Knee socks were a practical choice for British and European boys who wore shorts. Boys until the 1950s commonly wore shorts all year round, regardless of the weather. Short pants were regarded as boys' clothes
and not warm-weather casual clothing. As a result, boys in Britain and most other European countries often wore short pants in quite cold weather. Some
complained of "cold knees." As a result
the long knee socks helped keep them warm. Boys in Germany and the
Scandinavian countries differed somewhat from other European countries.
Boys in Germany also commonly wore shorts, often quite old boys. German mothers, however, were apparently concerned about sending boys out in short pants during the cold winter weather, even with warm woolen knee
socks. As a result, long pants were more common for older boys during the winter than in Britin. Smaller boys were kept in shorts, but were dressed in long over the knee stockings to make sure they kept nice and warm.
The usage of knee socks for boys clothing has varied significantly from country to country in recent years.
Knee socks became very common in Austria after world War I in the 1920s similkarly to trends in Germany. Both boys and girls wore them. Short pants also became very common for boys after World War I, although the lengths for some time looked rather like knee pants. Children mostly wore either long stockings or knee socks, commonly on a seasonal basis. Gradually knee socks became increasingly common, althoufgh long stockings were still widely worn until after Wirld War II. Boys very commonly wore knee socks in the 1920s-30s. We mostly notice solid colored socks. The black and white photography of the day makes it difficult to assess actual colors. We think grey was very common. We do not notice boys wearing black knee socks to any extent. White knee socks were sometines worn when dressing up. Knee socks were were still commonly worn after World War II in the 50s. We see patterened knee socks more commonly after the War. We note a variety of patterns such as argyles. We begin to see both short pants and knee socks declining in popularity during the 1960s. As short pants became more of a casual, summer garment and boys increasingly wore long pants during the winter, knee socks declined sharply, at least among boys. Girls continued to wear them which probably further reduced the popularity with boys.
We know that knee socks were commonly worn in Canada. This was because knickers were so common. Because of the British influence, we also see boys wearing shirt pants and knee socks. Knickers as in America were more common. Knickers became especially common as in America during the 1910s. They were at first mostly worn with long stockings. America boys shifted to knee socks in the 1930s. We are not sure if the chonology wa the samne in Canada. We do note Geotge Bowditch wearing a Norfolk knickers suit with knee socks about 1930. We are also not sure yet to what extent the lud patterened knee socks popular in America were as common in Canada.
Knee socks were commnly worn year round for school, play, leasure events, and formal wear. During the summer many boys might wear ankle socks or even sandals without socks. Knee socks were worn with a variety of shoes, inluding sandals. Knee socks were commnly worn year round for school, play, leasure events, and formal wear. During the summer many boys might wear ankle socks or even sandals without socks. Knee socks were worn with a variety of shoes, inluding sandals. Knee socks were common in England right from when shorts became the common fashion in the early 20th century. We begin to see boys wearing ankle socks during the simmer in the 1940s, but knee socks continued to be common into the 1960s. By the 1970s, short trousers and knee socks became more associated with schoolwear. We note references to school socks. This generally mean grey kneesocks or knee socks with school colors in the tirn-over tops.
Knee socks were commonly worn in France, beginning in the 1910s. Previously short socks or three-quarter socks were more common. Long stockings were also worn in the late 19th century, but not as commonly as in America and Brirain. As late as the 1930s boys wearing suits would commonly wear knee socks. By the 1950s, however, knee socks were much more commonly worn during the fall and winter. Ankle socks were much more common in the summer. Sandals were condidered summer wear and rarely worn with knee socks.
Kneesocks were becoming increasingly common for German children beginning in the 1910s. We notice German boys commonly wearing knee socks through the 1950s. We note different terms being used for kneesocks in Germany. One term is "kinderstr�mpfe", a general term for children's socks. The 1973 catalog page shown here uses that term. In the ad copy they are further described as "Kniestrumpf" which I think more specifically means kneesocks. Groups like the Wandervogel and Scouts helped to popularize knee socks in the early 1900s. Long stockings were generally repalaced with kneesocks in the 1910s. Kneesocks were more popular with older boys, but they might wear knickers rather than shorts during the winter. Most German boys wore knee socks by the 1920s. Unlike long stockings, black knee socks were not common. We note white knee socks in the 1920s and they had a dressy image. Grey knee socks apear to have been more common. Parerned kneesocks appear in the 1930s, but we note were not worn with Hitler Youth uniforms. Knee socks were commonly worn with suits, both short pants and knicker suits. Wandervogel, Scouts, and Hitler Youth boys almost always wore kneesocks as part of their uniforms. We note that some children rolled their kneesocks down. After World War II, kneesocks were worn more seasonally. Even when not wearing short pants, some German boys wore kneesocks during the winter. We note very colorful patterns becoming popular in the 1950s. Kneesocks by the 1980s were no longer commonly worn by boys, except with folk outfits where short pants or knee-length lederhosen are worn. We have little written information about kneesocks in Germany. Available photographs, however, provide some information. Hopefully our German readers will provide more infornmation about German knee socks.
Italian boys also wore knee socks. HBC at this time, however, have any detailed information on Italian usage and conventions. One Italian reader repirts that by the 1970s that Italian boys only wore dark socks, including knee socks, and saw white knee socks as for girls only.
New Zealand boys commonly followed Brirish clothing trends. Boys oftn went barefoot, but when wearing shoes mistly wore knee socks. This continued until after World War II when American styles gradually became popular. British styles continued as school uniforms. Boys commonly wore short pants school uniform at secondary schools, nostly with knee socks, aklthough this was often seasonal. The boys here are a good example (figure 1). During the summer boys at some schools wore sandals without socks but at these schools knee socks were also worn during cooler weather. Knee socks for boys declined in popularity outside schools after World War II in the 1960s.
Knee socks were not widely worn by American boys until the 20th century. A few American boys wore plaid kneesocks with Highland kilts, but this was not a common outtfit. Kneesocks were first assocaited with the Boy Scouts. Short pants scout uniforms never caught on in America, but the boys did wear kneesocks with knickers. Knee socks rapidly begun to replace long stockings for the boys wearing knickers. Kneesocks became much preferred because cumbersome hose supporters were not needed. Kneesocks were widely worn with knickers during the 1920s and 30s. Socks with patterns were much preferred to the plain colored ones worn in Europe. Kneesocks declined in popularity during the 1940s as older boys stopped wearing knickers and began wearing long pants. Younger boys wore short pants, but increasingly with ankle socks. Knee socks became associated with dressy atire for American boys. After knickers disappeared, American boys mostly wore knee socks with a short pats suit or other dressy outfit. They were rarely
worn for play or casual wear. Most older boys did not like them as they became associated as girls' clothes. Interestingly the smaller sizes were always marked as childrens' rather than girls' sizes. Often an
American boy's best suit was navy blue and black, thus these were commonly worn colors for kneesocks. This differed from England where grey knee socks were much more common.
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