New Zealand School Uniform: Garments

Figure 1.--Blazer are becoming increasingly less common at state schools, but they are till worn at most private school in New Zealand.

New Zealand school uniform garments were once almost ideantical to the garments worn by British children. This of course dervises from the fact that New Zealnd was a former British colony and the educational system was once heavily influenced by the British system. Given the very different climate, garments over time have changed. There is, however, a very significant British influence. In fact traditional patterns appear to have persisted in New Zealand longer than in Britain itself. Modern New Zealand school uniform garments reflect both traditional British school uniforms and the developing more casual styles. Caps are now rarely seen. Blazers are still common, but not worn at many schools. The use of ties very greatly from school to school. Casual shirts and short pants are common. Kneesock are worn seasonally at many schools as are sandals.


Virtually all New Zealand schoolboys, like their British counterparts, wore peaked caps as recently as the 1950s. Caps began to become less common in the 1960s. Both state and private secondary schools required them. A great variety of colors were used. As the fashion of wearing caps and hats wained, school capsbegan to disapear in the 1960s. By the 1980s only a handful of privateschols still required them.


A great variety of colors and stripped blazers were worn by British boys from the 1920s through the 1970s. Blazers are now much less common. The cost of the blazers and a trend of simplyfying the uniform as well as New Zealand's warmer climate caused many schools, especially the boys' schools to discard them for every day school wear. By the 1970s many schools were adopting more casual uniforms. At most state secondary schools where uniforms are worn, the younger boys rarely wear blazers. Boys normally wear just shirts to school, adding jumpers (sweaters) when the weather got cool. At some schools the older boys may still wear them. Many of the private preparatory schools continue to require blazers as do the secondary-level private schools.


British schoolboys wore ties to school. Both state and private schools required them. The ties were usually stripped in the school colors. Often prefects or boys who "won their colors" received the honor of wearing distinctive colors. This pattern was continued in New Zealand, but generally has been discarded in recent years. Boys at most state schools wear casual open collar shirts. Only a state secondary schools continue to require them, but many private schools still do, both prep schools and secondary schools. State elementary schools generally do not have uniforms, but Catholic schools do and ties are commonly worn there.


Most school uniforms sweaers were grey. This was especially the case where boys wore grey shorts. While most school uniform sweaters were grey, we have also seen green, blue, brown, and green sweaters. There are also white sweaters to be worn for cricket. The sweaters are mostly "V" neck so that they can be worn with ties. Many school uniform sweaters were all grey. The sweaters were, however, commonly done with trim in the school colors done at the neck, or sometimes the wrist cuffs and waistband as well.


The standard school boy shirt after Eton suits disappeared during the 1920s were grey straight collared shirts. Grey was selected because it did not show the dirt like white shirts. For dress occasionsa white shirt was substituted. These are shirts made to be worn with ties. We are not sure about the mid-20th cebtyry, but by the 1980s many schools were no longer requiring ties to be worn wth these shirts. Some elementary schools in recent years have intoduced more casual white or blue polo-style shirts. These are also worn at a few secondary schools. One private school had turtle-neck shirts.


New Zealand school children have worn a wide variety of pants/trousers to school. The pants worn by the younger children to schools that did not have uniforms were simply the popular styles at the time. We note knee pants, long pants, and short pants. Knickers never seem to have been very common in New Zealand. The same pants appear to have been used in school uniforms, especially long pants and short pants. We do not have much information on the 19th century. We see New Zealand children wearing the same type of uniform pants worn in Britain. We do not know much about the early-20th century, but this seems to be the case after World war I in the 1920s. Most secondary school boys have traditionally worn grey or blue short trousers. the grey shorts wee especially common. There were differences, however, as the uniform is chosen by each individual school. Short pants uniforms were widely worn in New Zealand. While grey and to a lesser extent blue were by far the most common colors, there were other colors worn. This was an English influence, although the blue shorts seem a Scottish influence. Many schools with grey short trouser uniforms had seasonal alternatives, a light-weight cotton style in the summer and a more formal hewvy-weight pair in the winter. Many had relatively heavy shorts duting the coller months. Flannel shorts were popular in through the 1950s. Then schools began turing to wool blends like Terelyn. During the summer, boys at many schools wore light-weight cotton shorts. Some schools had navy blue sjorts. Here there does not seem to have been a seasonal choice, the same shorts worn year round. More boys in recent years are wearing long pants to school, but shorts are still widely worn. Many schools now allow long trousers for the older boys or during the winter. Boys at a few schools now wear mostly long trousers. Most New Zealand secondary school, however, still require at least the younger boys to wear shorts. Girls initially wore dresses to school, but in recent years, girls primary schools odten wear shoets or even long pants to school. Most secondary schools insist on skirts or dresses, but wevnoted one school which allowed the girls to wear the boys' uniform. Thois was s school which did not strictly enforce the uniform rules.


We note New Zealand school children wearing a range of footwear and no footwearcat all. This is mostly seen in the state schools that do not have uniforms. Here climate is a factor. New Zealand has a mild climate that permits this. It never gets really cold, even on South Island. The schools do not have rules prohibting this as is now cimmon in Europe and America. In fact it is quite common for primary children to come to school barefoot. Many primary school children go to school barefoot in New Zealand. Most students, especially at the primary level come to school in black lace up shoes. Many schools have seasonal uniforms and black lace up shoes are common in the cooler months. Girls might wear strap shoes or closed toe sandals, but not the boys. Primary-age British boys often wore closed-toe brown "T" strap sandals, referred to as school sandals, for normal school wear. Some younger boys or girls wore redish-brown or blue sandals or double strap sandals. This style was never as popular in New Zealand, but was common until the 1960s. Currently such sandals are usually only worn by girls. Roman-style sandals with out socks are commonly worn by secondary schoolboys as part of the school uniform. At some schools contests are known to see who can continue the summer style of sandals and no knee socks the longest during the winter. One factor that has to be considered is the cost of footwear. In both New Zealand and Australia, consumer goods, including footwear tend to be more expensive than in America and Europe. Shies can cost double what they cost in America.


English boys wearing shorts generally wore grey knee socks, although colored socks were more common in Scotland. New Zealand boys commonly went barefoot in the summer. At secondary schools they generally wear grey or blur knee socks as part of the winter uniform. At most schools the grey socks have colored bands at the top in the school colors. As in England, New Zealand boys never wore white socks, except for cricket, as white socks, both ankle and knee socks, were generally worn by girls and thus seen as girls' socks.

Gym/Sports Uniforms

New Zealand boys wore the same gym and games (sports) uniforms as British boys. After World War II some differences have appeared showing the American influence and the introduction of American sports like basketball and baseball. These are minor sports and the uniforms for major sports continue to be similar to England as they are the same games played in England. Rugby dominates the New Zealand sports scene in New Zealand while in England it is an important, but not dominate sport. Probably no where else in the world is rugby as important as in New Zealand. In recent years the sports uniforms have become very stylish. One interesting aspect of the New Zealand school gym/sports scene is the effort to provide athletic opportunities to students of a wide range of athletic abilities. Thus schools generally organize a number of teams rather than just one team for the most talented atheletes. One of the most destinctive aspect of gym in New Zealand is the number of boys who play barefoot. In the United States and Euyropean countries this is not common. For one reason boys in other countries do not like going barefoot so much and for insurance and liability reasons, the schools would not let them.


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Created: November 1, 2001
Last updated: 1:10 AM 7/18/2013