Our Primary School Uniform: Garments-Coats

Figure 1.--

Coats were an important part of the uniform, not only because of the cold Winter weather, but also because it rained a lot. We all had gaberdine raincoats - girls and boys and in the very cold weather some of us had duffle coats for really cold weather. Many primary schools did not have uniform coats, but our CoE school as I mentioned was much more strict about the uniform than most state schools. I think that they were the only official coats allowed as I don't remember any others. The school did allow us to wear duffle coats in the cold weather as long as they were black, but they were not part of the offical uniform. We also had plastic macs, but these were more for play during the Summer than for school. I'm sure that gaberdine macs,duffle coats and the plastic macs were the only topcoats allowed at my primary school - and the macs and duffle coats had to be black, the plastic macs being a standard grey anyway (including the ones old ladies wore!).

Gaberdine Macs/Overcoats

We all,boys and girls, had black gaberdine macs. [HBC note: HBC generally refers to Gaberdine overcoats.] I think that they were part of the uniform. Many primary schools did not have uniform coats, but our CoE school as I mentioned was much more strict about the uniform than most state schools. I didn't like them for several reasons. They were heavy so if you wore them to school on a rainy morning you had to carry them home later if the rain had stopped. They were also hard to get on over your blazer--the sleeves used to get all scrunched up. And it was even worse getting them off in the cloakroom (especially as I have mentioned before rainy days also meant wearing wellies and they used to pull your socks off when you tried to pull them off). You used to have to almost redress in the cloakroom in the mornings before going into class where, of course, the teacher would be inspecting you before going into assembly. I hated rainy days!). The worst of the gaberdine macs was that they were of a harsh material and they would rub the backs of your knees as you! walked along. I used to get quite sore sometimes as I had a long walk to school. The macs had belts and I found that if you did that up as tightly as possible at the waist, it would make the lower part of the mac fan out and keep it off your legs. This worked for a while, but gradually the belt would slip (they didn't have notches and proper buckles just a sort of plastic clasp which you pulled the belt through). Then the coat would be at you legs again! For this reason when it was very cold I begged my Mum to allow me to wear my duffle coat. Some children had clip on quilted inners with their macs for when it was very cold but we didn't. The girls' macs had hoods but the boys' never did. Some boys still wore caps in the rain but they were no longer compulsory.

Duffle Coats

I much preferred my duffle coat. As explained above, I didn't like my gaberdine mac at all. My duffle coat was very warm and more generously cut as well as being of a softer woolen material. Mine was from Bradford in Yorkshire and had a tartan lining. The duffle coats would soak up water though (although funnily enough not snow which fell some time). So if it was raining heavily my Mum made me wear the mac. My duffle coat had a hood. And in the very cold weather we'd wear balaclavas too.

Plastic Macs

In more showery, warmer Spring weather the alternative was the plastic mac which was of a thin grey almost see-through material and could be rolled up very small. [HBC note: I believe that these were also called anoraks.] It was always a good sign of Summer coming when my Mum allowed us to wear the plastic macs when it was raining rather than the heavy gaberdine ones. In fact even when it was not raining and we went off to school in the Summer in just our blazers we would have the plastic macs rolled up in our satchells in case it was raining when we came home. The plastic macs were the most waterproof of all - but the trouble is the water ran off them, down your legs and straight into your wellies! By the time you got to school you would have sopping wet socks and wellies full of water. The teachers in the cloakroom used to make you take the wellies off and then queue up at the sink to pour out the water! Then you'd put your normal shoes on over wet socks! Ridiculous really. My Mum always made us take our plastic macs when going out to play too if she thought it looked like rain (and she could tell the weather just by sensing how the air felt and rarely got it wrong!) but I didn't mind that as you could scrunch them up really small and force them into the pocket of your shorts - it was better then carrying or wearing a gaberdine mac although it did take up pocket space which we really wanted for all of the other things that we might find when out playing. Some times when I came home and Mum would turn my pockets out she was amazed what I'd collected and she always said "What do you want that for?". She normally let me keep all of the junk in a special metal box I had - the exception being things like beetles in a matchbox (with holes I'd put in so they could breathe!) which she made me go back downstairs and release--away from the house while she watched from the window to make sure that I did! I told you already of the time I nearly lost my plastic mac in the river down on the beach. When we went to Kew Gardens or some other park with Mum on a Sunday we'd take our plastic macs in our satchels (along with sandwiches for a picnic) and then we could sit on the macs if the grass was wet. Because my Mum always made us take our plastic macs to school in our satchells "just in case" when we went on the school trip to Greenwich I told you about the grass was wet - not from rain but from a sprinkler. Then those of us who had such macs with us were very popular as all of the boys wanted to squeeze onto them when we ate lunch in the park. Everyone was fighting to get a dry space. I ended up being pushed onto the grass with three other boys on my mac! It was a warm day though and I soon dried out as we walked around - but I did think that it wasn't fair as they hadn't even brought macs. The grass had been cut too and I went home with grass in my satchell and just about everywhere else as the mac had picked it up. Our plastic macs were all a standard grey (including the ones old ladies wore!). I noticed a few years later by the late 70s that these macs were being made in many bright colors.

Secondary School

By the time I was at secondary school there were no standard overcoat regulations and boys wore all sorts - including great "afghan" coats by the "hairies". I believe that they were made popular by the Beatles - and "crombies" by skinheads.


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Created: 5:46 PM 5/20/2005
Last updated: 5:46 PM 5/20/2005