys who did not wear underpants. If that were the case then long trousers would have also had an inner lining to cater for those same boys when they became older. Furthermore the existence of the inner lining still continued well after the trend for most boys to wear underpants. I believe the existence of the inner lining reflects the fact that such shorts are supposed to be worn all throughout the year. Therefore the double thickness of the shorts helps keep the boy warm during the cold months and acts as an additional layer to soak-up sweat during the warm months. As for choosing white to be the colour of the inner lining - this does appear to be a little strange. For those boys in the past, who did not wear underpants, scatological deposit (both urinary and defecatory) would surely show up easily. When one considers, especially during and immediately after the Second World War, rationing restricted the amount of clothing you could have- it is a little strange that such an impractical colour was utilised. I can only assume that, because most boys’ underwear was white - both the vest and the y-fronts - that a matching white inner lining of the shorts was automatically selected. I suspect the trend of not wearing underpants under the shorts petered out when zip-fasteners for the flies replaced button fastening."

Personal Accounts

Some of our HBC readers remember that their school shorts were lined.

English boy: Secondary modern

English boy: The northeast


Navigate the Historic Boys' Clothing Web Site:
[Return to the Main school uniform garment page]
[Return to the Main school shorts page]
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Clothing styles] [Countries]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [Essays] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]

Created: December 4, 1998
Last updated: 3:38 PM 2/7/2008