Slteve: Underwear, Sleepwear, and Pants (late 1950s-early 60s)

Figure 1.--

A HBC reader provides us some details on his boyhood clothing in the late 1950s and early 60s. It is an especially useful account because his father was in the military. Thus the family moved a good bit, giving our reader a look at clothing trends in different arts of the country. He found that in some areas that boys wore mostly jeans, but in other areas short pants were worn. He noted a major change in this regard during the 1960s.

Our Family

My dad was in the military. Thus we moved a lot and as a result I lived all over America.


When I was a boy I wore T-shirts and briefs. My dad wore briefs and A -shirts (sleeveless undershirts or singlets). When I was in grade (primary) school my mom also bought fancy front briefs which were briefs withs with a knit back and a broadcloth front like boxer shorts. They always had pictures on them, but I didn't like them as well as regular briefs. I ghink it was the fact they were different that I didn't like. In Long Island (New York), and Philadelphia (Pennsylvania), and Iowa in the 1960s all the boys wore briefs and T-shirts. In Philadelphia some of the boys wore A-shirts instead of T-shirts. This was the only place I saw boys in A-shirts. In Bud Lake (New Jersey, Cleveland Ohio), and Hilliard most of the boys wore briefs, but quite a few wore both. In Cleveland the boys who wore boxers switched to middies in the Winter. These were knit knee-length pants like boxer briefs now. Some middies were thermal. Some boys, including boys who wore briefs, also wore short sleeve thermal shirts in the Winter. This is the only place where boys wore thermals. I never had any long johns and don't know anybody who did., In one family the older boy wore boxers and the younger brother wore briefs. He switched to briefs in high school.


We slept in our underwearduring the Summer and knnit ski pajamas in the Winter. I was a bed wetterso I had to wear something called Staydry Panties that my mom ordered from Parents Magazine. These had a plastic outside and a thick-diaper like liner inside. That was bad enough, but they had tie side--three or four tapes that you had to tie to put them on. I put them on myself, but mu mom always checked to see that I was wearing them abnd that they were tight enough, Sometimes she would make me hold them up by the waist while she retied them. They were open at the sideand leaked sometimes so my bed had a plastic sheet under the regular sheet to protect the matress. After I stopped wetting the bed in high school I had to wear them a couple extra months. They stayed in my drawer for a long time after that and I was glad when mom finally threw them out.

Clam Diggers

My mom bought me a pair of clam diggers in 1959. I was 9 years old. THey were white with a red stripe down the side and had an elastic back like boxer shorts. There was a rope instead of a belt. I didn't like them. I tried them on for a couple days, but decided they looked too much like girls pants. I also though the elatic back was for little kids. I rarely wore them, but some tomes mom insisted. It irritated her to spend money on clothes that I didn't wear and she didn't understand why I disn't wear them.

Short Pants

No boys wore shorts in the 1950s, at least round us. Mom made me some shorts from my old jeans. I ademently refused to wear them. In 1962 we moved to Bud Lake where all the kids wore shorts. Before that all the kids where I lived wore long jens all Summer, often taking off their shirts. It was after we moved to Bud Lake I asked mu mom for shirts, but she didn't want to buy them for me as I had refused to wear the ones she made for me earlier. She eventually bought me two pair which I liked and wore because the other kids were wearing them. After that, all the kids were wearing shorts no mattwr where we moved. Something must have changed. I never had a pair of cmp shorts. I remembered though that I liked how they looked with all the pockets.


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Created: 3:17 AM 5/8/2005
Last updated: 3:18 AM 5/8/2005