Figure 1.--Sears in its 1928-29 winter catalog offered novelty long stockings. Here there are many patterns. Most of the long stockings we have noted in actual photographs were solid colors.
I hadn't realized that for a short time in the later 1920s and early 1930s patterned long stockings were popular and sometimes worn by boys as well as girls. This
page from Sears's Fall and Winter catalog for 1928-29 illustrates the variety of patterns then available. The heading is for "Girls' and Boys' Novelty Wool Hosiery"
but, as the ad makes clear, the stockings were only partly made of wool, most being mixed with cotton or rayon yarns for greater durability and probably lighter
weight. I haven't found
this style of long stocking worn very much by boys. I think the appeal was
more to girls. But some boys did wear them, and the ad specifies that they
were for children of both genders. Some of the stockings were made
with "double garter tops" which suggests that the advertisers were hinting
that no hose supporters might be needed to keep them up, but I think they were
nevertheless worn most often with supporters by children of both genders.
The Sears, Roebuck and Co., huge merchandising firm centered in Chicago was founded by Richard W. Sears (1863-1914) and A.C. Roebuck (1864-1948). Sears had begun a career in mail-order business in Minnesota 1886. In Chicago he and Roebuck joined resources and formed a corporation in 1893 as a mail-order business under title Sears, Roebuck and Company. In 1895 Julius Rosenwald (1862-1932) bought Roebuck's interest in firm and became president on Sears's retirement 1908. A retail-store system was added 1925. The first foreign store added in Havana, Cuba during 1945 and becane te first expropriated store in 1960. The Sears-Roebuck brought the production of industry to the fartherest corner of rural America, opening the cornucopia of the consumer age to rural America. All the new things that were changing American life danced across their pages. Through it, a huge Chicago warehouse offers to modernize the farms and small towns of the Midwest.
We are not precisely sure what ages are mean for the hosiery sized indicated here. They vary from 5 1/2 to 9 1/2. If these sizes do mean age, if would mean that in 1929 long stockings would in 1928 only be worn by younger school-age children. A HBC reader writes, "My sense is that the size of the stockings is he same as the age of the child. Thus the largest size would be for boys 9 1/2 years old. But this may be wrong, because surely children older than 9 1/2 wore stockings. In the 1940s Sears ads for long stockings the largest size is usually 10, but I wore long stockings when I was 12 or older, so they must have come in larger sizes for older boys. I don't recall ever having the size of stockings mentioned when I was a boy. So I'm afraid I'm not too much help on this point." In ads during the 1930s we have noted long stockings in sizes for children up to about 12 years of age.
Another questioin we have is the term "sports hose". We believe that this may mean csual. We believe that for formal dress that children would have worn solid colored hoiery, black, dark brown, or white rather than the patterned styles seen here.
The ad copy about the specific items provides some interesting infomation. The title of the page was, "Girls' and Boys' Novelty Wool Hosiery; Fine Quality" and then in smaller print "Rayon and Wool" and "Newest Fancy Pattern". The heading says that the hosiery seen here was for boys and girls. The copy fpr most of the items, however, does not mention gender. We are thus left to guess if these hosiery here is for both genders unless otherwise specified. Also notice that rayon is being used as part of mixed blend fabrics.
The ad copy read, "86N2681--Black
86N2684--French tan Sizes, 6 to 9 1/2: State size.
Shipping weight, 3 ounces.
These are good, sturdy stockings for children--snug protection in the cold
weather! Knit of one-half wool and one-half Rayon, silky and lustrous.
Finished in the popular ribbed style. Genuine, excellent value--for
comfort and finish, these handsome stockings are a remarkable offer at our
price! Do not miss the extra quality in style and price that makes Sears
hosiery famous! Reinforced heels and toes."
This appears to be a solid colored item. Notably it is the one for which the boy model is used. The ad copy read "The Only Value of Its Kind! Half Wool
Hose of Excellent Make.
Sizes, 5 1/2 to 9 1/2. State size. Shipping weight, 3 ounces.
Our best seller! Because they're best quality--the finest of their kind!
Knit of pure, soft, long staple yarns, half wool, half cotton. Ribbed to
the toe!. Properly sized and properly reinforced at toes and heels! Made
to fit--to give the utmost in comfort and service and real winter warmth!
Here is quality that can be relied upon, above standard in every way. Try
these stockings! That's the only way you can realize their marvelous
value! The undreamed of saving they offer! You would pay a great deal
more for these stockings anywhere else. Fully seamless feet.
For other Wool Hosiery for children, see page 241."
This is one style that was specifically for girls. The ad copy read, "
Sizes 7 1/2 to 9 1/2. State size. Shipping weight, 3 oz.
Neat, attractice fashions in sports hose! Knit of cotton and Rayon with a
small percentage of wool for warmth. Trim, natty hose that add
distinction to the schoolgirl's winter dresses! These are warm, well made
stockings, reinforced at toes and heels; made with seamed back, seamless
feet, double garter top! Little girls will be delighted with them--will
love them for their warmth and smartness! Buy these fashionable stockings
at the World's Largest Store, where the best quality obtainable is offered
at money saving prices! Patterns similar to illustration."
This item was referred to as "sports hose". I'm not sure what sport the reference was to, perhaps golf, but that was not a sport normally assocoiated with boys and girls. The ad copy read, "For Warmth and Style.
Sizes, 7 1/2 to 9 1/2 State size. Shipping weight, 3 ounces.
Here is a value you won't want to miss. Where else can you find this
price for such good looking sports hose? Made of one-third wool, ballance
cotton! Full, close, even, wooly texture, knit in a handsome plaid design
of soft, beautiful coloring! Patterns similar to illustration. Sturdy
seamless feet, double garter tops! We're sure you can duplicate this for
smartness or service at the price!"
The ad copy reads, "Our Best Sports HoseAbout. One-Third Wool
Sizes 6 to 9 1/2. State size. Shipping weight, 3 ounces.
The best in our wide selection of children's sports hose! Superior stockings--
that excel in every way! An attractive plaid design in warm contrasting
colors, smartly outlined with Rayon yarns. One-third wool, with about two-
thirds silk-like mercerized cotton. Reinforced toes and heels. Seamless
feet. These stockings are made to give the greatest possible value in quality
at a moderate price! Patterns similar to illustration."
The ad copy read, "86N2572--Blue, French tan, Peach or Gray. Sizes, 7 1/2 to 9 1/2. State
size and color. Shipping weight, 3 ounces.
One of the popular new designs! A good-lookiing block pattern developed
in beautiful color combination. Knit of fine mercerized cotton, plated
with Rayon on the outside for silk-like smoothness and luster. Made with
reinforced toes and heels; double tops, seamless feet!"
A girl model is used here, but there is no indication in the text that this selection was only for girls. The ad copy read, "
Sizes, 7 1/2 to 9 1/2, Shpg. wt., 3 oz.
Another new pattern! A handsome color design in Rayon and mercerized
cotton hose. Fine, even texture, with silk-like luster of Raylon on the
outside; cotton within. A smooth, lustrous surface traced with narrow
stripes in rich, soft combinations of color! Reinforced heels and toes,
double garter tops, seamless feet. Splendid quality! In eact, accurate
sizing; in excellent materials; in lovely design and finish."
These were the most inexpensive hosiery item. Again we are not sure what Sears meant by "sports hose" Perhaps the modern sence would be casual. The ad copy read, "86N2645--Beige
Sizes, 7 1/2 to 9 1/2. State size. Shipping weight, 3 ounces.
The best seller in children's sports hose! In neat smarness of pattern
these stockings are value far beyond their price! These are soft, well
shaped stockings knit all of fine, long staple cotton--reinforced at heels
and toes. Seamless feet, double garter tops."
We do not think that these patterened long stockings were very popular, at least for boys. This is somewhat surprising as patterened kneesocks were very popular for boy at the time. Many images of boys wearing knickers by the late 1920s show them being worn with patterened kneesocks. The fac that boys did not commonly wearthese patterened long stockings may be a reflection of the declining popularity of long stockings for boys, especially older boys. We note very few images of boys wearing these patterened long stockings. One of thge few images we have noted is a boy at Hull House. Although there are several hundred images of boys wearing long stockings on HBC, this is the only image we recall of a boy wearing patterened stockings--other than stripes which were popular in the 19th century.
Our HBC contributor writes, "What I said earlier about the "double garter top" referring to the possibility thatthe stockings would stay up on their own is probably a mistake. The
"double garter top" feature means, I now think, that the tops of the stockings are reinforced at a point where the supporters are attached so as to prevent their being torn or worn by the strain of the garter clasp. This makes more sense. If the advertisers had meant that the stockings didn't need supporters, they would have said so, as they did later when
advertizing elasticized tops in the 1940s. Stay-up long stockings hadn't been invented as early as 1928. I originally thought that the phrase indicated elasticizing of the stocking
tops so that they could be worn without supporters and would stay up on their
own. But I now realize this is an error because the elasticized tops were a
later invention shown in one the HBC stocking pages for the 1940s (Sears
catalog) along with button-on stockings. But neither of these styles proved
popular or very practical. The 1928 catalog's mention of "double garter tops"
refers, I believe, to the reinforcement of the stockings at the top where the
supporters would be attached. The extra strength at the top would prevent
tearing or damage to the stocking where the supporter clasps were fastened.
Also I think you are right that the term "sports stocking" does not refer to
any particular sport but merely to a more casual, less dressy and "sporty"
style that would appeal to boys and girls."
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