* English school uniform : chronological trends -- the 1950s garments

English 1950s School Uniform Trends: Garments

Figure 1.--This 3rd form class was photographed in 1952. I believevtht it is a grammar (selective secondary school), but am not sure. The school looks like it has recently introiduced a blazer uniform and that masny boys still wear the old uniform of suits. Or perhaps this is a reflection of post-World War II shortages.

Major changes began to occur in the 1950s, although in many cases actual changes did not become manifest until the 1960s. Caps still common at the beginning of the decade were being dropped at many state secondary and public schoolos by the end of the decade. Short pants were still worn at most prep schools and by the junior boys at many secondary schools.


The school cap through the 1940s was perhaps the most uniquitous item of school unidform worn by British school children. Even primary boys that did not have a school uniform wore them to school. This changed suignificantly in the 1950s. Caps were still common in the early 1950s. Primary children in particular during the decade, largely stopped wearing them. An exception here were the private preparatory schools which mostly continued to require them as part of the uniform. We still see caps at secondary schools, especially grammar schools. Secondary schools, however, reduced the age of the boys required to wear them. We still see them at quite a few scondary schools at the end of the decade. , but many continued to require them.


Primary schools did not require ties and few primary boys wore them, especilly by the late 1950s. Most prep schools required them ecen for the younger boys. Almost all secondary schools, private and public, contibued to require ties. A few private secondary schools with an outdoor image did not require the boys to wear their ties during the school day. We note a lot of secondary schools did not require ties in th 1940s and open-collar shirts were common. After the early 50s almodt all boys wore ties.

Blazers and Jackets

Primary boys generally wore suit jackets to schools in the early 1950s, but by the end of the decade their dress was becoming increasingly casual. At the same time, many state primaries by the end of the decade were beginning to require simple uniforms, although often this did not include blazers. Here the Anglican primaries were an exception. Blazers or suits were required at almost all prepschools. A few had special regular sdchool day outfits wth less formal cord jackets. Virtually all secondary sdchools, state and private, required blazers or suit jackets. Suits were very common at secondary schools in the early 50s, but by the late 50 most boys were wearing blazers rather than suits. Here a factor could have been post-World War II shortages. Some boys may have had trouble getting the official school blazer.


Short pants continued to be common at primary schools, although more and more boys bdegan swearing long pants as the decade progressed. Most schools had no uniform are requirement concerning dress. Prep schools generally had short pants uniforms. Many state secondary schools instituted short pants requirements for the younger boys. Private secondary scools (public schools) varied. Some allowed all boys to wear longs. Others required shorts for the younger boys, although rules varied from school to school. Some set age limits, others did it by form. Others set a height limit. A few schools required short pants for all the boys.


Most primary boys wearing shorts wore knee socks. Some prepschools had seasonal uniforms and during the summer had ankle socks or someyimes sandals without socks. Most secondary schools requiring shorts pants required that they be worn with kneesocks. We see both bargain knee socks and the mlore expensive turn-over-top socks.


We see boys wearing a variety of footwear in the 1950s. Age, gender, and price were all factors as well as the type of school. Some primary school boys wore sandals, but not as many as in the 1940s. School sandals were more common for the younger boys and were even more commonly worn by girls of all ages. They seem more common at prep schools which often had rules about footwear. Many prep schools required the boys to wear sandals. Boys in secondary sdchool, however, did not commonly wear sandals. Most boys wore leather shoes. By the 50s we only see low-cut oxfords. We see a few boys wearing sneakers, but they were not very common. Most mothers did not think thst they wrere suitble for school. We believe they often meant that the family could not aford leather shoes. The idea of dashionable sneakers or the modern word trainers had not yet developed. We do see styles different than the plimsols wormn for gym.


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Created: January 21, 2003
Last updated: 1:10 AM 11/7/2014