Patterned Knee Socks

Figure 1.--American boys mostly wore kneesocks with knickers. They primarily wore patterned knee socks rather than solid color ones like British and many European boys. This boy's mother obviously liked stipes and checkered patterns.

Kneesocks came in both plain solid colors and patterns. We notice many different patterns. One popular pattern was argyles. This is one of the first patternswe noted, being worn with kilts in the 19th century. There were many other patterns, but we are not entirely sure how to describe them. This varied substantially from country to country and over time. Patterened knee socks were especially common in the United States, somewhat less common in Britain and the rest of Europe. They were worn primarily during the 1920s and 30s. Most commonly they were worn with knickers, but younger boys also wore them with short pants. They were somewhat less common with shorts as solid colored kneesocks were often worn with shorts. We notice them mostly before World war II, but we see German boys wearing them after the War. There were conventions associated with patterened kneesocks. They were consudered more casual and sporty than the solid color knee socks. There were two basic types. Some were patterned along the entire leg. Others only had top patterns where the kneesocks were cuffed.

National Trends

Patterned knee socks, other than Arygles, appear to have been primarily an American style. I think this is primarily becausde after World War (1914-18), patterened kneesocks became popular with knickers. Most of the kneesocks we see American boys wearing are paterned kneesocks. Curiously while American kneesocks commonly had patterns, long stockings which were also widely worn were rarely made with patterns. We have no idea why this dichtomy eisted, at least in America. These patterned kneesocks were much less common in Europe. European boys, however, after the War did not wear knickers as commonly as American boys. The Europeans generally preferred solid colored kneesocks with short panrs. European boys, primarily British boys, did wear one type of patterned kneesocks. Highland kilt outfits until the 1950s, were often worn with Argyle kneesocks. Today white kneesocks are more common.


Argyles were a very popular pattern, but they were not the only patterns for kneesocks. Some patterns were sqare checks or multi-colored lines colored lines crossing over a solid background. I'm not sure if there was an actual term describing some of these payyerns. The boy here wears an example of these patterns (figure 1). We note some boys wearing stripped or banded patterns. These were not one f the more common patterns, but we do see some boys wearing them. An example is a unidentified American boy in the late 1920s. Striped stickings had been fashionable beginning in the late 1860s. They continued to be worn until the 1890s.


We first noted patterened kneesocks being work in Scotland with kilts in the 18th century. These knee socks would have been mostly by men. We first note them commonly being worn by boys in the 20th century during the 1920s. They became popular as kneesocks began to replace the long stockings that boys had formerly worn. The long stockings seem to have always been almost entirely solid colors. Patterned kneesocks were widely worn in the 1920s and 30s. They were especially popular in America where boys wore knee socks with knickers. We note many different patterns at this time. Pattered knee socks along with knee socks in geneal began to decline in popularity in the 1940s as fewer boys wore knickers. Some Amweican boys still wore short pasnts suits after World war II, but hey generally wore them with ankle sock or solid colored kneesovks. Short pants suits were popular in Europe longer, but were commonly worn with solid colored knee socks. We do note German boys wearing patterned kneesocks after World War II in the 1950s, but mostly for school or play. Boys did commonly wear patterned ankle socks, espcailly Argyles, but mostly with long pants. Patterned kneesocks were occassionally seen in the 1950s and 60s, but they became much less common as fewer boys were wearing short pants.


I'm not sure how popular these patterned kneesocks actually were with boys. Some boys wore their knickers with ankle socks. I'm not sure if this was because of warm weather, the cost of kneesocks, or because some boys didn't like them. I'm also not sure if boys had preferences about the patterns or colors. There do seem to be differences among countries. As far as I can tell, American boys did prfer them.

Top Device

Some patterned kneesocks were uniform throughout. Others had a special device at the turn over topm requiring that the turn over cuff be made carefully.

Figure 2.--This American boy wears patterned kneesocks with a suit. Note the special device at the top, requiring thesocks to be tuned over or cuffed jus right. Click on the image for a full view of the suit he is wearing at his violin recital.


Girls also wore patterned kneesocks, but less commonly than boys. I'm not sure if there were stylistic differences between the patterns worn by girls and boys. The phoographic record suggests that it was more common for boys to wear the patterned kneesocks than the girls. One factor here was that many girls wore white socks and stockings.


We are not entirely sure why so many elaborate patterns of knee socks appeared in the 1920s. Fashion may have been an element, but we susperct that weaving technology was a factor. We note horizonal stripe stockings in the 1870s, but not the elaborate patterns that we note in the 1920s. Just why these patterns became popular in the 1920s and the nature of the actual technological advances we re not yet sure. Perhaps some of our readers will know.


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Created: October 29, 1998
Spell checked: October 30, 1999
Last updated: 11:23 PM 1/25/2007