** English school uniform garments : hoisiery socks





English School Uniform Garments: Hosiery


Figure 1.--English schoolboys commonly wore knee socks. Some schools, however, adopted ankle socks during the summer or sandals without socks.

English school children commonly wore long stockings and kneepants in the late 19th century. Some boys wore knickers and might wear knee socks. English boys wearing short trousers generally wore grey knee socks or turn-over-top socks as the British might say. Knee socks were very common in England both boys and girls commonly wore them to school. Some school pemitted ankle socks (or sandals and no socks) during the summer. This was most common in souther England. Many schools had destinctive socks with the school colors in stripes or a solid bar at the top. This was usually the kneesocks, but a few schools even had ankle socks with colored trim. Many boys wore plain grey knee socks as they were less expensive. Some Scottish schools had colored knee socks. British boys of any age never wore white socks with shorts, except for sports. English boys never wore white socks, except for cricket, as white socks, both ankle and knee socks, were generally worn by girls and thus seen as girls' socks. We see girls at some schools wearing tights, often dark colors.

Long Stockings

English school children commonly wore long stockings with knee pants in the late-19th century. We see boys at private schools wearing knee socks with knickers. We do know they many boys wore knickers and knee socks to school from photogrphic portraits, but this primaily reflected outfits to privte chools. We think knee pants and long stockings were more commmon at state primary schools. The idea was to cover up the legs. We rarely see bare knees in the 19th century. This began to change after the turn-of-the 20th century. We see some boys beginning to turn down long stockings in the 1900s ans by the 1910s knee socks ere breing worn. Afrer World War I in the 1920s, short pants and knee socks became standard. We still see a few boys wearing long stockings, but not many. Long stockings persisted with girls a little longer. For boys, long stockings had basically disppeared by the 1930s. We do not yet have much information on long stockings in England, but the photogrphic record suggests that boys were not wearing then by the 30s. Mostly we see knee socks at school. Long stockings do not seem to be nearly as common as in many other countries such as America or Germany. We notice girls at quite a number of schools wearing long stockings before World War II, mostly conservative hirls schools with uniforms.

Knee Socks

Beginning in the early 20th century, English (and other British) schoolboys often wore short trousers for school, sometimes, in the earlier part of the century, until they left school at age 14. As the statutory minimum school-leaving-age was raised to 15 and then to 16 and as fashions in boyswear changed, the proportion of schoolboys wearing short trousers came down. The fastest period of change was probably in the 1960s. At the beginning of the 21st century they are largely restricted to the youngest of boys or to slightly older boys in a few preparatory schools which still insist on them. The usual accompaniment to short trousers, both with school uniform and with general boyswear, were knee-length socks with turn-over tops, although the youngest boys and older boys in the hotter months might wear ankle-socks instead (or sandals and no socks). Strictly speaking, they should be referred to in England as 'stockings', and school outfitters and other retailers sometimes did just that; but in common parlance they were referred to as 'knee-socks', as 'long socks', turn-over-top socks, or simply as 'socks', with the context making it clear whether the long or the short type was intended. A British reader reports, "The official term 'stockings' rather made us squirm as boys since 'stockings', in our understanding, were what women wore!" There was similar embarrassment over the official outfitters' term for short trousers: 'knickers' (women's underpants)! Many schools had socks with the school colors in stripes or a solid bar at the top. This was usually the kneesocks, but a few schools even had ankle socks with colored trim. Many boys wore plain grey knee socks as they were less expensive. Some Scottish schools had colored knee socks. British boys of any age never wore white socks with shorts, except for sports. English boys never wore white socks, except for cricket, as white socks, both ankle and knee socks, were generally worn by girls and thus seen as girls' socks.

Ankle Socks

While most English school uniforms required knee socks with short trousers, some schools introduced ankle socks for wear during the summer. Usually the dress uniform involves kneesocks and boys during the summer at some schools wear ankle socks as part of the every day uniform. The ankle socks are always grey. A few schools may also have the boys wear ankle socks as part of the formal uniform. Usually these are plain grey knee socks--but a few schools have ankle socks with colored bands in the school colors. Ankle socks are worn with both lace-up shoes, usually black, and sandals, usually brown. During the winter these schools reintroduce knee socks. Of course boys wearing long trousers usually wear ankle socks. Some boys wear knee socks with long trousers, but mostly boys whohad just switched from short to long trousers and have knee socks to wear out. Ankle socks seem to be coming increasingly common. We notice quite a few schools shifting to ankle socks, at least during the summer terms. They are most common with the schools located in southern England. Schools vary as to how strictly they enforce seasonal hosiery rules. We notice several schools in which the children wear ankle or knee socks on a more or less optional basis. Grey ankle socks seem to be most common with boys. Many girls wear white socks, both ankle socks and knee socks.

Sports Socks

A very short type of socks have become popular in the 2000s. They are called sport socks because they were first popular with athletes like tennis players. They are designed to basically conform to the shape of the shoe and not show much above the shoe. The effect is that of not wearing socks. We note some British children in the 2000s wearing these socks not just for sports, but with school uniform. The style appears to be to show just slightly above the shoe.

Tights

Tights were also worn at British schools, although we do not have a lot of inbformation about them. Tights began commercially available in rge late-1950s. We do not know when schools first began adding them to the uniform lists. We did not notice them very commonly at prep schools, but believe that they were more common at public schools and state secondary schools. We see girls at some schools wearing tights, often dark colors. They were most common during the winter. Tights do not seem to have been as common as we noted in America. We are not sure just why this was. Age and chronological factors were involved here. Older girls at some schools might wear them year round. Aeadeer has sent a phoyograph of a boy wearing tights in the 2000s. As far as we know, this was realatively rare.

No Socks

Some schools adopted a everyday school uniform of sandals without socks during the summer months. This includes schools where boys wear both open and closed toe sandals. This option was not very common, but we have noticed it at a few schools. It seemed popular with the children.






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Created: September 2, 2000
Last updated: 11:51 PM 1/7/2011