** English short pants types

English Short Pants/Trousers: Types

Figure 1.--This boy is wearing terrlyn-worsted school shorts as part of his school uniform. Terrlyn worsted rapidly replaced flannel shorts which had once dominazted school wear. They were easier to wash than the flnnel shorts and better maintain the crisp cease. .

English boys have worn a wide variety of short trousers. Knee pants were common n the lte-19th century. Shorts pants mostly appeared in the the 1910s and became standard in the 1920s. There are different ways to categorize the various types of shorts. Trouser suspension is variable as is the usage. Some of these different variables overlap. Initially there were not such a wide variety as children, except for the most wealthy did not have large wardrobes. Thus there might be a short pants suit worn for best and then some older shorts worn for play or casual wear. Except for the age of the trousers, there might be little difference between them. Most were wool suit pants. Affluent boys attending private schools might have white shorts worn for athletics or other sport shorts. School shorts were often flsnnl. fter World War II we begin to see terralyn-worsted shorts commonly worn for school. Courduroy shorts appeared in the 1920s and were oten worn as play or casual shorts. They were also adopted as uniform shorts at some schools. Only in the 1940s did casual or play shorts become more widely worn. Gradually grey short pants became accepted as a standard for school wear. thletic hoirts becme popular in the 1970s.


Boxer Shorts

Button-on Shorts

We see English boys wearing button-on shorts in the early-20th century. Our information is still limited, in part because our English archive is relatively limited. This was primarily a pres-school style, although some boys may have worn button-on shorts during the first year or two of primary school. We are not sure about the chronology, but the early-20th cntury seems to hasve been when the style was most popular. We note button-on outfits in which the shorts and blouse matched. In other ases they were coordinated, They had to be at least coordinated so as the holes in the shorts matched up with the buttons ion the blouse. We see button-on shorts in other countries at the same time. We do not know of any destinguishing features of British button-on shorts.


A British reader tells us, "... once schools started allowing long trousers for younger boys we all wanted them - and that is why those who were not allowed them by their parents were ridiculed. After a while though boys wanted to wear shorts in the Summer. It was only when school rules/parents insisted on them that wearing shorts was seen as "nonce". I know that later on after games in the Summer we would keep our sports shorts on to go home in - even though it was against the rules. My little brother - who went to a totally different type of school - a comprehensive - sometimes wanted to wear his football shorts to school in the mornings when it was hot - but my Mum wouldn't have it as he didn't have the proper socks to go with them. Again - this was different from when I was his age. Once we got into long trousers we never wore shorts except for playing sport." We notice boys wearing casual shorts both with school shirts and visa versa. A example here is a boy wearing casual shorts with Doc Martens. Trainers were more common. We also notice boys wearing casual shorts more commonly in the 1980s.


We are not sure if corduroy was worn for boys' clothes in the 19th Century. Soldiers in World War I wore corduroy and perhaps it was introduced as casual adult and boys' clothes after the War. 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 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.

H-bar Shorts

H-bar shorts are essentially a type of suspender shorts with a cross strap added to keep the suspender straps from slipping over the the shoulders. Like suspender shorts, we see fewer examples in England than in Continental countries, especially Germany and Central and Eastern Europe. Like suspender shorts, the purpose was to help younger boys wiuth narrow waists hold up their pants children. Whike we do not see many, like suspender shorts we do see some examples. After World War II both H-bar and suspender shorts began to go out of style. This was in part beczuse elaticized boxer shorts appeared. Suspender shorts continued to be made for younger boys' suits, but H-har shorts largedly disappeared.


English boys have never commonly worn lederhosen. Perhaps they were preceive as too German. They may have also been seen as a bit bizzare. Also English Scout groups were often strict about uniform regulations and did not permit non-official garments. After World War II some military families were stationed in Germany. Some of these boys brought lederhosen home to England when they returned. Other boys whose parents lived are worked abroad--especially on the Continent might wear lederhosen. They never were widely worn. This mostly occurred after World War II. The cultural exchanges that might have brought lederhosen to England were not encouraged by the NAZIs.

School Shorts

British school boys after the First World War began to commonly wear short pants, or short trousers as the British call them. Ithink that before the First World War that boys more commonly worn knickers or knickerbockers as the British call them. The shorts worn by British boys were generally worn at knee length and were often baggy. This continued until the 1960s when shorter, better tailored shorts became more common. Almost all school shorts were grey, except for a few Scottish schools where boys wore blue shorts. Materials varied, but flannel shorts were initially most common. Some schools adopted corduroy shorts in the 1930s. After World War II, synthetic fabric, especiall terrelyn. The shorts were generally worn with knee socks. Schools had a varierty of policies and regulations about the school uniform and wearing shorts. Begunning in the 1960s older boys stopped wearing short pants and slowly British schools began to lower the age at which boys had to wear shorts and gradually most schools dropped the requirement alltogether.


English Cubs mostly wore grey school shorts. This mean thhy did nog hsve to buy a new pair of shorts for the Vub unifirm. All that was needed was the cap and green jumper (sweater). The Scouts often wire khaki cittion dhortd, but thid vsried ovedr time. .


We had thought that shortalls were primarily an American style and we believe that this is what had developed, especially after World War II. Most of the imsgds we hve foujnd are mericzn imgdes. But here we see a very early example of shortalls. We bekieve that this is earlier than we see them in America, although the image is undated. We think the portrait is either from the late-1910s or early 20s. We have not found mny examples of English shortlls and this is the earliest example. It is a light-colored garmrnt, although we are not sure about the color. The boy looks to be about 3-4 years old.

Summer Cotton Shorts

Suspender Shorts

HBC has noted that British boys did not commonly wear suspender shorts, at least not nearly as commonly as boys in France, Germany, and other counties on the Continent. Here we are primarily going by the photogrphic record. And our Ebgolisdh rchive is ine of our largest, manuing that assessmengts are more valid than for countries where we have just a few images. What is curious is that in the early 20th century we notice quite a few English boys wearing suspenders (braces), just as in Germany. While the Germans began wearing suspender shorts, this was not very common in England. It was not unknown. We cdo see some, but just not very commonly. Suspender shorts appeared to have been called strap shorts in England. One HBC reader recalls a pair of strap shorts his little brother wore in the 1960s. They were not, however, ready made clothes, but sewn by a friendly elderly lady. While suspender shorts were not common, we do notice younger girls wearing suspender skirts, especially as part of school uniforms.


I am not sure when the first shorts pants suits for boys appeared, probably the 1900s. They appeared to have been worn first by Scouts and for athletic wear and then began to relace kneepanrs and knickers as suit trousers in the 1910s. This requires, however, some further reserch.


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Created: 8:36 AM 7/1/2021
Last updated: 8:36 AM 7/1/2021