Swiss Boys' Garments: Pants and Trousers

Figure 1.--This is a detail from a portrait at the Wallisellen second school, within the canton of Zurich. The photograph was taken March 6, 1928. These boys look to be about 15 years old, well along in their schooling. They are still dressed in short trousers with black long stockings. This seems to indicate that long stockings and shorts continued to be worn by teenagers of secondary school age during the late-1920s in Switzerland (and Germany as well). Note the single-breasted jackets and the white open-collar shirts. Also the hightop shoes which were characteristic of the period. Black stockings seem to dominate for older boys during the 1920s although we do see lighter colors beginning to creep in little by little. These boys are wearing short trousers rather than knee pants although they are rather longer--only an inch or so above the knee--than boys would we wearing a few years later in the German-speaking world. Some boys from this class also wore baggy knickers.

We notice Swiss boys wearing many different types of pants trousers. Long pants were common through much of the 19th century. We begin to see knee pants and other shortened-length pants like bloomer knickers at mid-century for younger boys. Older boys began wearing them later in the century. Knee pants were common in the early-20 century. We see many boys wearing short pants after World War I (1914-18). Knickers seem nore common in Switzerland than other European countries, perhaps because of the cold weather in a very mountaneous country. In other countries we see mostly teenagers wearing knickers, but we see many school-age boys wearing them in Switzerland. Short pants were very common after World War II. but gradually we see more boys wearing long pants. Like knickers we see quite a number of younger boys wearing long pants in Switzerland before it became common in the rest of Europe.


Types of Pants

Swiss boys wore all the standard types of pants worn in neighboring countries, especially Germany. Swiss fashions were strongky incluenced by Germany, both the large German clothing industry and cultural ties. The only exception seems to be Lederhosen This is cirious given that Lederhosen were an Alpibne style. Most of our information comes from the German part of Switzerland. We suspect that pants styles were similar in the French-speaking areas of Switzerland, although there mustr have been a French influence there as well. Knickers seem to have been a little more popular in Switzerland than Germany, at least we see them into the 1950s when they were no longer common in Germany. Knee pants abd short psnts, often worn with long stockings, were very common for Swiss boys through the 1950s, even during the winter. Only in the 1960s did short pants begin to be less common for Swiss boys. This was the beginning of the development of the American influenced pan-European styles that now dominate European fashion.


An important aspect of wearing trousers and pants was how to hold them up. Younger children tended to be slender without noticeable hips which made trouser or skirt suspension a special problem. There were several sollutions to the problem of trouser suspension. Suspenders were the primarily method of suspension in the 19th century for both men and boys. This continued in the 20th century until after World War I. We see many Swiss boys wearing suspenders in the early 20th century. Suspender pants and H-bar pants became very common for younger boys. We are not sure how common button-on clothes were in Switzerland. It seems suspenders were much more common. Older boys by the 1930s were increasingly wearing belts.



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Created: 3:02 AM 11/20/2010
Last updated: 11:15 PM 1/8/2011