Casual Knickers

Figure 1.--This boy in the country is ready for a day of fishing during the summer. He is barefoot with a pair of casual knickers.

Boys by the 1920s were dressing more casually. Suits were increasingly reserved for formal occaions. Increasingly boys, especially American boys, would wear knickers and a simple shirt, perhaps with a sweater during the colder months. This would be the common atire of American boys in the years before jeans. (Actually blue jeans were invented in the 1850s, one of the aftermaths of the California gold rush, but they were not commonly worn by urban boys until the late 1940s.)


The way knickers were worn varied seasonally:

Cooler months

American boys during the winter and fall wore their knickers with kneesocks. The kneesocks were almost always patterened kneesocks. This varied from Europe where boys of comparable ages were more likely to wear short pants and wear solid-colored kneesocks.

Warmer months

American boys for comfort would swithch to ankle socks by the 1920s during the summer. Many did not, however, switch to short pants, considering them little boys' clothes. Boys wearing knickers during the summer also commonly went barefoot in the summer, especilally in the country.

Figure 2.--These American boys preparing for Halloween in the 1910s wear above the knee knickers with long stockings.


There are several different types of knickers.

Above the knee

The knickers that became popular in America beginning in the 1900s were primarily above the knee knickers. This style was worn in the 1910s abd early 1920s, but declined in popularity after the mid-1920s. It was not very popular with boys. Above the knee knickers were generally worn with long dark stockings

Below the knee

The original knickers worn by british boys were below the knee knickers. This is the type that was generally worn in England and Europe. Below the knee knickers beca,e increasingly popular in America after World War I (1914-18) and replaced the above the knee style by the mid 1920s.

Plus fours

Plus fours were especially baggy knickers made with an an addition 4 inches of material. They were less common, however, to be knickers for casual boys wear. They were, however, widely worn by men for sports wear like golf during the 1920s and 30s. The style was popularized by Edward VIII as Prince of Wales.


Knickers were made in many different materials. Basically the same as other trousers and short pants. One especially important materials were corduroy, especially for csual knickers.


Knickets were worn with various hosiery or no hose at all.


American boys through the 1930s would commonly go barefoot during the summer. In Europe bare feet were commonly considered an indicator of poverty. This was less true in America, especially in rural areas. Thus many boys wore their knickers for casual wear with bare feet.

Ankle socks

Ankle socks became increasingly worn in the 1920s. Boys would often during the summer wear their knicers with ankle socks during the summer. This was common during the 1920s and 30s.


The original knickers in England were conceived as fashionable countrywear often with kneesocks. The scgools that adopted knickers for their school uniform in the late 19th century generally chose kneesocks to go with the uniform. American boys who commonly wore longstockings with kneepanys continued to wear them with knickers. BAmerican boys did not begin to wear kneesocks with knickers until the 1920s.

Long stockings

American boys as kneepants became popular after the mid-19th cntury, generally wore them with long over the knee stockings. As knickers began to replace kneepants in the 1900s, American boys continued to wear long stockings. American boys did not begin to wear kneesocks more commonly than longstockings until the mid-1920s. Long stockings were still worn to some extent as late as the 1940s.

Figure 3.--This boy looks to be about 15 or 16 years old. He wears knickers woth the popular flat cap. He appears to be wearing long over the knee stockings. The photograph was probably taken about 1915.


The age of the boys wearing casual knickers varied over time. There were also differences between countries, although casual knickers were more common in Americam than Europe. Quite old boys, including boys in senior high school might wear knickers in the 1910s. By the 1930s, the last decade when knickers were widely worn, they were primarily worn by elementary school age boys, although a few younger teen agers might also wear them.

Personal Accounts

Boyhood memories

First long pants:

Knickers and Shorts: America--1930s

Christopher Wagner

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Created: August 2, 1998
Last edited: August 13, 2000