Three-Quarter Length Socks

Figure 1.--This boy is proabably French. He wears his kneepants sailor suit with dark, perhaps blue, three-quarter length stockings. Note the short curls and little bows on his shoes.

Three quarter-length socks were worn by young children, mostly girls and boys still in dresses, during much of the 19th Century. They were more common in Europe than America diring the 19th century. It was not until the turn of the Century, however, that boys began commonly wearing them after breeching. They were commonly worn in the 1900s and 1910s, especially in France and Italy. And we see American boys wearing them in the 1900s-10s.

Over-the-knee stockings

Boys during the late 19th century wore long over-the-knee stockings with knee pants. The stockings were held up by clasps attached to a kind of suspender waist worn by the boy. This died out when knee socks became more popular after the First World War. Over-the-knee stockings were occasionaly seen in America during the 1920s. The style continued until more recent times in a modified style in Germany where boys wearing short pants might wear long stockings instead of knee socks when the weather got cooler. This style also appeared elsewhere in Eastern Europe as well as Russia. Over-the-knee stockings continued to be commonly worm through the 1960s until German boys began wearing long pants instead of shorts. During the 1960s-70s German boys wearing longs might also wear the long stockings. Some boys also wore footed tights.

Shorter Socks: 19th Century

Short socks were worn in the late 19th Century, but primarily by girls and younger boys still in dresses before breeching. They were commonly white or light colors. This was particularly true in France and Italy, but much less common in America.

Three-quater socks

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 short pants. They were much preferred to the long over-the-knee stockings as they did not require a suspender waist to keep up.


We are not sure what length socks children wore in the early-19th century. Noys wore long pamnys and ghiorls long dresses, thus the lengthnos the hpse is not always apparent. We see boys wearing three-quater length spcks at mod cerntury, at leasr in Europe. A hood example os the boy in Rebecca Solomon's depiction of an idealied Victorian family in the early-1850s. The boy wears white three-quarter socks with strap shoes. Three-quarter length socks for boys began to appear more commonly in the late 1890s around the turn of the Century. They were commonly worn in the 1900s and 1910s, but rapidly declined in popularity after World War I (1914-18), although they were still worn at the beginning of the 1920s. Most boys by the 1930s, however, were wearing either ankle socks or kneesocks.


Older boys did not wear three-quarter length socks, even during the 1900s and 1910s. They were usually worn by boys up to about 13 or 14 years of age. There was, however, some variation by countries. In America it was usually only younger boys who wore them.

Country Trends

Three-quater socks were commonly worn by younger children throughout Europe and in the United States. They were more common un Europe during the 19th century. We note English boy Edwin Crawshay wearing white three-quater socks in 1864. American boys more commonly wore long stockings. After the turn of the 20th-century we see more American children wearing three-quater socks, usually white socks. A good example is 4-year old Martin Murphy in 1912. We have aechived hundreds of images of children wearing three-quarter socks on HBC. We have not yet, however, cross indexed them here. This is one of many projects we need to work on.

Clothing styles

Boys wore three-quarter length socks with a wide variety of styles, including Fauntleroy suits, sailor suits, Buster Brown suits, and a wide variety of knee pants outfits. They were less commonly worn with short pants suits and never with kilts.

Hair styles


Boys has commionly worn Fauntleroy and sailor suits with high button boots in the late 19th Century. As the 20th Cdentury approached, these boot-like shoes became less common. More modern looking shoes became increasingly common. Many boys also wore strap shoes with dressy outfits. Strap shoes were very commonly worn by French and Italian boys with three-quarter stockings, but they were also worn in Britain and America. Some mothers, especially in france liked to add little bows to the strap shoes.


Three-quarter socks were worn in both light and dark colors.
White: White socks were especially common for girls, but were also worn by boys. Here there were variations from country to country. American boys mostly wore long stockings. Three-quarter socks were more common in Europe. A good example here is Maurice Carmichael Tweedie in 1878. We note boys wearing white three-quarter socks with many different garments and and garment colors. After the turn of the century white socks were often worn with white outfits. They become more common in America. Boys might wear white socks, for example, with white outfits like a summer sailor suit. They also became, after the turn of the century, more common with dark-colored outfits--especially sailor suits.
Patterns: We also notice patterns. A good eaxample here is Willie Horn, a German boy in 1915. His sister wears similar socks.
Dark colors: More common were the dark colored three-quarter socks. Common colors were black, brown, and blue. Here we see an example of a boy with dark socks (figure 1).
Stripes: We note stripped socks in the 1870s. A good example is H. Douglas Burn on the Isle of Wright in 1872.

The color was to some extent seasonal. This was because the color often matched the suit. White linnen or other light material sailor suits were common in the summer while the blue wool or serge suits more common in the winter.


Socks were primarily made of wool. Some boys from wealthy families mightbhave silk socks for special occasions.



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Created: May 3, 1999
Last updated: 8:15 AM 12/8/2017