School Uniform Regulations: Short Pants

Figure 1.--.

Pants were a hotly debated issue in the 1960s and 70s. Ameican boys wanted permission to wear jeans. English boys wanted to wear long pants. Subsequently boys began rto complain about school regulations requiring them to wear long pants.



Many English boys wore short pants to school. There were no regulations involved until the 1960s when primary schools began introducing uniforms. Private schools did have uniforms which usually perscribed the style of pants. State secondary schools which were organized in the 1940s did require uniforms, usually blazers. Many schools did not specify long or short pants, but a number of schools required short pants in the first year or two. This was more common in the grammar schools than the secondary moderns. Short pants were more commonly required by the private schools, especially the preparatory schools. Regulations varied greatly vfrom school ton school as to who had to wear shorts, the regulations were variously based on form (grade), age, or height. Often there were special exemptions for overweight boys.

Chronological trends

Since the 1960s boys at most state schools have worn long pants. Many primary schools required shorts into the 1980s, some still do during the summer. In recent years, boys at some state schools have begun demanding the right to wear shorts during the warmer months. Most schools do not allow this, but a few have regulations addressing the subject. The Guardian (UK) newspaper on June 6, 2001 carried a report from a comprehensive school in Devon where police were called to quell a riot because pupils were not allowed to wear short trousers! The article started by pointing out that it used to be difficult to persuade schoolboys to wear short trousers.


One HBC contributor reports: "Perhaps all we need here in the U.K. is an extra hot summer for all the younger lads to start demanding the priviledges of their peers and the right to wear shorts to school! I believe there were the beginnings of complaints of this nature in some quarters a couple of years ago. The key to the issue is that it is a matter of priviledge to wear shorts and for everyone to stear clear of the idea of shorts as ridiculously juvenile or that a boy might be "kept in shorts" or "put back in shorts" as a form of punishment. These sorts of ideas led to the eventual abandonning of shorts for boys above primary school age (and even for much of that) in most of the U.K. some time ago now. It might not come to that. There are currently several cases going to the courts about school uniform violating a persons human rights. Something along the line of how can you justify that I will learn better if I wear a blue jumper everyday rather than a red one, or that i learn better in black trousers rather than jeans. (Wish i'd kept the newspaper article now). There are also ones going to court about work dress codes that might also link to school uniforms.

Individual schools

The Deepings School: UNIFORM--The following uniform is common to all pupils in years 7-11. A plain white shirt tucked into a grey skirt or grey trousers. .... Pupils in the 6th form wear black skirt, trousers or tailored shorts.

Blanford School: The Blandford School is a Voluntary Controlled co-educational comprehensive for the 13-18 age group. SCHOOL UNIFORM: Years 9,10,11 Boys Trousers Plain, unpatterned black trousers, properly creased and of full ankle length and standard fitting. Year 12, 13 The Sixth Form is a fresh start to school in a more adult environment. A Sixth Form student is an important contributor to the school and its image. Sixth Formers are not required to wear a uniform, but they are expected to show responsibility in the way they dress for school, educational trips and visits. All students are expected to dress smartly: for male students this should be trousers or knee-length tailored shorts and a shirt.

ST Thomas More RC Upper School, Bedford: SIXTH FORM DRESS CODE--Variations from the main school uniform may be worn by Sixth Form students. Sixth Form students are expected to set an example to the rest of the school in everything they do. Students should wear smart, tidy clothes appropriate for a school and learning environment. .... Trousers are to be of a smart tailored appearance. As an alternative only smart black denim jeans may be worn. Alternative wear for the summer term only: - Smart tailored shorts.

Culverhay: UNIFORM CHECK--There will be a uniform check on Monday and Tuesday of next week. Caps are NOT allowed in school, and shorts are not allowed even in the Sixth Form.

New Zealand

Unlike most countries, many New Zealand secondary schools require boys to wear short pants school uniforms. Many schools now allow long pants, especially for the older boys. Quite a number of schools, however, require short pants for most of the boys. Some schools requiring short pants allow boys to wear longs in the winter. Many schools, however, require shorts even during the winter and have light cotton summer shorts and heavier winter wool belend winter shorts.

United Statres

American public schools never required boys to wear short pants. Some exclusive private schools had short pants uniform, but this was not pervasive. Some younger boys wore short pants to primary school, but knickers were much more common. By the 1950s, most boys were wearing long pants. Schools in the 1950s began intoroducing dress codes. High school prohibited jeans and short pants. Some primary schools also did not allow shorts, although until the 1970s, fewv boys wanted to wear shorts to school. There were some regional differences. Boys in California and the South were more likely to wear shorts.

One American reports, "I live in Texas and we start school mid-August when the temperature is 100+. The school board just banned shorts at the high school. The high school is composed of 10 buildings that are not connected by any hallways in any sort. So, you're walking around outside in dress shirts and full-length slacks/jeans in 100+ weather. See where the problem comes in? Of course, this is the same school district that is promising to teach a secular bible study class, so, you know..

Christopher Wagner

Related Chronolgy Pages in the Boys' Historical Web Site
[Late 19th century] [The 1930s] [The 1940s] [The 1930s] [The 1940s] [The 1950s] [The 1960s]
[The 1970s] [The 1980s]

Created: April 16, 2000
Last updated: June 7, 2001