Prehistoric man went barefoot until some long lost soul conceived of footwear--probably consisted primarily of tree bark, plant leaves, or animal hides tied around the bottom of the foot simply to provide protection against rocks and rough terrain. During the 19th century and into the first half of the 20th century it was very common for boys and even girls to go barefoot even to school. This was especially common in the summer and in areas like the south of the United States and southern Europe. This is largely forgotton, by Hollywood. One sees very few children barefoot in films and television that is set during this period of time. Most American boys, at least during the summer went barefoot. There were several reasons for this: cost, manliness, comfort, and others.
Hosiery or hose are tailored coverings for the feet or legs worn with shoes or sandals. The extent to which legs were covered and not just feet depended on the fashion trnds of the era, especially the hem length of pants, skirts, and related garments. Modern hose are made of knitted or woven fabric, but this has not always been the case throughout history. Hoisery in American usage is synomous with hose, but in Briatain may refer to any machine-knitted garment. The discussion here refers to the American usage.
The boys and girls wearing long stockings in the second half of the 19th Century held them up with various styles of stocking supporters. I believe that boys did not wear these supporters commonly in the first half of the 19th Century because kneepants were not nearly as common. Boys wearing long trousers did not commonly wear stocking supporters. It was not until the 1870s when kneepants became more commonly worn that stocking supporters became widely worn. Both boys and girls wore them. They were several different styles, including over the shoulder and waist styles. They were not very comfortable especially for boys involved in strenous outdoor activities. Notably Lord Baden Powell when he designed the first Boy Scout uniform chose kneesocks so cumbersome stocking supporters would not be necessary.
After World War II the long over the knee stockings worn by younger boys evolved into footed tights. Reports from Eastern Germany indicate that younger elementary boys wore tights with short pants during the winter. Even when shorts became less commonly worn in the 1970s, boy continued wearing the warm tights under their long pants. School children in Korea and Japan, both boys and girls, wore tights during the winter, the boys with shorts the girls with dresses.
Men have worn footwear since prehistpric times, boys were, however, more likely to go barefoot. Early footwear probably consisted primarily of tree bark, plant leaves, or animal hides tied around the bottom of the foot simply to provide protection against
rocks and rough terrain. However, it wasn't long before footwear became a touch more sophisticated while at the same time growing somewhat more attractive, to
the extent that, as with a hat, a man's status could be judged merely on the basis of what he wore on his feet. American boys well into the 20th century would commonly go barefoot in the summer. This was especially common in rural areas. This was in part because if the
cost of shoes, but also because boys finding going barefoot in the days before sneakers more comfortable. Some boys considered in more manly to go barefoot.
Now boys mostly like to wear sneakers or sport sandals. Boys in New Zealand and Australia, however, still often go barefoot. Boys have wore sandals since ancient times. In more recent times, boys have worn both closed-toe and open-toe sandals. The closed toe-type is now considered by most to be for only very small boys or girls. Oxford shoes appeared as modified boots for, as the name indicates, Ocford university students in the 17th century.
Boys have worn a wide variety of shoes since the 17th century. Until the 19th century, however, they mostly wore small editions of women's shoes while still in dresses and small editions of their fathers' shoes after breeching. Distinctive shoes for children appeared in the late 18th and early 19th century. Boys in the early 19th century wore
slipper-type pumps with white stockings. Strap shoes were worn at mid century by boys still in dresses. After the middle of the century, button boots were comonly worn especially in America. By the turn of the century footware
had become more varried. After World War I sneakers, saddle shoes, and closed-toe sandals appeared. The principal shoe for boys, however, was to be the oxford. After World War II other styles like loafers appeared, but by the 1970s boys wanted to wear sneakers.
Sandals have become increasingly popular during the 1990s.
We have relatively little information about leggings or gaiters. The first images I have noticed are during the 1870s, but they may have been worn earlier. Presumably leggings came into style as boys began to commonly wear kneepants. Mothers apparently concluded that boys in kneepants needed the leggings for warmth. They were worn with a variety of garments through thr 1940s, but were little worn by the 1950s. I know that they were commonly worn in America. I'm less sure about how common they were in other countries. They were made in a number of materials, including leather and woolen fabrics. They also were made in many styles, including some with large numbers of buttons.
Spats are short gaiters or leggings worn over the instepans usually fastened undr the instep with a strap. The purpose was to protect the shoe. Spats are more associated with adults than children, but we have noted children wearing them as well. The term appeared around the turn of the 19th century in England and was an abreviation for " spatterdash ".
Navigate the Historic Boys' Clothing Web Site:
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Cloth and textiles] [Clothing styles] [Countries] [Topics]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Satellite sites] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]
Navigate the Historic Boys' Clothing Web chronological pages:
[Early 18th century] [The 1800s] [The 1830s] [The 1850s] [The 1860s] [The 1870s] [The 1880s]
[The 1890s] [The 1900s] [The 1910s] [The 1920s]
[The 1930s] [The 1940s]
Navigate the Historic Boys' Clothing Web style pages:
[Knee pants] [Knickers] [Short pants suits]
[Kilts] [Sailor suits] [Shoes]
[Ring bearer/page costumes] [Shortalls]