** English boy clothes -- suits trousers knickers








English Boys Suits: Trousers--Knickers


Figure 1.--This English boy is unidentified. The caninet card is undated, but would gues was taken about 1890. We see quite a few school boys wearing Eton collars and knicker suits in the late-19th century. Notice the live plants used in the studio. This was more common in England than America. The photographer was Hoffman of Acton W. London, England.

Knickers were one of the shortened-length pants that appeared in the mid-19th century. The first to appear were the bloomer knickers for younger boys. Standard knickers for older boys appeared later. We are not sure about the precise chronlogy. Our albeit limited archive suggests that long pants were still the common troudsr type for English boys' suits in the 1870s. We begin to see quite quite a few boys wearing knicker suits by the 1880s. We see many boys wearing kncker suits at school in the late-19th century. We are unsure if knicker suits were a school uniform style or also commonly worn away from school Of course, wardrobes were less extensive in the 19th centurty than is the case today. Thus unless a boy came from a rich family, he might wear his school uniform like a regular suit. We are still not sure if there were basic differences between school uniforms and the standard suits worn by boys. At the time most boys except the well-to-do did not attend school by the time they reached their teen years. We notice fewer knicker suits in the 20th century, especially after World War I. They became seen as more of a sporty outfit for golf or country outings. Some teenagers wore them, but they were not commonly worn by boys. We notice German tailors using the term "knickers" as a generalized term for shortened-length pants in the early-20th century, perhaps because kjbnickers were so common in the 19th century. The usage of this term declined as the British began to use it meaning ladies underwear. The term for knickers as a type of trousers became 'knickerbockers'.

Origins

we see pants that look rather like knickers in the 17th century. They rather disappeared in the 18th century when men and boys commonly wore knee breeches. Apparently the Dutch were known for wearing loose, voluminous trousers. This may have been more folk dress than fashionable clothing. Ot was a style we see Dutch boys wearing into the 20 century. Knickers reentered the modern fashion scene in the mid-19th century. We see younger boys wearing shortened length pants, both bloomerr knickers and straigh-leg knee pants. We are not sure what they were called at first. The term knickers began as knickerbockers. It was an invention of American author Washingtom Irving which at first had nothing to do with clothing. but rather upper-crust Dutch-Americans. English illustrator George Cruikshank e illustrated Irving's History of New York when it was published in London. He depicted the old-time Dutch Knickerbockers in loose Dutch breeches. This was the origin of the British term knickerbockers maning loose knee length trousers closed at the knee. It was also the origin of the British term knickers meaning women's voluminous undepants. We also see boys short pants referred to as knickers in the early-20th centiry. The first knickers we see were exclusively for younger boys. They were bloomer knickers with draw string closings. They were worn with both tunics and and suits. We soon see boys and men wearing knickers beginning we think in the 1860s. Men wore them as a kinf of hunting/sports outfit, often with Norfolk jackets--the country squire look thar King Edward VII helped populrize. They were seen as more practical country wear than trousers, but almost always worn as part of a suit. Boys wore them much more extensibely and not just woth Norfolk jackets. Knicker suits were mych more common in England than America. American boys more commonly wore straight-leg knee pants. Many public schools adopted knickers suits as part od the school uniform. We see this into he early-20th cntury, but much less commonly after World War I in the 1920s. For some reason the gods of fashion reversed the trans-Atlantic fashion trends. Knickers for boys went out of fashion in Britain, but were the virtully universal choice for American boys.

Terminology

Knicker pants s were called knickerbockers in Britain. Knickerbockers would hve been understood in america, but would have been seen as rather snooty language. Knickers in the early 20th century had the meaning of short trousers which I believed continued until after World War II. One reader whose father operatred a mens' wear store tells us that his father used knickers for short trousers into the 1950s. A British reader writes, "By the way the word itself - "knickers" today has the meaning of women's underwear here and would cause us to giggle as kids in the 1970s. I'm writing part of my memories based around this fact as there was an expensive ice-cream called a "knickerbocker glory" sold at seaside resorts here and this brought back some amusing memories.I believe knickers is the short form of knickerbockers but I don't know why the ice-cream was so-called," Another reader writes, "Like I say I only remember things from the 60s/70s and onwards. For us,us kids,it was almost a forbidden word - almost akin to a swearword.This was still true even in the 90s. I did some work in the theatre (backstage) in the 90s and worked on a pantomime.The usual audience participation thing went on.Skateboards were a big Christmas thing with kids then and the "hero" used to enter on one. Then he'd leave it at the side of the stage and ask the kids in the audience if they'd keep an eye on it for him.There is an English term for to steal or to pinch something and that is to "nick" something ( this may be just a London term - I'm not sure).Anyway the "hero" of the play wuld ask the kids to shout out "Nickers" if they saw anyone - the "Villain" of course coming on stage to "nick" his skateboard.The kids loved it - shouting out a "rude" word in front of their teachers ( we used to do matinee performances for schools ) - but some of the teachers complained. Maybe this connatation - with women's underwear - only took root in the 60s when I was growing up. I never heared shorts referrred to as knickers.

Chronology

The English knickers, almost always referred to as knickerbockers, were close or medium-fitting trousers that came below the knee. Knickers were one of the shortened-length pants that appeared in the mid-19th century. The first to appear were the bloomer knickers for younger boys. Standard knickers for older boys appeared later. We are not sure about the precise chronlogy. Our albeit limited archive suggests that long pants were still the common troudsr type for English boys' suits in the 1870s. We begin to see quite quite a few boys wearing knicker suits by the 1880s. We see many boys wearing kncker suits at school in the late-19th century. We see them in late-19th century photograp[hs and seem to have commonly been worn to school. They were also worn for country outings by young men and adults. This would have been a relatively narrow part of the population. By the 1910s shorts were becoming more important in England, in part we think because of the inluence of Lord Baden Powell's Scout movement. English boys by the 1920s more commonly wore shorts although some older English boys wore knickers. The photographic record suggests that shorts were much more prevalent. Most English boys when they outgrew short pants wore long pants. Knickers in the 1920s and 30s were not nearly as popular in England as in America or even the continent for boys. We notice fewer knicker suits in the 20th century, especially after World War I. Some teenagers wore them, but they were not commonly worn by boys. A British reader writes, "I certainly never saw them being worn here and believe they died out even earlier - maybe the 1920s - at which point most boys were wearing short trousers." Knickers were more common as smart casual wear by the affluent class.

Construction

We have only limited information on the construction of English knickers. we notice John Montagu Slopford in 1871. His knickers had draw string closures. The boy here in the early-20th century looks to have a band rather like American boys at the time, presumably with a button closure (figure 1). Like straight-leg knee pants, we see these knicker pants being done in a range of cuts and somewhat different lengths.

Decoration

We see the pants done with embroidery matching jackets in the 1860s-70s.

Bloomer Knickers

We note younger boys wearing bloomer knickers at mid century. They were worn with various jackets and tunics. We see youngerboys wearing hese bloomer knickers for the rest of the 19th century and into the early-20th century. They were popular with Fauntleroy suits (1880s-90s). American boys mostly wore Fauntelroy suits with straight-legs knee pants. British boys noustly wore knickers. We still see these knicker pants for younger boys in the early-20th century. An unidentified boy about 1900-05 is a good example.

Accompaying Clothing


Jackets

We see English boys wearing different styles of suit jackets with knickers, but single breasted suit jackets were very common. Our archive is still very limited, but single-breasted suits seem by far the most common, more common than in America where we see many boys wearing double-breasted jackets. We believe the popularity of single-breasted jackets was in part because that this was in part because it was the the style generally preferred for school uniforms. This meant primarily private schools, but styles at these schools was influential in setting popular styles. Norfolk jackers were another popular style. As far as we can tell, knickers were mostly suit pants. I don't think it was very common, as it was in America, to just buy a pair of knickers separate from a suit coat.

Vests


Hosiery

English boys mostly wore knickers with long stockings or knee socks.

School Style

We are unsure if knicker suits were a school uniform style or also commonly worn away from school Of course, wardrobes were less extensive in the 19th centurty than is the case today. Thus unless a boy came from a rich family, he might wear his school uniform like a regular suit. We are still not sure if there were basic differences between school uniforms and the standard suits worn by boys. At the time most boys except the well-to-do did not attend school by the time they reached their teen years. Knickers were being worn by English school boys by the late-19th Century. They were extensively worn by older boys in England, mostly boys at private schools. We nelieve this became fairly common in the 1880s.

Ages

We note school age boys wearing knee pants suits in the 19th century. We do not have much information on the early- and mid-19th century. Unlike America, few Daguerreotypes and Ambro-types are available from England coveringthe mid-century. But with the appearance of the CDV (1860s) we begin to photographic portaits in some numbers that allow us to assess fashion trends. Our archive is still limited, but we note boys wearing kncker suits from about 6-15 years of age. We have just begun to work on age conventions, but this is a rough estimate for the second half of the 19th-century. Many boys wore knicker suits to school. A number of private schools had them as school uniforms. While many boys wore knicker suits, knee pnts suits were much more common in America. At the turn-of-the 20th century we see more boys wearing knee pabts suits. Herec age was a factor. After Wotrld War I in the 190s, short psnts suits became standard wear for boys. We note some teenagers wearing knickers suits as akkind of transition to long pants. We note the samectrend in Italy, France, and Germany. This contrasts with America where knicker suits had become standard wear in the 1910s. We nolonger see knickers suits to any extent in Englnd after World War II, but short pants suits were still common until the 1960s.

Social Class

We are not sure about the social class conventions in the 19th century. We know that boys attendiung private schools wore them. We are not sure yet about woirking-class boys. Knickers in the 1920s became seen as more of a sporty outfit for golf or country outings. We are not yet sure about social class conventions. As far as we can tell, knickers were largely a middle and upper class style. We less commonly see working-class boys wearing them. Thisis, owever, still an initial impression and we are still trying gonassess this.

Terminology

We notice tailors using the term"knickers" as a generalized term for shortened-length pants in the early-20th century, perhaps because kjbnickers were so common in the 19th century. The usage of this term declined as the British began to use it meaning ladies underwear. The term for knickers as a type of trousers became "knickerbockers". A British reader writes, "I think my forebears would have called these 'knickerbockers'. The identical garments worn by adults for golf were called 'plus-fours', i.e four inches below the knee. More recently 'plus-two's have been worn. I think the hunting parties still use the term knickerbockers' or 'breeches'. As you know 'knickers' are female undergarments to us, but the term is also used in an informal and jocular way to refer to male undergarments. When packing for a journey my late wife would say, "don't forget to take plenty of knickers!" This is a good description of 20th century usage. What we are not sure about is 19th century usage. And we have noted the term "knickers" being used meaning short pants by tailors and others in clothing stores during the eaerly-20th century.









HBC





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Created: 4:39 AM 3/21/2010
Last updated: 6:24 AM 4/29/2017