Figure 1.--This Sears advertisement for boy's garter waists from their 1939-40 catalog shows available suspeners and stocking supporters. The stocking supporters were the standard means of keeping up long stockings in the late 1930s and early 1940s. At this point in U.S. history boys usually wore tan long stockings, made of cotton, with short pants, although they could also be worn with knickers and sometimes were.
This Sears advertisement for boy's suspenders and garter waists/stocking supporters show the standard means of keeping up long stockings in the late 1930s and early 40s. At this point in U.S. history boys usually wore tan long stockings, made of cotton, with short pants, although they could also be worn with knickers and sometimes were.
Girls wore the same garter waists under skirts, but the fact that this particular ad restricts itself to boys is of some interest. The fact that both short pants and skirts were getting shorter necessitated making the stockings extra long, stretching (as in this photograph) to mid-thigh or even higher. The Sears ad copy read, "More Comfort for Kiddies in 'Free Play' Garments."
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. The catalog by the 1890s included just about any imaginable item. You could even purchase a complete house--all you had to do was assembkle it. In 1895 Julius Rosenwald (1862-1932) bought Roebuck's interest the 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 catalog 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.
The ad pictured here comes from the Sears winter 1939-40 catalog. While girls probably by 1939-40 more commonly wore long stockings than boys, the fact that boys are featured in the ad shows that boys, especially younger boys, still commonly wore them in the United States.
These stocking supporters were for boys and girls. This ad us somewhat unusual for Sears as most ads for stocking supporters pictured boys and girls--to show that they were for both genders. This is one of the few with boys only. Perhaps because the ad focused on the strength of the stoicking supporters that rough boys were chosen.
The sizes shown are from 2-14 years. Likely the larger sizres were worn by girls.
Sears in this ad refers to "suspenders" as the item to hold a boy's pants up. Sears uses the term "garters" for stocking supporters. These terms were not always used consistently. Further confusion comes from the fact that the British use "braces" rather than suspenders.
The elastic part of the supporter with buckles for adjusting length, is the top part. Manufacturers discovered that the garters lasted longer if the pendants (the lower part with the clasps for the stocking attachment) were made of non-elastic material. Note that in 1939, the year World War II began in Europe that synthetic fibers were begining to be used in clothing. Here rayon is being used. Once Amerca entered the War in 1941, most of the production of synthetic fibers was relegated to war use. Nylon was, for example, used to replace silk in the manufacture of parachutes.
This Sears advertisement for boy's garter waists shows the standard means of keeping up long stockings in the late 1930s and early 1940s. At this point in U.S. history boys usually wore tan long stockings, made of cotton, with short pants, although they could also be worn with knickers and sometimes were. See the long stocking display. Girls wore the same garter waists under skirts, but the fact that this particular ad restricts itself to boys is of some interest. The fact that both short pants and skirts were getting shorter necessitated making the stockings extra long, stretching (as in this photograph) to mid-thigh or even higher. The long stockings were worn both for warmth and for formality.
Note that the boys in the photograph, probably about 7 or 8 years old, wear
short union suits rather than long underwear, the long stockings serving as an
alternative to the long johns that some boys of the period wore during the
Both styles of garter waist shown here are designed also to serve as a kind of shoulder brace to improve posture and therefore have an ancillary athletic function by implication. The shoulder straps are held in place by straps across both the chest and the back so that they can't slip off during active or rough-and-tumble play. Each style has a waistband
with buttons around it for buttoning on shorts or other clothing and a pair of
Y-shaped hose supporters attached to the waistband. Both the shoulder straps and the garters can be adjusted for size.
The ad copy reads, "Kern's "Daisy"--so simple, children dress themselves! Sturdy white cotton tape. Adjustable shoulders, elastic garters. Buttons at side, front and back for outer garments. Front and back straps prevent slipping from shoulders. Age-Sizes: 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14. State age-size. Shipping weight, 4 oz. 25 D 5433 Each 37c.
Above style in lighter weight white cotton tape. Even age-sizes: 2 to 12.
State age-size. Shipping weight. 3 oz. 25 D 5432. Each 21c." The boy on the right, wearing "Kern's Daisy" garter waist, models a style developed earlier by one Dr. Parker and referred to in earlier Sears and Wards catalogs as "Dr. Parker's waist". (For more detail see Charles's discussion of the Dr. Parker association in his Personal Experience page). The manufacturer's idea clearly was to convey the impression that this style of hose supporter had been scientifically designed by an expert in the medical profession with the health and freedom of movement of the child as an objective. The Kern's Daisy model shows detachable supporters fastened to the waistband by means of safety pins. Note that the ad also shows two grades of pin-on garters which could be used to replace the supporters already attached if they wore out. This style is offered in sizes up to age 14. But the majority of boys wearing these waists were 10 years of age or under. Most girls wore the larger sizes. Older girls and a few older boys wore them also, but most older boys had graduated to knickers by the age of 11.
The ad copy reads, "Kern's Sateen Button-On Garter Waist. Double-thickness material reinforced at all strain points. Soft sateen, eliminates irritation at rub points. Adjustable elastic garters. Straps across front and back. White. Even Age-Sizes 2 to 12. State age-size. Shpg. wt., 3 oz. 25 D 5436--Each 59c." The more expensive garter waist on the left, "Kern's Sateen Button-on-Garter Waist," is made of softer material and supposedly more comforable because it would "eliminate irritation at rub points." This model has the elastic supporters sewn onto the waistband rather than pinned on. The garters here are obviously not removable as in the
competing model. One interesting feature of this ad is the association of children's
garter waists with boy's clip-on suspenders for holding up trousers. Two versions of clip-on suspenders for trousers support are offered--one style for boys up to age 10 and the other from age 8 to 14.
The ad copy read, "Adjustable 1-in lisle elastic. Age-Sizes 2
to 4, 4 to 6, 6 to 9, 10 to 12. Black, White. State age-size, color. Shpg.
wt., pr. 3 oz.; 2 prs., 5 oz. 25 D 5400 Pair 18c. 2 Pairs 33c.
The ad copy read, "Adjustable rayon elastic. Sizes, colors as 25 D 5400 at right. State age-size, color. Shipg. wt., pr., 3 oz. 25 D 5401--Pair 9c, 2 Prs. (Shpg. wt., 5 oz) 17c.
Sears included regular childrens suspendaers in with the stocking supporters. Thet were made in sizes to 14 years. The ad copy read, "Cotton elastic. Adjusts to age 10. White on
Blue, or Brown. State color. Shipping weight, 4 ounces. 15 D 5402--Pair
9c." The suspenders pictured here were notable for how thin they were. Another type of suspenders were offered. The ad copy read, "Rayon Elastic Suspenders with gold color slides and clips. Adjusts from
age 8 to 14. Maroon, Dk. Brown. State color. Shipping weight, 2 ounces.
25 D 5403--Pair 19c."
Two points seem to be implied by the combination of boy's garter waists and boy's suspenders in the same advertisement.
The first is a point about masculinity. Many boys seem to have resisted the wearing of long stockings with hose
supporters as too sissy and girlish because they associated the practice
with their sisters or girl classmates, even though conservative mothers, especially those in northern climates, continued to insist on their sons wearing long stockings both for the added protection and perhaps also for reasons of class and formality. There is some evidence to show that when mothers compelled their boys to wear long stockings, especially into their early teens, they did so because they had been influenced by customs
in Europe and tended to think of the style as more upper-class than the knickers that most teen-age boys in America were wearing at this time. But if boys objected to long stockings and hose supporters, they would not particularly dislike the wearing of suspenders to hold up their pants since in this respect they would be imitating what many of their
fathers wore. The Sears advertisers in this instance apparently were trying
to appeal to boys as well as their mothers on the ground of masculinity by
showing two different kinds of elastic product in the same display.
The second point has to do with comfort and flexibility. The two boys wearing garter waists in the Sears advertisement are playfully stretching a pair of trousers suspenders between them, an image which suggests that the boys might wear both products at the same time. This image is cleverly meant to send a kind of subterranean message that Sears
garter waists are just as stretchy and flexible and comfortable to wear as
trousers suspenders or braces and that they adjust themselves
naturally and easily to bodily movement. So the ad appeals to boys and mothers
alike on the ground that garter waists are easy and comfortable to
wear and also not really sissy at all because of their association with
more grown-up and entirely masculine suspenders for trousers.
Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing catalog/magazine pages:
[Return to the Main American mail order 1939 page]
[Return to the Main American mail order 1930s page]
[Main photo/publishing page] [Store catalogs] [Fashion magazines]
Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Main U.S. page]
[Main U.S. 1930s page]
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Cloth and textiles] [Clothing styles] [Countries] [Topics]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Satellite sites] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]
Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Sailor suits] [Sailor hats] [Buster Brown suits] [Knickers] [Short pants]
[Eton suits] [Rompers] [Tunics] [Smocks] [Tights] [Long stockings] [Stocking supporters]