U.S. Short Pants Chronology: 1929

Figure 1.--This 1929 Sears catalog showed both short pants and knickers for boys, mostlybin sizes from 3 to 9 yearscof age. Thec outfit at the left wascdescribed as a "stylish combination".

Short pant were worn by younger boys from about 3 to 9 or 10 years of age. Knickers were also available for this age group, but long pants were still not very common. Shorts were mostly worn with kneesocks although some boys still wore long stockingsespecially during the winter. Some boys a few years older might wear them in the South. They were also more common for boys from affluent families. Better mens' outfitters might have shorts for slightly older boys then the mass market stores. Shorts were also more commonly worn in European ethnic communities. Many American boys didn't like thenm and would have much preferred to wear knickers or long pants.


One of the largest mass retailer in America was Sears, Roebuck and Co. They offered several styles of short pants for boys in 1929. Mothers could choose either short pants or knicker suits and several different types of shorts. Short pants even in 1929 were still being reffered to as English-style pants. Here is how Sears decribed the short pants they offered for sale in 1929.

Stylish combination

A new and stylish outfit the boys will like. Mothers too, will like it because it is really suprisingly low priced. The pants are the popular straight style with the self belt and buckle. They are fullyblined and have two manly side pockets. The pants are made of a medium tan all wool and silk cassimere with attractive and stylish Rayon stripes. The sweater is rib knit of two-ply all wool worsted yarn in a Jacquard weave of tan and blue. Sizes 3 to 9 years. State age size. Sweater and pants post paid ... $2.98.

Figure 2.--Searscreferred to this style as "English shorts". Only the larger sizes had front flys. The small sizes had side openings. Notice the pattern on these and the other shorts.

English shorts

Ideal shorts for active little boys. They are made in the extrenely popular English short style, roomy, comfortable, and convenient. Will wear well and keep neat, through long, hard service. Choice of three handsome, sturdy fabrics. Full lined. Havecbelt made of self material with a buckle. Sizes 8, 9, and 10 have a fly front as illustrated. Other sizes have side openings. Two side pockets and one back pocket. Sizes 4 to 10 years. State age size. All wool blue cheviot shorts post paid ... $1.39. All wool and silk brown cassimere with over-plaid decoration shorts post paid ... $1.39. All wool and silk gray cassimere with over-plaid decoration shorts post paid ... $1.39.

HBC note: Pants with "sel belts" (belts made outvof thesame material as the shorts was a common feature. Notice the ususaal fly treatment for the younger boys. Also notice how these and the othr shorts all are made out of pattened material. No solid colorpants were available, except for white shorts in the wahable style below..

Figure 3.--Sears marketed this style as "Washable shorts" and assured mothers that "All the little fellows are wearing them." They are "button-on" shorts, meaning that buttons on the shirt were fitted into holes at the waist, making the belt redundant.

Washable shorts

The new and very popular English shorts. All the little fellows are wearing them. Three serviceable materials as listed below. Pants are made to button to the waist [shirt] and have belt loops and belt of the same material with attractive belt buckle. Bar tacked. Hip pocket and two side pockets. Sizes 8, 9, and 10 made with fly front. Sizes 4 to 10 years. State age size. We pay the postage. Tan check washable cotton crash. Postpaid ...$0.69. Assorted stripped patterns imported linnen shorts. Postpaid ... $0.79. White duck shorts Postpaid ... $0.69.

HBC note: These shorts were made in the "button-on" style often made for younger boys. Shorts were usually made in this style, however, without a belt which seems rather redundant if the shorts are buttoned onto the shirt. Notice that theyare available in a solid whitem the only solid colored shorts available. Also notice the cuff affect.

Elastic waist band

Attractive elastic waistband shorts for hard playing youngsters. Practical latest style; popular. The elastic waistband does away with all buckles, belts, and buttons and keeps the waist [shirt] tucked in no matter how strnuous the boy may play. Fully lined. Strongly finished, with bar tacking at all strain points. Has two side pockers and one hip pocket. Eithervof the fine fabrics will give a world of long wear and satisfaction, and at outstanding values. Sizes 4 to 9 years. State age size. Grey cassimere elastic waistband shorts about four-fifths wool and silk. Post paid ... $1.00. Brown all wool ans silk cassimere elastic waistband shorts with Rayon decorations. Post paid ... $1.19.

Figure 4.--These appear to be some of the first elastic waistband shorts. They were not, however, casual play shorts.

I'm not sure if these were the first elastic waistband shorts, but it does seem to be a 1920s innovation. This became a style of play shorts, but given the naterial they do not seem to be play shorts.

Short pants suits

Sears also offered dress shorts for short pants suits in 1929. They were available in sizes from 3/4 to 8/9 years. Like the separate shorts seen here, they were made in patterned material. Generaly younger boys wore short pants suits in 1929. They were mostly single breasted, although double breasted suits were available. Most were patterened rather than solid color suit. Betters suits were wool or wool blends and lined. Colors included brown, blue, and grey. Sizes varied from store to store. They were generally available for boys up to about 10 at mass retailers. Better mens' outfitters cattering to affluent clientile might have them in larger styles. They were still mostly worn with kneesocks.

Christopher Wagner


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Created: March 16, 2000
Last updated: March 16, 2000