* English school uniform: material and fabric

English School Uniform: Material and Fabrics

Figure 1.--Cord shorts became popular in England during the 1920s. By the 1980s, several schools gave the boys an option of wearing cord longs during the winter.

Several materials and fabrics have been used for English school uniforms. Some of the most important have been: Artex, cotton, corderoy, flannel, and Terelyn. These have been mostly used for blazers, jackets, shirts, and trousers. Several other materials are also of some importance. The popularity has varid over time. Th new blended fabrics had begun to appear in the late 1930s, but the outbreak of World War II meant that they were not used in school uniforms until well after the War ended in 1945. The popularity of different fabrics change over time, different fabrics falling in and out of vogue. Also manufacturing techniques have changed over the years as well as fabrics have. In fact, one of the reasons why different fabrics fellout of vogue is new manufacturing technique

Specific Materials

We have noticed many different materials being used for school uniform harments in England.


We are not yet entirely positive about the term Aertex. We see it used mostly in connection with school uniform shirts, especially summer shirts, both regukar and polo-type shirts. Unlike the staid grey school shirt, these Artex shirts are now made in many different colors. The schools with shirts in bright colors like yellow and orange are normally Artex shirts, but many more colors are used. Blue is especially popular. Aertex was and still is the company that made the shirts. We are not sure just when these shirts appeared, we think sometime before World War II, but only became populr after the War. We think the Aertex company began offering these summer shirts in a polyester-cotton blend used for knit mastetrials. While the shirts may have appeared before the War, the blended fabric was probanly introduced after the War. The fabric was often an open weave making the shirts compfortable for summer wear. Hopefully our Britih readers will know more about Aertex.


Cotton was often used for school shirts. A few schools adopted cotton short pants for the su,er. One school had blue cotton shorts. A few schools also adopted cotton khaki shorts.

Cotton/Wool Blends

The standard English grey school shirt was a long wearing and warm cotton-wool blend.


Corduroy was a popular material for school uniforms. The most common use was in school short pants. Hardcwearing cord shorts were often worn as play clothes by English boys and only later adopted for school uniforms. Several private schools adopted them as the school uniform I believe beginning in the 1940s, but this needs to be confirmed. Several schools also adoptd 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.


We have noticed a few schools using denim for school uniform, but it is very rare in England.


Flannel was widely used for school uniform until well afree Wprld War II (1939-45). Flannel was used for caps, blazers, and trousers, both long and short trousers. The first school shorts were grey flannels. Flannel shorts were commonly worn by English school boys until the 1950s when they began to be repalced by Terelyn shorts. Some schools continued to use flannel shorts into the 1980s, but only a relatively few.


Gaberdine was commonlu used for overcoats worn as part of school uniforms.


Leather is not a material we have associated with English school uniform. A reader tells us, "Chilton Cantelo School (coeducational prep and senior school) near Yeovil in the southwest of England used to have a leather uniform in the 1970s. The girls wore quite thick heavy brown leather skirts to just below knee length and all of the children had leather bomber jackets. I believe the boys wore cord shorts or longs depending upon age and season."


A British reader observes, "There used to be a pronounced twill effect that was prevalent in a Terylene and worsted weave. You no longer get this with polyester fabrics."


Blended woold shorts began to appear in the 1950s. The most popular brand in England was Terelyn. Unlike the grey flannels, Terelyn shorts kept their press and crease even affter extended wear.


With the broader application, of "new" synthetics, that are a knitted fabric, rather than woven, you speeded up production and in turn had a base product that becomes cheaper than a woven counterpart. All modern school shorts, produced now, are knitted fabric, and you may never see a worsted weave again, at an affordable price. Even when you look at play shorts, you see a switch during the mid-1980s. I think, where what used to be cotton (most of the British mills had closed) became polyester. The late 1970s and 80s saw the entire british textile industry, decimated. Here you can't blame the European Union, but every goverment, be it Labour or Conservative, that totally failed to take any measures to protect the manufacturing base. A lot of asset stripping went on then, with plant and machinery, being sold off and sent to in particular to China.


One observer writes, "What I have noticed is how much lighter in weight shorts are compared with what they were like say 30 or more years ago when I was in school."


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Created: September 2, 2000
Last updated: 4:02 PM 9/7/2008