*** school uniform : hosiery

School Uniform: Hosiery

school socks
Figure 1.--This prep school boy wears knee socks with the school colors in the turn-over-top cuff. At this school the prefects had knee socks with different stripes than the other boys.

Boys over the past 100 years have worn a variety of hosery to dchool. Schoolboys in the late-19th century wore long stockings with knee pants and knickers. Stockings disappeared in many countries during the early-20th century as knee pants went out of style. Boys wearing shorts generally wore grey knee socks, or turn-over-top socks as the British might say. Some school pemitted ankle socks (or sandals and no socks) during the summer. Many schools had socks with the school colors at the top band, but many boys wore plain grey knee socks. 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 by manu boys.


We have little information on school hosiery in the early- and mid-19th century. This is in part because so many boys wore long trousers to school. This began to change in the late-19th cetury as various types of shortened-length trousers became popular for boys. We note many children wearing long stockings in the late-19th century. This varies some what fron country to country, in part as a result of climate. Fashion was, however, very important. We see more vriation in the early 20th century, but this varied from country to cuntry. Knee socks seem quite common in Britain during the early-20th century and boys began waring short pants. American boys continued wearing mostly long stockings, but knee pants soon gave way to knickers. Younger boys might wear socks. Long stockings continued to be widely worn in Germany, but became to some extent a seasonal garment. French boys mostly wore socks, but long stockings were worn in the winter, especially in northern areas. We see many boys on the Continent wearing three-quaarter socks. After World War I, knee socks became increasingly popular. American boys grdualy shidted from long stockings to knee socks. Brightly colored knee socks became popular with knickers. American boys by the time of World War II were increasingly wearing ankle socks. They wre not as common in Europe where knne soks continued to be popular for some time, especially in Britain. Many private schools had special knee socks with colored tops. Ankle socks gradually became te dominant type of hosiery in Europe as well.

Hosiery Types

We notice boys wearing a wide range of hosiery for school and as part of formal school uniformss. This has included ankle socks. kneesocks, long stockings, tights, and other hosiery types. I am not sure when ankle socks first appeared, but believe they were widely worn by boys in the early 19th century as long trousers became standard wear. The prevelance of long trousers make it difficult to follow hosery trends, but HBC believes that the dominate form of hosery with long pants is ankle socks. British schools requiring shorts usually also required the boys to wear kneesocks as part of the uniform. There is some variety here. A few schools had the boys wearing ankle socks, especially during the summer--often with T-strap school sandals. Proper kneesocks (a term not used for boys in Britspeak) were turn-over-top socks or stockings. Schools chose several different styles of kneesocks. Many boys in the late-19th century wearing knee pants wore long stockings held up with stocking supporters. American boys, although they did not commonly wear school uniforms, by the 1870s were commonly wearing kneepants and long stockings to school. British schools varied greatly in school uniform requirements. Many schools did not rigidly enforce uniforms. Many school boys wore long pants and thus long stockings do not appear to have been as common as in the United States. Long stockings began to disappear in the early 20th century as knickers and short pants began to replace knee pants. Tights for children are a relatively new garment, appearing after World War II. They replaced the cumbersome long stockings that children had formerly worn. Tights are primarily associated with girls. They were worn by younger boys in countries like Germany, Poland and Russia. They still are worn by younger boys in a few countries such as Japan, Korea, and Russia.


Boys have worn a wide range of hosiery to school. Here we note substantisal differences from country to country. American boys in the early 20th century commonly wore long stockings. Many boys went to school barefoot. As knickers became standard after World War I, boys invreasingly wore kneesocks--commonly pasterned socks. English school boys primarily wore kneesocks. After World War II ankle socks gradually became more common. Ankle sovcks were especially common in the warm summer term. A factor here may be that kneesocks are more expensive. Boys at Hungarian schools wearing shortpants in the early 20th century commonly wore dark colored three-quarter length socks or kneesocks. Knee socks became more common in the inter-war period. The majority of uniformed Japanese schools do not seem to have a sock requirement perse, or at least one which is very strongly enforced.


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Created: October 25, 1999
Last updated: 5:34 AM 4/19/2008