Hosiery Types--Long Stockings

We use the term "stockings" or "long stockings" for over the knee hosiery lengths. This is a little different than the actual dictionary definition. As we understand the standard dictionary definition, socks would be included as a type of stockings, although socks are the shorter lengths. We use the term for over the knee lengths. This is because manufacturers while they used various terms for the shorter lngths, generally referred to the over the knee lenghs as stockings. And the standard dictionasry definition does identify socks as the shorter lengths of hosiery. Stocking colors have varied in popularity over time as well as patterns. We also note country differences. Stockings have varied in length. Some just came to avove the knee. As shorter lengths of pants and skirts were worn, longer lengths were offered. There were even button-on stockings that covered the entire leg.


We note some companies making button-on long stockings in the early 20th century. This style is difficulkt to assess because you can not determine by aphotograph if a child is wearing them. We do note advertizements. A good example is a Fay Button-on stockings ad in 1901. We are not sure when these button-on stockings first appeared. This is the first advertizement we have noted. We see another ad in The Ladies Home Journalduring 1911. They do not, as far as we can tell, seem to have been very popular. Here the scarcity of advertisements is not available. Wedo occassionlly see them offered into the 1940s. Button-on stockings had a brief revival in America in 1939-40 but didn't last very long. Wards sold button-on stockings in their 1939 catalog and again in the 1943 catlog. A reader writes, "I suspect, but it is only a guess, that the reason they were not very popular is that the button holes and hence the stockings ripped making them less useful. The idea, though, seems very useful so I am not surprised it was revised as sewing and manufacturing techniques improved. It was one less contraption to deal with (suspenders, garters etc.) just buttoning to the waist."

striped long stockings
Figure 1.--Horizontal stripes or bands were very popular in the 1870s and 80s. They were always horizontal bands. The unidentified boy in this tin-type is a good example.


HBC is just beginning to collect information on striped stockings. They were the principal style of psatterened long stockings. They all appear to have been horizontal stripes, although there were a wide variety of different striped patterns. They appear to have been popular from the 1860s through the 80s. It does not appear to have been a formal style. Only a few of the images of Fauntleroy suits or kilts show boys in horizontal stripe stockings. These are usually with suit jackets and kneepants so they were not a casual style, but they do not seem to have been worn with a boy's party suit or other formal outfits. We do not see many boys wearing these striped stockings, for example with Fauntleroy suits. I believe this was primarily a style for boys' stockings, but we do seem some girls wearing them as well.

Figure 2.--Long stockings were very common in the late-19th and early 20th centuries. These American brothers in 1921 both wear knickers with long black stockings.

Stockings--Long Over-the-knee

Boys during the late 19th century wore long over-the-knee stockings with knee pants. The stockings were held up by clasps attached to a kind of suspender waist worn by the boy. This died out when knee socks became more popular after the First World War. Over-the-knee stockings were occasionaly seen in America during the 1920s. The style continued until more recent times in a modified style in Germany where boys wearing short pants might wear long stockings instead of knee socks when the weather got cooler. This style also appeared elsewhere in Eastern Europe as well as Russia. Over-the-knee stockings continued to be commonly worm through the 1960s until German boys began wearing long pants instead of shorts. During the 1960s-70s German boys wearing longs might also wear the long stockings. Some boys also wore footed tights.

Stockings--Vertical Stripe

Vertical stripe stockings were not very common. Curriously they were worn in the late-medieval period. At the time, horizonal stripes or bands were not very coimmon. But in the 29th century when the colorful horizonal band stockings bvecame populasr, we almost never see vertical stripews. We are not sure why horizontal stripes were so popular and vertical stripes so rarely seen. Curiously the opposdite trend applied to striped shirts.

Stockings--White (18th century)

Men and boys after they graduated from dress dresses wore knee breeches. They were mostly woirn with white stockings. Humble folk wearing home spun weould wear nsatural color stocvkings, but the well to do would wear white. We also notice blck stockings with blasck outfits, but white was much more common. I'm not sure how long they were, but I assume were a little longer than knee length. I'm not sure how they were held up.

boys white long stockings
Figure 3.--Party outfits for boys after the turn of the century included shorts or above the knee knickers worn with long white stockings. Note the patent leather shoes with ankle straps.

Stockings--White (early 20th century)

Both boys and girls wore white stockings after the turn of the century. The knee pants worn by boys in the 19th century were mostly worn with over the knee stockings, usually black or other dark colors. Clothing catalogs in the 1880s and 90s offered white stockings, but I find actual photographs of boys wearing white stockings rare, suggesting they were not commonly worn. After the turn of the century a greater variety of socks and stockings appeared. This inluded white stockings for the first time. They were almost always worn with dressy outfits, often Fauntleroy suits. Often strap patent leather shoes completed the outfit. White over the knee stockings continued to be worn in the 1920s, but were rarely seen for boys in the 1930s.


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Created: May 23, 1998
Last updated: 12:43 AM 7/23/2009