Knickers as boys' clothes are difficult to evaluate. We have found few historical references to them and few HBC readers are of an age that they can comment on having worn knickers. HBC sees no real advantage to them. Kneepants for instance had the advantage that they lasted longer boys. The knees are usually the first part of a boy's pair of pants to wear out, in contrast to men's pants wear the seat often wears out first. As kneepants did not have knees, this meant that they lasted longer. This was an important consideration for families with limited money considering the relatively high cost of clothing at the time. Short pants had this advantage, but had the added advantage of being more comfortable in hot weather. Knickers on the otherhand had none of the advantages of either kneepants or short pants as far as boys are concerned. HBC does note, however, that knickers were originally conceived as practical trousers for country outings and are still popular with some hikers.
HBC sees no real advantage to knickers, at least in terms of boys' clothing. Kneepants for instance had the advantage that they lasted longer boys. The knees are usually the first part of a boy's pair of pants to wear out, in contrast to men's pants wear the seat often wears out first. As kneepants did not have knees, this meant that they lasted longer. This was an important consideration for families with limited money considering the relatively high cost of clothing at the time. Short pants had this advantage, but had the added advantage of being more comfortable in hot weather. Knickers on the otherhand had none of the advantages of either kneepants or short pants as far as boys are concerned.
Knickers were originally conceived as practical trousers and some still hold this opinion. Knickers are still worn for hiking, which is close to the purpose for which they were originally designed in England--country outings. American Scouts appear to have seen them as practical and wore them for about three decades.
A HBC reader writes. "Since knickers originally were worn above the knees, I think they would have the same advantage as knee pants. Also, being baggier they
were probably more comfortable when playing." HBC is not convinced that baggy equates with comfort, but that does appear to be the popular opinion of youth beginning about the mid-1990s. At any rate, HBC believes that the shift from long stockings held up with restrictive stocking supporters to knee socks had a greater impact on comfort than the knickers themselves.
American Scouts saw knickers as practical trousers for hiking and camping. Scouts wore them in America for three decades. American was the only country where Scouts did not wear short pants. The origianal American Scout uniform had knickers and this continued to be the official uniform until 1943, although shorts were often worn at camps and jamborees.
Knickers are also seen as practical trousers for adults. They, or similar pants, have been worn for centuries in hundreds of cultures, for walking, especially in mountanous terrain. They are a sort of cross between long pants, which can be too hot or catch on scrub and just generally have that extra cloth around the calves that just isn't necessary in most cases, and short pants which can be too cold or in some cultures inappropriate (Japan for instance, for men in the cities outside Tokyo and of course the Middle East where muslim culture diapproves of shorts) or don't provide the protection to knees and thighs that you might want when rock scrambling. They also, when worn with kneesocks, provide protection against bramle and thickets and are not as likely to be torn or soiled as long pants when worn for hiking. Perhaps thisis why they have been traditionally worn for golfing. Early golf courses were a far cry from todays well manacured courses. Some fashion observers are thus stymied as to why more people don't wear knickers any more.
In most countries, wearing knickers is now considered what teenagers may describe as "dorky", but they are popular with some hikers. One ardent hiker indicates, "I've never been one to care much about what others think is right on me. I personally think knickers look cool and that they carry a long history of walking romance behind them. It's
nice to know that there is a connection between me and those wanderes pictured in so many of the old b & w photos and illustrations. Now, I personally don't like to wear the "plus fours" type of knickers ... too baggy and apt to carry around a lot of excess moisture. But the knickers ought to be loose or stretch enough to allow comfortable walking and stretching in places where you have to do some climbing. I think they are the perfect walking pants. Most people today have never tried knickers, perhaps because they seem to carry some kind of stigma, the way the old type of walking ice axes and hobnail boots (which are supposedly better on wet surfaces than vibram!) do. Admittedly there are reasons why people stopped using a lot of gear from the past, but there were also advantages to them that could be enhanced with modern materials and cuts. If others would stop thinking so much about current fashion for a while and try them I think they might be impressed, too..."
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