School Long Pants


Figure 1..--This 12-year old English boy is wearing longpants for his grammar school class photograph. Notice that he is wearing grey knee socks which means that ghe longs were rather new.

The long pants so common among school children today first appeared at the turn of the 19th century. Curiously, at the time it was boys who wore the long trousers and men who wore knee breeches. Boys for the first half of the 19th century wore long pants to school. After mid-century we begin to see various types of shoertened-length pants. Long pants dominated at schools until after the mid-19th century when various styles of shortened length pants became more popular for boys. At first they were for younger boys, but by the end of the century we see boys of all ages wearing them. This was a generaklized trend both in America and Europe. There were differences. We see older boys at the turn-of the century wearing knee pants in America than Europe. Boys in miost countries wore knee pants to school, although knickers became populart in America by the 1910s. This was the begiining of differences between Europe and Anerica. There were differences from country to country, but generally boys in Europe after World War I wore short pants while bnickers were more common in America. Only older boys wore long pants. Long pants did not become the primary pants for boys until after World War II (1939-45), although the pattern and chronology varied from country to country.

Chronology

The long pants so common among school children today first appeared at the turn of the 19th century. Curiously, at the time it was boys who wore the long trousers and men who wore knee breeches. Boys for the first half of the 19th century wore long pants to school. After mid-century we begin to see various types of shoertened-length pants. Long pants dominated at schools until after the mid-19th century when various styles of shortened length pants became more popular for boys. At first they were for younger boys in fashionable citieds, but by the end of the century we see boys of all ages wearing them. This was a generaklized trend both in America and Europe. There were differences. We see older boys at the turn-of the century wearing knee pants in America than Europe. Boys in miost countries wore knee pants to school, although knickers became populart in America by the 1910s. This was the begiining of differences between Europe and Anerica. There were differences from country to country, but generally boys in Europe after World War I wore short pants while bnickers were more common in America. Only older boys wore long pants. Long pants did not become the primary pants for boys until after World War II (1939-45), although the pattern and chronology varied from country to country. Many American boys were wearing long pants even before the War. Boys in Europe continued wearing short pants into the 1960s. Shorts continued to be common in some countries, especially Australia, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa, and other countries. Many schools in England and Scotland also required shorts. Today most boys wear long pants to school both as part of a uniform or when the children are allowed to choose their own clothes. While long pants are dominate--there still are quite a number of countries where boys wear short pants to school. The pattern and chronology varied from country to country. Shorts began to appear in American schools in the 1090s, bit long psnts continue to be most common.

Types of Pants

There are several different types of long pants worn to school. This has varied over time and from country to country. Notice that these different tyoes of pants are not just types of long panhts, but applied to many of the other pants lengths (shorts, knickers, and knee pants) as well). Button-on pants were common in the 19th century. The most common type worn to school is dress pants. They are also called suit trousers, maning pants worn for formal to semi-formal occassions. They are uually done in woven or suiting material and may or may not be part of a suit. These pants in the 20th century commonly open at the front with a zipper or buttons. Boys not wearing suits, normally wore slacks which are trousers which are not part of a suit. Less expensive materials are commonly used for boys' slacks such as drill, but more expensive than used for play wear. Dress pants or slacks were the type mostly used for school uniforms. These were normally straight pants, meaning is straight all along its length. There were also bell bottoms, but not commonlky worn to school, although fashion trends mean that we have seen them at schools. There were many variations dealing with suspension (belt loops), pleats, fly front, pockets, cuffs, and other features. Jeans are of American origin and made of a rough and thick material -- denim. They are characterized by double stitching lines all along the seams done in a thick thread. Jeans were once seen as unsuitable for school and unfashionble. This of course has changed, deopebding on the country. Denim in particular has become very fashionable. The first jeans to appear at school were overalls. Overalls also called dungarees are primarily an American garment. Fatigue trousers are another American style. They are military inspired pants, first worn by American sildiers in Vietnam war. Features include an inner drawstring and buttoned down cargo pockets. They are done in camouflage fabric.

Material

We are not sure what material was used for the original long pants worn in the early and mid 19th century for school. By the late 19th century in England, grey flannels were the mist common. As knickers began to become less common in America in the late 1930s, corduroy was popular. By the 1950s, American grade school boys, but not highschool boys, were wearing jeans. It was not until the 1970s that jeans became the standard for highschools as well. Synthetic blended materials like Trrelyn began to replace flannel trousers in England after World War II.

Age

The age of boys wearing long pants has varied greatly over the years and from country to country. At the turn of the century long pants were generally rare around the world--except for older boys. American boys began to increasinly wear long pants to school, especially by the late 1930s as knickers began to go out of style. British boys generally wore shottys to school, although private schools had varying rules for the older boys. By the 1970s, even many younger British boys began to wear long pants--although shorts are still wirn by the younger boys at scome schools. French boys wore shorts to school, although longs began to become increasingly common by the late 1950s. Long pants except for winter wore were not common in Germany until the late 1950s.

Countries

The pants or trousers worn by school boys have varied among different countries. During the 19th century while styles varied, the type of pants worn was very similar in both Europe and America. Most boys woire long pants, but by the end of the centurty we see boys in most countries commonly wseraring knee pants. This changed in the 20th century. We begin to see more variation among countries. First knickers and than long pants became more common in America than Europe. This difference did not change untill the post-War II period. We begin to see pan-European styles drvrloping in the 1970s that were imilsr to Americam styles. Today most boys wear long pants to school both as part of a uniform or when the children are allowed to choose their own clothes. While long pants are dominate--there still are quite a number of countries where boys wear short pants to school.The situation in some representative countries is as follows:





Careful, clicking on these will exit you from the Boys' Historical Clothing web site, but several are highly recommended

  • Apertures Press New Zealand e-Books: Appertures Press has published three different EBooks about New Zealnd schools.
  • School Uniform Web Site: Informative review of British school uniforms with some excellent photographs
  • British Preparatory Schools: A photographic book depicting life at British preparatory schools during the 1980s. Most of the schools are English or Scottish, but schools in Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, and Ulster are also included. The pictures show the uniforms worn at many different schools.
  • British Prep School eBooks: Apperture Press has published six eBooks about different vaspects of British public schools. Volume I is a general assessnent. The other volumes deal with more specufuc aspects of the schools ahd school life.
  • Information: Information about school uniforms in America