Long Stockings: Canada

Figure 1.--This Canadian boy is taking his First Communion outfitted with his sister. He wears a short pants suit which he wears with dark long stockings. The photograph is undated, but looks to have been taken in the late 1920s. We believe that these are probably French Canadian children.

HBC has noted several images of Canadian boys wearing long stockings. This appears to have been quite similar to American patterns in the late 19th century. HBC has noted that some Canadian boys continued wearing long stockings in the 20th century when many American boys began wearing short socks and kneesocks. In particular Canadian boys appear to have worn longstockings for dress occasions. This appears to have been more prevalent among French Canadians than English Canadians. HBC has noted French boys wearing long stockings for dress wear as late as the early 1950s. Canadian boys appear to have priarily worn dark long stockings. Ages have varied over time. Quite old boys might wear long stockings at the turn-of-the 20th century, but by the 1940ss and 50s it was mostly boys up to 7 or 8 years, probablu about 10 years at the oldest.


French Canada

French Canadians of course speak French, but there are differences between the French spoken in Quebec and France. The term for socks and stockings is Canada is " bas " long stockings " bas longs ". Over-the-knee stockings " chaussettes longues " (in France) and " bas au-desus des genoux " (in Québec).

English Canada

Long over-the-knee stockings are call long stockings in Canada, although as in the United States and Britain, some might confuse this term with kneesocks as they are longer than the ankle socks now commonly worn.


HBC has noted several images of Canadian boys wearing long stockings. The chronological trends are less clear to HBC than American trends, because HBC has less information on Canada. We suspect that Canada's colder climate may have caused long stockings to persist a bit longer in Canada than America. Canadian boys commonly wore long stockings with kneepants. This appears to have been quite similar to American patterns in the late 19th century. Warmth may have well been the main reason--especially given the harsh Canadian winters. HBC has noted that some Canadian boys continued wearing long stockings in the 20th century when many American boys began wearing short socks and kneesocks. While many American boys wore three-quarter length socks in the early 20th century--especially during the summer. This appears less common in Canada where long stockings continued to be orevalent. Differences developed betwwen French Canadiana and English Canadian boys after World War I, although we do not yet know the precise chronology and extent of these differences and why they developed. The differences may not have been pronounced in the 1920s and 30s, but they appear to have become significant by the 1940s.


Cnadian boys as in other countries appear to have worn long stockings both for warmth and for dress wear.


One of the primary reason for wearing long stockings was for warmth. This was an important reason in Canada which has harsh winters and relatively short summers. Notably the thickness of the long stockings declined after the turn of the century, suggesting that warmth was a less important factor than in the 19th century. Children for winterwear had heavy knit long stockings. A Canadian reader writes, "As the seasons changed if they went to school in the morning in a cold weather, in the afternoon they might pull down their stockings. At school where studies were more important than sports, boys wore short pants and long stockings. But those ones were ribbed at 2/1 for longer wear. With a better heating and better knitting, boys wore also 1/1 stockings in cotton/rayonne but never plain stockings as it was for girls."

Dress wear

Canadian boys appear to have commonly worn long stockings for dress occasions. Interestingly the long stockings that HBC has noted being worn as part of a dressy outfit have been dark long stockings. In the early 20th century, American boys often wore white long stockings when dressing up. HBC has not noted this in Canada, although admitedly there are insufficent images available to draw firm conclusions. We note First Communion children wearing black and white long stockings in 1922. A Canadian reader reports that he did wear short pants and white long stockings to birthday parties in the 1940s. It seems that long stockings, especially long stockings for dress wear, were more common among French-speaking Canaduan boys than English-speaking Canadian boys.

Ethnic Differences

Wearing long stockings as dress wear appears to have been more prevalent among French Canadians than English Canadians. HBC has noted French boys wearing long stockings for dress wear as late as the early 1950s. Here we are not sure why long stockings were more common among French Cnadian children. It would not seem to be the Frnch national tradition as long stockings were not partocularly common in France. There is of course no theological connection with Catholoism, but the conservative social attitudes of French Canadians would seem to be the most likely reason for the prevalence of long stockings. This is our initial assessment, but more information is needed here. A French Canadian reader does confirm that long stockings were worn by French Canadian children into the 1950s nd to some extnt even the 60s. Our reader writes, "When looking at the HBC pages on long stockings and other pages, I am struck by the similarity (apart from the lederhosen) in how children were dressed in Quebec and Germany from the 1930s through the 1950s. The HBC pages, like the one of the three German brothers about 1952 are really interesting. They show many boys wearing long stockings with short pants even in the 1950s. Many boys wanted to wear long pants and especially didn't like wearing short pant ith long stockings. It was the same for girls when they preferred jeans to dresses in the 80's. In Québec, short pants and long stockings for boys were often related to conservative religious convictions among Catholics. I do not know if this was also a factor in Germany."

Demographic Trends

Long stockings were common throughout Canada, in both urban and rural areas before World War I (1914-18). After the War, the popularity of long stockings. We believe that long stockings went out of style first in urban areas, but continued to be worn in rural areas formany years, especially in rural areas of Quebec. We do not have adequate informaion to confirm this, but hopfully our French readers ill provide mor information.

Social Class

HBC wonders if there was a relationship between long white stockings and social class. We do not yet know if they were more or less common with affluent, middle, or working class families.


Our information on the color of long stockings worn in Canada is still limited. As best we can tell, the colors worn by Candian boys were basically the same as in the United States. At leat we have not yet noted any substantial differences. Canadian boys appear to have priarily worn dark long stockings. This has varied somewhat over time. Our archive is still limited on the 19th century. The few images HBC has noted show Canadian boys wearing dark long stockings even in the 20th century. This was fairly standard through the 1910s and World War I. Black stockings were commonly worn for formal wear. The boy dressed up for First Communion here is a good example (figure 1). Yonger boys might wear white long stockings when dressing up, but dark colors, especially black, were myuch more common. American boys began wearing light colored long stockings, especially tan and light brown, in the 1920s. HBC is unsure to what extent thes lighter colors were worn by Canadian boys. We note children at a Montreal orphanage wearing what looklike mid-range long stockings, perhaps a chocolate color.


Canadian children generally wore solid color long stockings, but we have noted some patterns. The most common pattern was strips. In many cases the stripes were done i quite bold patterns, althoughwe are not sure about the actual colors. We are also not yet sure about the chronlogy, but they seem especially common in the 1870s-80s. We believe these stripped stockings were worn by both boys and girls. They see to be rather sporty, but boys seem to wear them with dressy outfits. Some times the suits are rather sober, making the stockings really stand out. We are not sure how common they were for more formal occassions like church. We do not know if te children had any preferences about these stockings. These seems more an American than a British style, but we are not yet positive about this.


Canadian boys have worn long stiockings with both kneepants and knickers. Although less common, some younger boys wore them with short pants. Kneesocks appear to have been more common than long sdtockings, but long stockings were clearly worn with short pants. HBC believes this was more common with French-Canadian boys than with English-Canadian boys. Somee Canadian boys must also have worm longstockings with long pants--but this is more difficult to assess.


Quite old boys might wear long stockings at the turn-of-the 20th century. A good example is a 16-year old French Canadian boy in 1901. These were mostly older boys wearing kneepants and after the turn of the century knickers. Gradually older boys began wearing kneesocks and by the 1930s long pants. By the 1940s and 50s it was mostly boys up to 7 or 8 years, probably about 10 years at the oldest. These younger boys commonly wore short pants with their long stockings.

Cultural Trends

A Canadian reader writes, "A reason why children in Québec wore long stockings until the 1960s was related to nuns' clothing rules in schools they controlled at the elementary level. A kind of Female matriarchy. It is so true that school lead by brothers changed fastly from short pants to breehches and long pants as soon as in the '40s. While on today schools are full of female teachers for all the elementary level, those boys who at that time attended nuns' boarding schools or parish ones were ridiculed for wearing short pants and long stockings. Social pressure was so strong that changes occured with a general Americanization of garments and hosiery."

Economic Advantages

There were somne economic advantages to long stockings, especially when compared with tights. Canadian children were still wearing long stockings into the 1960s. In the popular series Peppi Longstockings, the girl is wearing two stockings of different colors . It was the same with Canadian or Swedish children in dark brown or tan stockings. Tights need complicated methods of knitting, they were costly and only dancers were able to afford to wear them. You have to understand that it was easy to darn a stocking and mix with another in good condition. If tights were torn on one leg, the whole pair had to be thrown away. These economic factors have to be considered when assessing clothing, especially children's clothing.

Personal Experiences

We have a number of individual accounts from Canada concerning long stockings. These pages give a good idea about the fashion and conventions of Canadian children wearing log stockings over time.

Armstrong children (1898)

Here we see two Canadian children in 1898. The Armstrong children, broher and sister, wear quite different outfits, but both wear the same black long stockings. The girl wears black long stockings even though she wears an all wite outfit of a white smock-dress and white hair bow. Black long stockings were very common foe Canadian children at the time.

Fowler family (1927)

A HBC reader has provided a portrait of two Montreal children in 1927. The portrait here shows Mrs. J. B. Fowler's children, aged about 4 and 9. The photograph was taken in November, 1927, at a studio in Montreal. The younger boy wears a romper outfit with short socks. His older brother wears a sweater and tie with short pants and blacl long stockings.

Canadian boy (1940s)

I wore myself short pants and heavy wool stockings as it was usual in Canada during the 1940s. At that time too, boys and also girls kept their stockings pulled up by elastic garters. I remember myself using those rubber rings instead of suspenders because easier to put in and off. Just rolling the garters to feet when pulling off long stockings or pulling up the stockings with elastic ring at the top. No embarrasment like suspenders which need time and effort . But I remember that the Government of Canada called mothers to avoid the use of garters because it compressed blood circulation in legs. Girls were taught to use suspender belts which was considered a woman garment. In Canada, the problem with garters was not only a problem of health but also of cold weather. In Europe, snow is scarce even in Germany. So, in Canada boys needed to wear longjohns under the stockings. It was really ugly. Long cotton stockings were a good alternative for mothers to purchase for their children. But in winter, a kid was really ridiculous. As a boy, I asked my mother to wear knickers which we called "Breatches" which were also horrible but more boyish. Then came the time after World War II when longs pants bcame more commonly worn by boys. This happened when daddies were considered heroes after gaving fought on European battlefiels and when moms returned to their kitchen with a lot of kids. So around 1950, long stockings vanished with short pants which simply were called "shorts" for boys and girls. When the miniskirt appeared for girls in the 1960s, long stockings became obsolete for girls. In 1967 began the era of the tights and jeans for girls. Safe for some sports or classical dance, boys never wore tights. Curiously, girls learnt to dress as a girl and also as a boy.

Ontario boy (1940s)

Regarding boys' long stockings, I well remember that as a boy in the 1940's living in Ontario, Canada, we used to wear shorts with long, beige cotton stockings. Boys up to age 11-12 were dressed that way, although a many had already switched to long trousers. Our stockings differed from women's in that they were of a thicker material and thinly ribbed. They pretty much reached the thigh and were attached to our underpants by the same sort of clips in the women's. Wearing stockings was actually very comfortable and far less a hassle for our mothers, from the viewpoint of maintenance and expense -- as opposed to trousers. In Quebec -- especially rural areas -- the boys wore shorts and long, cotton stockings well into the '50's and as late an age as 13 or 14. Beige stockings were often replaced by black colored ones, and on dress occasions (such as Sunday church) one usually saw the boys decked out dark colored shorts and long white stockings. I remember my mother saying how smart they looked. In our day, I'm not certain we boys gave much thought to the matter, but when turned out, I guess we felt pretty "smart".

Canadian boy (1940s-50s

I wore long, over the knee stockings in the late-1940's an early 50's. I was not the only boy dressed like that, but there were not that many--just a few of us. I think it had been more common earlier. I dressed like this to school for the first couple of my school years. The worst part was wearing long stocking was the garters. When you sat down or bent down you could see the top of my stocking which I didn't like for some reason. For my first communion I wore white stocking with a striped, brown short pant suit. I remember crying and not wanting to wear the long stockings. I didn't mind the short pants suit so much, many boys still wore shorts. What I objected to was the long white stockings. My mother, however, was adament. She thought that the white stockings were needed for such a formal occassion as my First Communion. I wish I could fing the one picture taken of me. I wore short pants till I was about 12 years old, but after about 7 or 8 years of age I wore them with kneesocks rather than long stockings.

Maritimes boy (1940s-50s)

I am from Canada, brought up in a small village in the Maritimes. I wore shorts every day of the year till I was 8 or 9 years old. In winter I had to wear long cotton stocking somewhat like a flesh colour, although it was very noticeable that you were wearing stockings. They were held with garters, which were sewn to a little vest my mother made. It was embarassing as everytime you sat or bent you could see the clasp of the garters. Mind you I wasn't the only boys outfitted that way. For my first Communion I wore a short striped brown suit, with white long stocking held with garters. I didn't really want to leave the house dressed that way, but mother insisted. I still wore short pants till I was about 11 years old, but without stockings and during the summers only. This happened in the late 1940s to the early 50s. I somewhere have a negative of me in my First Communion's Outfit. I shall search for it as it is in the attic of my cottage and forward a copy to HBC.


Both boys and girls wore long stockings. Clothing catalogs advertise the same long stockings for both boys and girls. It is impossible to determine who wore then more commonly. Through the early 20th century both boys and girls commonly wore them. After World War I, it seems to have become more common for girls to wear them. Younger boys, however, continued to wear them ecen with short pants. This continued into the 1950s. They were worn by boys both in cold weather and for formal occasions.

Stocking Supporters

A French Canadian reader writes, "Your German correspondants are very interesting. I learn a lot of things . Surprisingly, I am discoverijng more and more that Canadians were influenced by Germany more than I tought at first. I remember a little 6 year old girl, my cousin, wearing a leibchen with buttons at back with two garters on each side as it was specified in a book edited by the Government on child rearing. It advised mothers to avoid the four garters system which exerts too much pressure simultaneously at front and at rear. It was also suggested to attach the clasps at the side and strongly discouraged placing the clasps at th front." We notice underwaists and suspender waists similar those worn by American children being commonly offered in Canadian catalogs throughout the 1940s. A good example is the Eaton's winter 1948-49 catalog.


Leggings seem to have been common in Canada. Of course the cold winters must have been a factor here. One Canadian reader in the 1950s remembers them. He writes, "My parents insisted I wear wear long leather leggings in the cold weather when I was a toddler. I remember that they were rather stiff and the padded legs made it difficult for me to run. They were light brown and easier to pull on than the pants to my snow suit." In Canada, leggings were commonly worn over long stockings. A canadian reader tells us that the Red River outfit was widely worn in Canada and leggings were a prominent part of that outfit.


It is not immediately apparent from old photographs if children are wearing long stockings or tights. Almost all photographs of boys wering over the knee hosiery are boys wering long stockings and not tights. Few Canadian boys woretights as was common in northern Europe. Reasonably priced tights for children did not becomde avilable in Canada until about 1965 and at ghat time they were mistly worn by girls.


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Created: October 3, 2000
Last updated: 5:13 PM 3/1/2008