Japanese School Uniform: Headwear

Figure 1.--Some Japanese elementary schoolboys generally wear baseball caps as part of their school uniform, like these boys pictured in the 1980s. Notice these boys have turn-over-top kneesocks. This was not common in Japan.

Most Japanese kindergartens and primary (elemntary) schools require caps or hats, even those schools that otherwise have no uniform requirement. Many are quite colorful to help motorists spot the younger children. The most common style is a rounded, short brimmed hat, sometimes with short streamers, although other styles from peaked caps to Zouave caps to full-brimmed hats are also seen. The most popular non-uniform cap for primary schools are baseball caps. Although the baseball cap is now seen worldwide, baseball is actually a popular sport in Japan. The younger boys and girls commonly wear the same style caps, but older children nhave gender-specufic styles. A military-style hat formed part of the Prussian cadet-style uniform once ubiquitously worn by secondary school boys, but even schools that retain this uniform rarely require this hat anymore. I'm less sure about the headwear of girls wearing sailior dress uniforms.

Conventions

Headwearconventions are in part something which both Japanese uniform and non-uniform schools have in common. Most Japanese schools with uniforms have caps. We note both matching and non-matching styles and colors. The non-matching headwear is a fairly recent innovation. Even schools which do not have uniforms often incourage boys to wear caps, commonly they have a uniform cap. This is the one piece of uniform that is worn at the many different Japanese schools. Both primary and secondary schools have required caps. Headwear has become increasiongly common at primary schools, largely as a safety measure. While once almost universal, some secondary schools, however, that have dropped the traditional military cadet cap. Schools that have adopted the new blazer uniform, no longer require headwear. Caps continue to be worn with the now traditional secondary school cadet uniform and at primary schools. A few of the secondary schools still retaining the cadet uniforms have dropped the cap. We are not sure just why. We re not sure why caps are so commonly worn at Japanese schools, except the safety factor at primary schools. Headwear in general had declined in popularity in Japan, the same trend as in the West. Even so, many schools continue to require headwear. Thos is probably just a tendency seen in other countries that school uniform styles persist over time regardless of general fashion trends.

Chronology

Japan developed a modern education system in the late 19th century. The Government chose military style uniforms including cadet caps. Sailor uniforms were chosen for the girls which including sailor hats. Many elementary schools did not have uniforms, but students might still wear the military-style caps with regular clothes. Secondary schools did require the uniforms. We note these miilitary styles in the early-20th century through the World War II period. After World War II we see a much wider range of headwear styles. Most secondary schools did continue to have uniforms with the military-style headwear. The primary schools, however, adopted many different hedwear styles, mostly non-military styles. Most were different kinds of caps, but there were also hats. We note some medium-brimmed hats worn by both boys and girls. Younger children commonly wore brightly colored caps, but I am not sure just when this convention was introduced.

Types

Many Japanese schools require a school uniform and most include caps or hats. Even schools which do not require uniformns have the children wear caps. There are several different styles of hats and caps worn by Japanese school children. The Keio Yochisha hat is more elaborate than is typical (again, private schools often have elaborate hats--such as Tsukuba with its cotton balls.) Many schools even without a uniform will have children wear a bright yellow or blue simple hat (the yellow I think is common because it is so visible, thus ensuring children stand out in traffic). The Keio hat is black felt, worn by both boys and girls. The Keio uniform was adopted, I believe, well before the war and the round felt hat and Etonesque collar reflects European children's fashions of the 1920s.

Bright Colored Caps

We note that some primary schools have a yellow cap. The yellow color has been selected because it is a bright color and helps ensure that motorists will see the children when they are walking to and from school. This is not an unrealistic concern. Many Japanese cities havet very narrow and crowded streets, epecially in the city centers. Japan is a heavily urbanized country and most children walk to school, especially primary school children. Thus this precaution is a very prudent one. Not all schools have adopted yellow caps, but quite a number have done so. Some schools have other bright colors like red or orange. We are not sure just what percentage of schools have these caps. Styles varry, but the most common is a style of floppy cap. Because the yellow caps are a measure to protect young children, some of the older boys at the schools do not like having to wear the yellow caps.


Figure 2.--These boys from a Tokyo private school wear a floppy blue school hat with a small full brim. Note these boys wear their brims turned up. At other schools the brims are turned down.

School Level

The caps worn by primary and secondary school boys are quite different. Headwear at primary schools tend to be quite varied. We note both full-brimmed hats, often soft hats, but some with rounded crowns. We also notice a range of caps, including baseball caps. Another characteristic of primary school headwear is the choice of yellow or other bright color as a saftey feature for Japan's crowed streets. Secondary schools, both junior and senior high schools often have a nilitary-style cap. A few primary schools also have these military caps, but this is not very common. We notice two tyoes of military caps. The most cxommon is a blue cap. We also notice a white cap, These caps and military uniforms in general are not worn at all Jaopanese seciondary schools, but they are the traditonal style and still vet common. Cap wearing is almost universal among Japanese primary children. Younger children wear a wide variety of headgear. This is in sharp contrast to American and European children that wear a very limited number of styles. Some younger children wear a rounded cap with narrow brim, held on with an elastic chin strap. Japan is the only county I know where elastic chin straps are widely worn. There are several other styles, some with rounded crowns. Other elementary boys often wear American-style baseball caps. Although the baseball cap is now seen worldwide, baseball is actually a popular sport in Japan. There does not seem to be any age spesialization here. All the boys and sometimes boys and girls at a school wear the same hat style. There are also some soft cap styles. A few elementary schools have a peaked military style hat, but it is only worn by the boys. Many are quite colorful and designed to help motorists spot the children. They vary greatly in style. The caps for the kindergarten and younger children are the most common. The younger boys and girls commonly wear the same style caps. Some of the caps are actually hat with moderate-sized brims, sometimes with short streamers. Some cap styles come with elastic chin straps to help keep the caps on in the windy weather. Again schools with the chin straps have them for both the younger and older boys. Middle school and highschool boys at which boys wear the military style uniform also wear a comparable military cap as do the girls wearing sailor dresses. Secondary school boys mostly wear the Prussian cadet caps to match their military-styled uniform. The boys wear a army style peaked hat and the girls various versions of a sailor hat. The uniform difference betweeen boys and girls show the difference in the formation of the Japanese military. The navy was strongly influenced by the British navy and the army the Prussian army. Thus the uniforms for boys are based on Prussian uniforms and the girls wear British inspired uniforms. Some secondary schools have begun to move away from the military style uniform, but the Prussian cadet hat it is still very common. Some secondary schools have adopted a new English-styled uniform with a blazer and tie. The schools that have moved to blazer uniforms generally do not have a cap requirement.

Historical Trends

Schools in Britain and other countries have generally moved away from school caps. We have noted a few countries that have been promoting sun-safe appeoaches to headwear, most notably Australia and New Zealand. We are not sure precisely why, but headwear at Japanese schools tend to be widely worn. I'm not sure what kinds of caps and hats Japanese elementary boys wore before the Second World War. I do not even know if elementary schools had uniforms before the War. Secondary-level boys wore the same military style caps that are still commonly-worn in Japan. I'm not sure when this style was introduced in Japan, but it appears to have been widely worn by the 1930s. I'm not sure when Japanese elementary schools began requiring uniforms, but it appears to have been common by the 1960s. The styles selected were primarily European, especially trim fitting short pants. For the cap, however, they turned to America, at least for the older boys. The caps and hats vary, primarily on the age group. Younger elementary schools wear a variety of styles. One popular style was a full-brimmed, but usuaally not a will wide brim. Often boys and girls would wear the same style. Older elementary boys mostly wear baseball caps. I'm not sure when Japanese elementary schools began requiring uniforms, but it appears to have been common by the 1960s. The styles selected were primarily European, especially trim fitting short pants. For the cap, however, they turned to America, at least for the older boys. The caps and hats vary, primarily on the age group. Younger elementary schools wear a variety of styles. One popular style was a full-brimmed, but usuaally not a will wide brim. Often boys and girls would wear the same style. Older elementary boys mostly wear baseball caps.


Figure 3.--These Japanese boys wear a blue soft hat with a turned down brim. At this school the girls wear the same hat style. Notice one boy has allowed his kneesocks to fall down. While many schools have strict uniform standards, generally they are not strict about this or the length of socks worn.

Gender Trends

The younger boys and girls commonly wear the same style caps and hats. There are quite a few different styles. Older children usually have gender-specific styles. Here there is a wider variety of styles for girls than is the case for boys. Hats seem most common for girls and caps more common for boys. Not only are their style differences, but chin straps seem more common on the girls' hats. Many girls wear very similarly syled sailor dresses. This is most common at secondary schools, but some primary schools also have sailor dresses. The headwear to go with these dresses is quite varied. This contrasts with the fairly similar caps the boys wear with their cadet-styled uniforms.

Chin Straps

We note that some Japanese school caps come with chin straps. The chin straps normally appear to be elasticized cord. This appears to be the case for several different styles of caps. Chin straps seem to be the most common with younger nursery or kindergarden children, but we note them in priamary school as well. It is not clear to us at this time just how common chin strps are. We even note then with cap styles for which chin straps are not normally worn--such as English style peaked caps. We note that some children from the same school wear them and others do not. Presumably this means that the caps come with chin straps and some childreb choose to wear them and others choes not todo so. I do not know if any school insist that the chilren wear them.







HBC






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Created: November 25, 1998
Last updated: 4:46 PM 12/20/2012