Corduroy Short Pants

Figure 1.--The boys at this Scottish boarding school wear blue cord short pants with grey kneesocks.

Cord shorts became very popular for boys casual wear in England and France during the 1920s and 30s. They were still widely worn in the 1950s, but began to decline as more and more boys preferred jeans to cord shorts. Theywere also adopted for schoolwear and Scout uniforms. American boys did not commonly wear cord shortsm but they were brirfly popular in the late 1970s and early 80s.


I believe that corduroy first began to be used for short pants in England during the 1920s or 30s. The long-wearing characteristics of corduroy attracted the interest of mothers. I believe that boys wore them for play in England much as modern boys wear jeans. Some schools adopted cord school shorts as part of the school uniform, I think primarily in the 1950s. Cord short were also widely worn in France. In contrast, while many American boys wore cord knickers--especially in the fall and winter. Few boys wore cord shorts. Cord shorts seem to have declined in popularity during the 1960s as jeans became increasingly popular as synthetic fibers like Terylene provided other low-maintenance fabrics for boys' clothes. By the 1970s cord shorts had mostly disappeared although several private schools continued to use them for school uniforms.


Cord shorts were commonly worn with belts. Unlike some Terrelyn shorts which has elastic waists, cord shorts mostly had belt loops. The OP cord shorts that wsere worn in America during the 1970s-80s did have elastic waists.


Cord shorts were beginning in the 1920s weidely worn in England as casual clothing. Soon they were adpopted by schools as pratical schoolwear because of their durability and ease of care. For the sane reason they were adopted by many Scout groups--especially in France.

Casual shorts

Cord shorts emerged as a popular style of casual or play shorts for children in the 1920s. They were particularly popular in England at first, but soon spread to other countries.

School shorts

A few schools adopted corduroy in the 1930s, but flannel remained the most common material. Corduroy shorts continued to be worn after World War II, but they were not nearly as popular as the new Terylene shorts. Cord shorts were chosen for their long wearing characteristics. They were also often worn at schools that were somewhat less formal, even so they like flannel and Terrelyn shorts were commonly worn with ties. Some schools use cord shrts as the every day uniform and had other long or short trousers for formal occasions. Grey was the most common color, but grey and brown were also worn. Someother colors such as green may have also been worn. Cord shorts were most common in English schools, but were also worn in France and Scotland. HBC has not noted them in former British colonies like Australia, New Zdaland, and South Africa.

Scout shorts

Cord shorts because of their durability and ease of care became popular among Boy Scouts. Cord Scout shorts were particularly popular in France and Belgium

Country Trends

Cord shorts are probably most associated with England. Boys in several other countriers, however, also wore them.


British boys beginning in the 1920s began to wear cord shorts, generally during the summer and they were generally considered to be casual shorts. Some schools, however, introduced them as part of their school uniform.


Courderoy shots were also popular in France, I think especially after the Second World War (1945). They were worn by boys as casual wear, for scouts, and even as school uniform. Cordoroy shorts were also commonly worn by Belgian, French, Italian, and Spanish boys during the 1950s-80s. A few Belgian and French schools adopted them as part of a school uniform. In addition, they were worn by many Scout and Cub groups.

New Zealand

New Zealand boys in the 1950s wore cord shorts, both for schoolwear and for play. A HBC contributor reports cord that school shorts, usually brown, blue, or grey. School shorts were reportedly lined with white cotton or old cotton flower bags. For after school boys also wore cord shorts. One HBC contributor reports wearing blue, brown, black, and a wine colored pairs. Some boys report liking cord shorts brecause they were comfortable and soft. Cord shorts wnt out of fashion in the 1960s. By the 1980s they were no longer worn in New Zealand.

United States

Unlike England and France, corduroy was not commonly used for short pants, until relatively recently. In the 1920s the fabric was commonly worn in America for boys' knickers. American boys commonly wore cordoroy knickers in the 1920s and 30s in much the same way jeans are now worn. They were commonly worn to school.They were generally considered cold-weather pants. Corduroy shorts did appear in America during the 1970s-80s. Cord shorts were virtually unknown in the United States until Ocean Pacific (OP) introduced a line of brightly colored cord shorts. They first appeared in California. They were cut much shorter than the cord shorts once worn by English boys. They were first popular during the 1970s in Califonia and reached the east coast by the 1980s. Both boys and girls wore them. One reader reports, "My 8th grade crush, Jill, in 1979 wore these. I loved the way they looked. I myself had 10 pair. They were almost year round clothes in Tucson." [Andy] They declined in popularity during the 1990s when longer, baggy shorts became stylish.

Christopher Wagner

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Created: November 19, 1998
Last updated: April 12, 2001