*** above the knee knickers : natioanality

above the knee knickers
Figure 1.--These American brothers and their mother look as if they were photographed on some sort of summer vacation. We are uncertain about the date. The boys look to be about 3 and 8 years old. They have a casual look, yet are dressed up--a style that was becoming more common in the early 20th century. Note that the older boy, although wearing knickers buckled above his knees, he doesn't seem to be wearing any type of socks or stockings. Image courtesy of the RS Collection. Click on the imsage for a fuller discussion.

Above-the-Knee Knickers: Nationality

Knickers were particularly popular boys' wear in America. Mothers in the 1910s and 1920s considered them the appropriate outfit for boys. Most mothers believed that knickers should be worn buckled above the knee. Apparently American boys preferred to buckle them below the knee, so above the knee knickers become much less popular in the 1920s, especially when kneesocks began replacing long stockings. This was both a type of knicker pants worn for both dress and formal occassions. Mostly American boys wore long stovkings for dress occassions, although by the late 1910s some boys were wearing kneesocks as well. Boys for casual might not wear socks or stockings at all. We have less infornmation on Europe, but do not at this time have any indication that above-the-knee knickers were widely worn in Europe. We have seen images of younger boys wearing above the knee bloomer (elasticised) above the knee knickers, but we have not noted proper knickers with button or buckle leg closures being worn above the knee in Europe. This may be, however, simply because we do not have adequate information.


Knickers in America were initially made to be fastened above the knee. The material commonly fellover the knee so the fact that they buckeled above the knee is not always simple to detect in available photographs. And this is how American boys mostly wore knickers, buckeled above the knee during the 1910s and 20s when they were most common. This is not entirely clear from the photographic record because the knickers material bloused at the knee and tended to cover the knee anyway. It was most obvious when boys wore knee socks. Most boys wore knickers with long stockings. A few boys wore then with knee socks and thus they look more like short pants as the knee shows. This was not very common, but we do see some examples in the photographic record, mostly during a short period from the laste-1910s and early-20s. Knee socks became standard in the 1930s, but the knickers worn then tended to be cut longer so the knee did not show.

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Created: August 30, 2002
Last edited: 11:55 PM 12/11/2009