Canadian Schoolwear: Chronology


Figure 1.--This is a French Canadian primary school class in 1986. The boys wear colorful long-sleeved poloshirts and "T" shirts, plaid shirts, sweatshirts, sweaters, and jeans. Most of the girls wear dresses.

We have very limited chronological informtion on Canadian school clothes at this time. School images are not only important as a record of schoolwear, but because many of them are dated, they are a wonderful record of changing fashion trends over time. Available images show boys at the turn of the century wearing kneepants and dark long stockings with a wide range of caps, shirts, and jackets. There is some indication that boys in Nova Scotia may have worn kilts. I'm not sure how common this may have been. We suspect that most boys during the 1920s and 30s would have worn knickers to school, much like American boys. Longstockings and knickers were very common. Knickers were more common than in America during the 1940s. Some boys in the 1940s wore short pants with both long stockings and kneesock. As in American, Canadian primary boys in the 1950s began wearing jeans to school, although they were not allowed in secondary schools until the 1960s. We notice that in the 1980s boys commpnly wore sweaters and jeans. Dresses were still common for girls.

The 1900s

Available images show boys at the turn of the century wearing kneepants and dark long stockings with a wide range of caps, shirts, and jackets. There is some indication that boys in Nova Scotia may have worn kilts. I'm not sure how common this may have been.

The 1910s


The 1920s

We suspect that most boys during the 1920s and 30s would have worn knickers to school, much like American boys. Long stockings and knickers were very common with Canadian boys during the 1920s. Some boys may have worn short pants and knee socks because of the British connection. This may have been most common in urban areas and with private schools, some of which had British-style uniforms. Most of the school photographs we have found suggest that knickers were much more common at public schools. Many school class portraits show almost all of the boys wearing knickers. We have an image from a Nova Scotia school in 1928. We halso have a 1929 photgraph from an unidentified school where most of the boys also wear knickers, mostly with long stockings. Often only a few boys wear long pants, but here age was a factor.

The 1930s

Knickers continued to be very common schoolwear in the 1930s, although we begin o see more boyds wearing long pants. We see more boys wearing knee socks with knickers rsather than the long stockings worn in the 1920s.

The 1940s

Some boys in the 1940s wore short pants or knickers with both long stockings and kneesock. Knickers were more common than in America during the 1940s. Older boys commonly wore long pants. A photograph came across a photograph of typical Anglophone Canadian boys shows boys wearing a variety of clothings. Some boys looked rather like English boys and others more like American boys. We note a photograph from Toronto, Ontario in 1947. Note the heavy British influence with the one boy on the right wearing a traditional English school peaked cap with shorts and suspenders. All the boys are wearing sweaters and rubber Wellington boots. The boots have always been very popular in Canada and they still are today. However, traditional English school caps have since totally disappeared in Canada. The picture was probably taken in the early Spring or in the Fall of 1947. They are playing marbles, a popular schoolboy game.

The 1950s

As in American, Canadian primary boys during the 1950s began wearing jeans to school. Some schools were more demanding about schoolwear. Catholic schools generally required a uniform, although this was sometines not rigorously enforced in all small rural schools. We have an image from a a rural school in French-speking Quebec during 1951-52.

The 1960s

Jeans were generally not allowed in secondary schools until the 1960s. There appears to have been considerable difference of opinion about the benefits of a school uniform among Canadian parents. Catholic schools generally dropped uniform requirements in the 1960s.

The 1970s

Boys in the 1970s wear turtle necks and "T" shirts. Jeans, stripped pants, and flares were popular. Sneakers became very stylish. Many boys wore their hair long in the 70s. Most boys wear long pants, even in primary school. We see some boy wearing polyester sports jackets and wide ties. Short skirts became opular with boys.

The 1980s

We notice that in the 1980s boys commpnly wore sweaters and jeans. Dresses were still common for girls. A Canadian parent writes, "As you can see, boys are more traditional than girls. in 1986, many girls like my daughter were still wearing dresses even if some were usually in pants. My daughter is at the center on first rank in grayish stripped blue dress. She was also in corduroy pants like those I wore when young for half the time. Her best friend was Franco-Spanish, Eva, in blue sweater just at the left of Anne-Marie. It is not a high class affluent school but West Island is more opulent than around. These classroom pictures are invaluable to get a look of the evolution of clothing."

The 1990s


The 2000s

We note a continuing English influence at a private school in Ontario during 2003. For the most part, however, Canadian school children dress the same as children in the northern states of the United States. A Canadian reader writes, "There is no uniform in Canadian public schools. I don't think you need any info from me on Canadian fashions etc. Schools and clothes there are the same as in the United States." Apparently Canadian schools have not adopted uniforms like many urban public schools in the United States.









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Related Chronolgy Pages in the Boys' Historical Web Site
[The 1880s] [The 1930s] [The 1940s] [The 1930s] [The 1940s] [The 1950s] [The 1960s] [The 1970s] [The 1980s]



Related Style Pages in the Boys' Historical Web Site
[Long pants suits] [Short pants suits] [Socks] [Eton suits] [Jacket and trousers] [Blazer] [School sandals]



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Created: October 3, 2003
Last updated: 10:07 PM 6/13/2007