Suspender Shorts

Figure 1.--Short pants held up with attached suspenders crossing at the back were a popular style for little boys. Note the large buttons in contrasting colors.

Suspender shorts were short pants held up by suspenders either sewn on the shorts or attached by buttons. The suspenders are not elasticised, but usually made of the same material as the shorts. The shorts themseves were usually cut briefly as the style was mostly for little boys. They were more popular in Europe, especially France and Germany, than in America, but younger boys did war them. The suits for younger boy often had suspender short pants.


Suspender shorts were short pants held up by suspenders either sewn on the shorts or attached by buttons. The shorts are made without elasticized waists or belt loops. The suspenders themselves are not elasticised, but usually made of the same material as the shorts. The shorts themseves were usually cut briefly as the style was mostly for younger boys. The suspenders are deemed appropriate for younger boys without prominent waists to keep their pants up. Suspender shorts were designed with the suspenders to cross in the back and fall straight down in the front, buttoning at the waist. HBC has noted, however, that some boys wore them differently. We are not sure if they were made this way, or more likely if the boys just did not put them on correctly. We known that the suspenders in some suspender shorts were completely detachable. Some may have come attached in the back. Normally the suspender shorts buttoned to the front. Some suspenders shorts had prominent, large buttons in contrasting colors.


Suspender shorts were made in a wide range of material. Dressy shorts for suits were commonly wool. Play shorts were made in many different materials.


Many considered belts inappropriate for little boys as thus the suspender style shorts were made for them. Generally suspender shorts in America were only made for boys in sizes up to 7 or 8 years old. This varied somewhat from country to country and over time. They were more common in Europe, but not in Britain. Many of our images of suspender shorts are from the 1920s-50s. After the 1960s we note increasingly younger boys wearing suspender shorts.We have noted older European boys wearing them. We have seen boys up to about 10 commonly wearing them, but occassionally we see boys 11-12 wearing them. Rarely do we see teenagers wearing them.


Suspender shorts were worn with different purpopses in mind. Some were play shorts. Other suspender shorts were worn for dress occasions. American Eton suits, for example, usually came with suspender shorts. Shorts for these different purposes were destinguishable by the material and finishing.

Figure 2.--These French school children in Algiers during 1952-53 are in the CM2 year, the older boys in a primary school. They would have been about 10-11 years old. Only one boy is wearing suspender shorts--bibfront suspender shorts. We don't see any boys wearing regular suspender shorts, although the straps could have been covered by jackets and sweaters.


The popularity of suspender shorts varied somewhat from country to country. They appear to have been most popular in Europe, although younger American boys also wore them. I do not ghink that they were very popular in England. I am most familiar with suspender shorts as an American style. I begin to see them about the 1930s. They were not one of the more popular style of shorts, but were commonly worn by younger boys for dress wear. Most younger boys wore them in the 1930s and 40s. HBC ha noted that British boys did wear suspender shorts, but not nearly as commonly as boys in France, Germany, and other counties on the Continent. Suspender shorts seem to have been especially popular in France, perhaps more so than any other country. We do not have a complete chronology of suspender shorts, but they appear to have been widely worn by French boys from the 1930s through the 1950s. HBC has noted many German boys wearing suspender shorts. Grmany appears to have been one of the countries where suspender shorts were most common. A lot of pictures are currently appearing in the press describing the Berlin Air Lift. Quite a number of the younger boys in 1948 appear to be wearing suspender shorts. We alo note many German images from the 1950s, especially the early 1950s ofGerman boys wearing suspender shorts. HBC has also noted French boys wearing suspender shorts. I think suspender shorts were popular in Italy, but I have little information at this time. HBC still has very little information on suspender shorts in Japan. I have noted younger children wearing suspender shorts. School age children wore them less commonly. Notably, girls at Japanese schools wear suspender skirts, but boys generally do not wear suspender shorts.


Suspender shorts in America was most commonly used for dressy clothes. The shorts worn by American boys with Eton suits, for example, often came with suspender shorts. Unlike the shorts worn by older American boys which often came to above the knee, the suspender style shorts were much shorter, often coming just to the relatively short Eton jacket. Suspendershorts in Europe were not so commonly used as a dressy style. Rather they appear in short pants for every day and school wear as well as dress clothes.

Figure 3.--Suspender shorts are not as common as they once were, but are still worn by younger boys--primarily for dressy occasiins.


I'm not sure when the style originated and have little informatiion about the chronology of this style. Short pants only appeared as a significant sxtyle for boys after the turn of the 20th century. The prevalence of this style varied from country to country. It appears to have been a particularly popular style on the Continent, especially France. Suspender shorts were also worn in Germany, England, and other European countries. They seemed to have been popular in France through the 1950s, but declimed during the 1960s. I do not recal seeing suspender shorts commonly in America during the 1930s, but it was popular by the 1940s. Little boys were dressed in suspender shorts through the 1970s. Suspender shorts are not as common as they once were, but are still worn by younger boys. The style is primarily for dressy occasions in America. I'm not sure if the style is still worn in other countries.

Alternative Styles

There were various styles similat to suspender shorts. Suspender shorts had sewn on susnder straps in the same material as the shorts themselves. Normally the suspender straps were sewn on to the back of the shorts and attached with buttons at the front. Some suspender shorts were made completely detachable, buttoning at the front and back. The two major alternatives were bibfront shorts and completely detachable suspenders, often done in an elasticized material. Bibfront shorts were very popular for younger children. They were less common for oldr boys, but an older primarty boy can be seen here wearing bib-front shorts in the early 1950s (figure 2). Many shorts were made with button attachments. Suspenders with clasps were also used. These detachable suspenders didn't carry so much juvenile connotation, as they used a standard method for keeping trousers up. I've seen pictures of young teens wearing them in the 20s or 30s.


Suspender shorts were made in many different styles. We do not yet have details on the different styles. We note knit shorts being made as suspender shorts.

Personal Experiences

American boy: A trip to Europe in the 1960s


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Created: July 13, 1998
Last updated: January 15, 2004