U.S. School Knickers: Age Conventions

Figure 1.--Most American towns of any sizehad high (secondary) schools by the early-20th century. Many were very small like this high school in Renfrew, Pennsylvania, we think in the 1910s. The junior class, or 11th grade, had 11 members. They would be mostly 16 year olds. Some of the boys look a little older. Renfrew was a town in westrn Pennsylvanis, but has declined since World War II.

Age conventions for knickers varied over time and from family to family. At first they were comparable to knee pants. Knee pants were virtually universal in the 1900s for pre-teen boys in elementary (primary) school as well as many teenagers. We even see some older teenagers wearing them in high school. The basic exception was rural boys where long pants were also worn. Knee pants wer much less common with teenagers leaving school at earlier ages. Thes same age conventions continued as knickers replace knee pants. Gradually over time boys began wearing suits to school less commonly, but nickers with shirts and sweaters were still standard in the 1920s and early-30s. We gradually see more long pants, especially by the late-30s and early-40s. Knickers were widely worn by primary boys as well as the younger teenagers in junior high schools. By the early 30s they became mostly worn in primary schools. And by the en of the decade we we no longer se them in junior high scools. We still see them to some extentin elemntary schoolks in the early-40 but by mid-decade they had largely disappeared.


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Created: 3:48 AM 4/9/2014
Last updated: 3:48 AM 4/9/2014