Corduroy has a popular material for school uniforms in England. HBC believes that British boys began to wear cord shorts in the 1920s. I have not noted cord shorts being common worn before World War I (1914-18), but the precise chronology requires nore investigation. Schools only later began adopting corduroy as part of the uniform. Generally this occurred at schools adopting a more informal uniform. The most common use was in school short pants. Hard wearing cord shorts were often worn as play clothes by English boys and thus were a natural choice as part of a school uniform. Several private schools adopted them as the school uniform I believe beginning in the 1940s, but this needs to be confirmed. Some schools adopted cord shorts as part of an every day uniform and had the boys dress up in flannel or Terryln shorts for special occasions. Other schools used the cords for dresswear as well. Cord long pants were also worn at schools, but not as commonly as the cord shorts. Some schools also adopted cord jackets. In some cases they were the every day school uniform and the boys had blazers and grey shorts for dress wear. By the 1980s cord long trousers also began to appear. At first the cord longs were optional for winter wear, but often they were eventually allowed for summer wear as well.
HBC does not yet have a reliable chronology of corduroy garments in England. Based on preliminary assessmentsd HBC believes that British boys began to wear cord shorts in the 1920s. We note that corduroy was a fabric that was used for boys' clothing in ther 19th century because oif its hard wearing characteristics. What we do not know is when schools began using it as a school uniform. I have not noted cord shorts being common worn before World War I (1914-18), but the precise chronology requires more investigation. I am not sure just when schools began adopting cord garments, perhaps as early as the 1920s, but certainly they were being worn at some schools by the 1930s. Cord shorts appear to have been particularly popular during the 1950s before jeans became wide spread. HBC believes that this was when many school began adopting cord uniforms. Cord suddently disappeared as general boys' wear on the 1960s. I'm not sure why. Cord was always looked on as basically casual wear and boys generally chose jeans by the 1960s. They were retained, however, at many schools, despite going out of style as general boys' wear. By the 1980s cord long trousers also began to appear as part of school uniforms.
Corduroy seems ideally suited as a material for boys' wear. Cord appealed to English mothers because it was durable and long wearing as well as easy tomlaunder. Many boys liked it because the soft cord was more comfortable than the rougher flannel that was commonly worn until the 1960s. Corduroy thus seemed ideally suited for boys' wear.
Schools only later began adopting corduroy as part of the uniform. Corduroy became a popular material for school uniforms in England. Generally this occurred at schools adopting a more informal uniform. Cord was rugged and easy to care for--a seemingly natural choice for school uniform. I'm not sure just when this began. We note corduroy being used as school uniform in the 1950s at prep schools. We are not sure if it was used earlier. As far as we know, it was only prep schools where corduroy was used, we do not know if any state schools adopted cord. Curiously, corduroy was also used at borstals (reform schools). Some did not think corduroy was suitable for schoolwear. Some mothers bought cord shorts for boys, but only fir play not for school. One HBC reader remembers a funny incident with his cord shorts. His mother didn't think corduroy was suitable for schoolwear.
The only cord garments worn as school uniform known to HBC are trousers and jackets. The most common corduroy garment has been short trousers, although some schools also had corduroy long trousers. A few scholls had matching cord jackets, sometimes called lumber jsckets. Some schools used the jackets as the principal school outfit while other schools had blazers worn with grey short or long trousers in addition to the cord jackets. The most common use was in school short pants. Hard wearing cord shorts were often worn as play clothes by English boys and thus were a natural choice as part of a school uniform. Several private schools adopted them as the school uniform I believe beginning in the 1940s, but this needs to be confirmed. Some schools adopted cord shorts as part of an every day uniform and had the boys dress up in flannel or Terryln shorts for speecial occasions. Other schools used the cords dresswear as well. Cord long pants were also worn at schools, but not as commonly as the cord shorts. One school in Lomdon gibes the boys the option of wearing cord shorts or knickers (referred to as knickerbockers in England). Some schools also adoptd cord jackets. The jackets were often in blouson style, rather like an Eisenhowser jacket. They were quite different to a full length conventionally styled jacket. Usually the boys would wear these during normal school days and wear blazers for formal occasions.
Corduroy from the beginning had the image as casual boys' wear. Schools adopting corduroy garments had several options. Conventions thus varied from school to school. Many schools adopted cord shorts with that image in mind. By the 1950s, some schools had begin to introduce a more informal approach to school uniform that for the first half of the century had ben very formal, even for the younger children. In some cases cord shorts were the every day school uniform and the boys had blazers and grey dress shorts for more formal occasions. This was especially true of schools wher cord jackets were also worn. Some schools, however, used the cord shorts just vas flannel or Terryln shorts and wore their blazers with them.
Most schools used cord shorts for both summer and winter wear. At first the cord longs were optional for winter wear, but often they were eventually allowed for summer wear as well. Some schools adopted cord lomgs as the standard uniform garment for summer and winter, but this is a relativerly small number of schools. The cord jackets are primarily worn in the cooler months, but the English climate is variable and boys might even wear their jackets in May and June.
English schools have generally preferred grey or black trousers. Generally shorts have been grey and long trousers black--although dark grey longs are also worn. Schools adopted a more varied range of colors for cord shorts. HBC has noted grey, blue, and brown cord shorts at schools. We believe dark green was also worn, but we can not confirm school usage at this time. Grey was, however, the most common color by far. The great bulk of cord jackets and pabts e have noted have been grey. The boy here is wearing dark grey shorts (figure 1). We have noted various shades of grey, we think in part due to colors becoming lighter as a result of washing. Some of the grey garment while not white are a verylight-grey shade. The cord jackets were a more uniform color--usually various shades of grey--often with a light blue tinge. We have noticed some blue jackets, but they were not very common.
An observer reports, "One of the problems with corduroy at that time was when you washed the material, the die would run from the fabric. The more the shorts
were washed the fainter the colour of the corduroy became. Not only that, as a result of the die running out of the material, the white lining became tainted with the die from the corduroy. The lining in a navy pair for example, would change from pure white to a pale blue." Readers report that manufacturers now use dyes that are more color-fast.
Several HBC readers readers recall the smell of new corduroy garments, especially when they got wet. An observer here uses the term "quaint". Others found it unpleasant. I'm not sure just what caused this smell. Modern corduroy no longer has this smell. I had corduroy shirts and pants for school in America during the 1950s, but I do not recall a smell.
A reader tells us, "A personal observation that I have relates to the washing of corduroy in as much has it has remarkable shrinking properties. The more my shorts were washed the more they shrank. This was very noticeable at the hem where the material had been folded over to where the white lining had been sewn onto it.
When new there was a gap of about an inch or so from the hem to the lining. But the more the shorts were washed, the shorter this gap became. I recall a navy pair of cord shorts I had. They had been washed so many times that the gap between the hem and the lining had become so short that at one or two points along the hem it was possible to get a flash of lining protruding beneath the hem."
A British reader repoets, "I started to wear corduroy shorts when I was 9 and I liked them from the moment I first stepped into them. When new corduroy had a quaint smell and at the time I started to wear cords the material was called
velvet corduroy. I remember how the material gave off a sheen, especially when caught in direct sunlight. Now cord shorts today are made from a `different material', it no longer gives off that smell when new, also the dye in the material is colourfast.
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