French School Uniform Chronology: Late 19th Century


Figure 1.--This 1897 portrait shows the boys at a small rural primary school. Notice that smocks are worn by mostly the younger boys. Two boy in front have rather fancy smocks. Many boys have shaved heads. A few boys wear bows. We see only one older boy in the back row wearing a smock. None of the smocks appear to be belted. To learn more about the school, click on the image. 

The major event affecting schoolwear was the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71). The Emperor Napoleon III's disastrous loss in the war cost him the crown and paved the way for the Second Republic. The northern provinces of Alsace Loaraine were lost to the Germans. The decision to require French boys and girls to wear school smocks was a decision implemented by French authorities during the 1870s. The smock was in keeping with the Republican sensibilities of the day. I'm not sure if this increased the number of schools that had military uniforms. One French contributor to HBC reports that the catistrophic defeat by the Germans fomented a desire for revenge. He reports this explains why military touches, like a waist belt was often added to school smocks and worn over the smock with no apparent utilitarian purpose. HBC has noted French schoolboys in military style uniforms at the turn of the 20th century. We do not that a substantial number of boys in French schools in the late 19th century had shaved heads or very close hair cuts. The Third Republic did further promote public education and increasing numbers of French children attended school. We have few images from the 1870s and 80s in our archives. Images we have collected from the 1890s show great variations from school to school, showing that there were no nation-wide regulations being enforced. Some images show large numbers of boys wearing smocks, while other images show only a few younger boys wearing them. Quite a few boys wear outfits with some sailor styling. HBC is still confused as to what the regulations were and when they went into effect.

Franco-Prussian War

The major event affecting schoolwear was the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71). The Emperor Napoleon III's disastrous loss in the war cost him the crown and paved the way for the Second Republic. The northern provinces of Alsace Loaraine were lost to the Germans.

Third Republic Educational Reforms

The Third Republic did further promote public education and increasing numbers of French children attended school. We know that the Third Republic initiated major educational reforms. Unfortunately we have few details as to the precise nature of those reforms. We know that the Catholic church was excluded from primary education. While the military uniforms suggest that the schools were run like military schools and thus helped to militarize French society, we have liittle information on the actual nature of French education. Certainly the schools stressed patriotism and anti-German feeling. They must have also stressed the duty to reclaim the lost province of Alscace-Loraine. We do not know, however, to what extent the academic program and discipline instilled militarism in French youth.

School Clothing

We have few images from the 1870s and 80s in our archives. Images we have collected from the 1890s show great variations from school to school, showing that there were no nation-wide regulations being enforced. Some images show large numbers of boys wearing smocks, while other images show only a few younger boys wearing them. Quite a few boys wear outfits with some sailor styling. HBC is still confused as to what the regulations were and when they went into effect.

School smocks

The decision to require French boys and girls to wear school smocks was a decision implemented by French authorities during the 1870s. The smock was in keeping with the Republican sensibilities of the day. A view of French schoolboys was painted by Marie Bashkirtseff in 1884 giving us a good idea of schoowear.

Military uniforms

I'm not sure if this increased the number of schools that had military uniforms. One French contributor to HBC reports that the catistrophic defeat by the Germans fomented a desire for revenge. He reports this explains why military touches, like a waist belt was often added to school smocks and worn over the smock with no apparent utilitarian purpose. HBC has noted French schoolboys in military style uniforms at the turn of the 20th century. We do not that a substantial number of boys in French schools in the late 19th century had shaved heads or very close hair cuts.

Clothing Catalogs and Fashion Magazines

French clothing catalogs and fashion magazines show that French school boys wore a wide variety of uniform styles. Almost always the unifirms have long pants. One catalog in 1899 shows the range of different styles worn.

Portraits

We have several portraits od French schoolboys taken in the 19th century. Unfortunately, most are not dated or identified. The first such portraits we have noted appear in the mid-19th century, although we are not positive when French school boys began wearing military uniforms. Some of these uniforms may have been for actual military schools, most were uniforms for regular secondary schools. Manyn different styles were involved. Apparently each school could select the style. We are nokt sure to what exyent there were Government regulations about these uniforms. The practice appears to have continued through World War I. Aftervthe War, military uniforms were dropped at most French schools, apparently a reaction to the horrs of war.






HBC-SU





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


Related Style Pages in the Boys' Historical Web Site
[Return to the Main French school uniform 19th century chronology page]
[Main country page]
[Long pants suits] [Short pants suits] [Socks] [Eton suits]
[Jacket and trousers] [Blazer [School sandals]


Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing School Uniform Pages
[Main French School Uniform Page]
[Australia] [England] [France] [Germany]
[Italy] [Japan] [New Zealand] [Scotland]
[United States]


Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Page
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Clothing styles] [Countries]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Satellite sites] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]




Created: March 17, 2002
Last updated: 7:12 PM 11/29/2004