* boys hosiery : types

Hosiery Types: Socks

We are not real sure about the early 19th century, but long stockings were very common in the late 19th ad early-20th century. Three-quarter socks were often worn by younger children, but in the 20th century socks became the standard for childrenn. At first thre--quarter sicks and kneesocks were common. Kneesocks were very common in the inter-War years. By the 1940s ankle socks becoming increasingly dominant, although there were differences from country to country. Kneesocks gradually became less commonly worn by boys, but are still common for girls. We note some fad styles like tune socks. Today boys mostly wear different types of ankle socks, but many different types of hose were worn in the past. We use socks for the shorter lengths. Socks have varied from knee socks to shork sport socks that just cover the portion of the foot covered by a shoe and all lengths in between.

Socks--Ankel White (early 19th century)

Little boys wore white ankle socks while still in dresses. It was not considered appropriate for even small children to have bare legs in the early decades of the 19th children. The dresses of the era tended to be long covering most of the leg. Those that were above ankle length were usually worn with pantalettes. Thus long stockings or knee socks were unecessary. The children instead wore white ankle socks with slipper-like shoes. Somewhat older boys wearing skeleton suits with long pants, usually to just above the abkles. Even boys in skeleton suits might also have pantalettes peaking out at the hem above the ankles. The skeleton suits were worn with the same white ankle socks and slippers that little boys and girls wore with dresses.

ankle socks
Figure 1.--Boys in the early 20th century generally wore long stockjings, knee socks, and three quarter socks. As the decade progressed, children increasingly wore ankle socks. The time line vasried from country to country. The popularity of asnkle socks grew as long pants became more popular. These American children were photographed in 1954.


Ankle socks have been worn since the late 18th century when skeleton suits with ankle-length pants came into style. They were mostly white during the late 18th and early 19th century. Ankle socks were worn throughout the 19th century, but mostly for very little boys wearing dresses. The were also worn during the summer by little boys in a variety of outfits such as sailor suits and Buster Brown outfits. Ankle socks were generally considered casual summer wear, and were usually not worn with formal party clothes, such as Fauntleroy suits. After American boys stopped wearing knickers in the 1940s, they mostly wore ankle socks. Even boys wearing short pants suits and casual play shorts would usually wear ankle socks. Gradually ankle socks became more common in England, especially during the warmer summer months. Boys throughout Europe and America now mostly wear ankle socks. Striped and argyle ankle socks were very prominent in the 1950s and 60s.

Socks--Ankle (Athletic)

High school boys in America wore white wool atletic socks for gym in the 1950s, but I'm not sure this began. As older boys began to wear Bermuda shorts, they would wear them with white atletic socks. It was not considered stylish to wear dark socks. Boys would also wear white socks with long pants, usually less expensive cotton socks. There were also cheaper cotton white socks. These were not proper athletic socks, but were commonly worn. In more recent years blended materials were used. We have noted heavy white socks for younger boys in the 1990s made with grey feet bottoms. Presumably this is for children who go about in their stocking feet. The grey bottoms mean that the socks do not show the dirt as much.


Argyle stocks presumably originated in Sctoland as the name suggests. They were commonly worn with kilts. The kilt outfits in which Victoria and Albert dressed their children during the mid-19th century often included argyle kneesocks. The kilt suits worn in America, however, were mostly worn with long stockings. There was a revival of argyles, especially in America, where they were often worn with knickers. They were also worn with casual shorts uring the 1950s, but on a much more limited basis. Argyle anklr socks were popular during the 1940s-50s, but now most boys wear solid colors. Argle knee socks continue to be worn with Irish kilts, especially for Highland dancing.

boys knee socks
Figure 2.--American boys in the 1920s began to wear knee socks as well as long stockings. Long stockings, however, continued to be commnly worn into the 1930s.

Socks--Kneesocks (Turn-over-Top Socks)

Knee socks became popular in the 1920s and were generally worn in Britain and the continent with short pants and to a lesser extent knickers. British knee socks in the 1920s-30s sometimes had a pattern at the top are a band of colors if part of a school uniform. European knee socks were more likely to be plain colors. French mothers dressed little boys in white knee socks. French catholic secondary schools often made white knee socks part of the school uniform. In America it was just the oposite and knee socks were commonly worn with knickers as short pants were more commonly worn by little boys. American knee socks often had a pattern at the top and argyles with knickers were quite popular. Knee socks continued to be worn in Britain and the continent through the 1960s, but generally disapperared as boys began to wear long pants more commonly. They continued to be seen in Britain through the 1970s as some school uniforms still required shorts and some Cub groups wore them. They were little seen in America after the 1960s except as part of Scout uniforms.


Boys mostly wore long stockings with kneepants. Younger boys and girls in dresses might wear three-quarter stockings, but it was not until the turn of the 20th Century approached that boys began to wear three-quarter stockings with kneepants. They were worn with both kneepants, knickers, and shoirt pants. They were much preferred to the long over-the-knee stockings as they did not require a suspender waist to keep up.


A new style of sock appeared in the 1990s, the sport sock. This was the opposite of the tube sock in that there was no sock above the shoe, even the ankle is not covered. They appear to have been initially most popular with girls, but boys now also wear them. The style, however, seems to be worn more by young adults than children. A HBC reader asks if any research has been done on these socks with information on popularity, colors, ect. HBC has, however, little information on this style. The colors we have noted are mostly white. We have no detailed information on popularity. Based on casual observatiions they are worn by only a small number of boys.

tube socks
Figure 3.--American boys in the 1970s and early 1980s commonly wore tubesocks, a kind of atletic sock, when they wore short pants. This was a casual style for play shorts.


Athletic knee socks became popular in America during the 1970s. This was the time that both soccer and basketball became popular and, partly as a result, increasing numbers of American boys began wearing play shorts. Boys who wanted to wear the fashionable tune socks like the basketball stars had to wear shorts, otherwise they couldn't be seen. The knee socks worn with basketball and soccer shorts at the time, helped to make the socks popular with many boys. They were very commonly worn in the 1970s, but became less popular in the the 1980s. They usually came with color bands in a variety of colors at the top. Some were white, but the ones with colored bands. Boys who wore tube socks always kept them pulled up to their knees. They were worn by boys of all ages wearing shorts. Tube socks were mostly worn in America. I know of few other countries where tube socks were commonly worn. They were not much worn in Europe, but they were very popular in Japan--the first American style to become widely popular.


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Created: May 23, 1998
Last updated: 12:26 AM 7/23/2009