Australian School Uniform: Garments--Shirts

Figure 1.--This Australian boy in the 1950s wears the rugby style shirts that were commonly worn at state schools. They were usually khaki or blue. Many of these shirts had flap pockets, but this boy does not appear to have any pocket.

Australian boys have worn a variety of shirts as part of their school uniforms. Once most boys wore mostly grey shirts and white shirts on special occassions. Boys now wear a wider range of colors. One popular style in the 1950s were closed-front shirts, but this style has since virtually disappeared.


I'm not sure what boys wore to school in the late 19th century. Eron collars were common in the early 20th century. After World War I (1914-18) modern looking shorts appeared, both open and closed front styles. The closed-front shiert in the Rugby style was very popular, but began to worn less commonly by the 1960s. Grey was a popular color for a lot of the private preparatory or strict state or Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran schools. In the 1980s many schools began introducing polo and other more informal shirts worn ith open collars without ties. Shirts in bright colors were popular/ Monogrammed polo shirts since the 1990s have become increasingly popular. Australian readers report that several schools in their neighborhood have adopted monogrammed polo shirts. Although Rugby shirts have declined in popularity they are still worn at some schools.


Normal wear at secondary schools was a grey, long-sleeved shirt. White shirts were worn for formal occasions. Closed fron-shirts were common at mod-century. Since the 1970s, more informal styles like polo shirts have been worn.

Eton collars

Many boys in the early 20th century wore Eton collars. This was common in the 1900s and 1910s, but was rapidly disappered after World War I in the 1920s. The Eton style was one of many school and dress styles imported from England as bous there also commonly wore Eton collars.

Closed-front shirts

A HBC reader reports that state school uniforms often used C.Fr. (partially closed front) shirts. Closed front meaning a half front placket syopping about level with the base of the pocket. Some had flap button pockets. This style of shirt is according to a HBC reader a "icon" symbol in Australia. They were made for school wear in both Navy or khaki. The standard closed-front shirt had long sleeves and a flap pocket, but they were also worn with short slleves and with or without a front pocket--commonly with a button flap. I'm not sure how commonly ties were worn with these shirts. I believe they were worn open collared, without ties. (HBC has noted, however, New Zealand boys wearing them with ties. The C.Fr. style was popular in Queensland until replaced by polo front styles--which are very similar with a front placket. HBC notes that these shirts only have buttons at the top and are pulled over and then buttoned up. Elsewhere in HBC we have referred to these as rugby-style shirts. HBC had assumed that the style was simply an Australian version of the rugby-style shirts worn in England at the same time. An Australian reader reports, however, that the closed-front style was derived from the uniform of ANZAC mounted calvary during World War I. This is one of many examples of military styles influencing boys clothing. For many years this closed front style shirt was widely worn by Australian boys to school.

Open-front shirts

Open front schools were nmore common in private schools than closed-front shirts. Commonly boys had grey shirts for every day wear and white shirts for dress wear with ties. Occasionally other colored shirts were worn, but grey was the mlost common. Schools today that do not have informal knit or polo shirts will have open front schools.

Polo shirts

Knits and polo-style shirts since the 1970s have generally replaced the classic closed-front shirt. Many schools, both private and state, are adding monograms with the school name to these shirts. This has become quite popular in the 2000s.


Australian school shirts traditionally were either grey or white. Some schools had khaki Blue shirts appeared about the 1970s. By the 1990s there was a much wider range of color, including beige, green, and yellow. They were made in both short and long sleeves. The syles included polos, open front, and closed front shirts. One of the reasons that there are more colored shirts worn with modern school uniforms is that blazers are less common then was the formerly the case. If only white and grey shirts were worn, there would be little difference between various schools.


Most school uniform shirts are solid colors. Grey shirts were the most common and white for special occassions. A much wider range of colors began to appear in the 1970s-but mostly still solid colors. We have noted a few schools with patterened shirts, commonly a plaid pattern matching the skirts and dresses worn by the firls. The pattern was always used only for boys' shirts, never for the pants. I'm not sure how common these patterned shirts were. Most images show boys wearing solid color shirts.

Monogram Shirts

School uniforms once identified what school children attended. The primary garment here were destinctively colored blazers. As school uniforms became invreasingly casual, fewer schools required blazers. Schools began adopting destincely colored shirts. These brightly colored shirts are often casual dhirts, in many cases polo shirts with Rugby collars. Not all schools have shirts with bright colors. Many schools still use white and grey shirts. These are often collsared shirts, in some cases worn with ties. In addition many schools have added monograms to the shirts to fewer identify the school. The monograms have been added to both informsl polo shirts and more formal collared shirts.


Related Chronolgy Pages in the Boys' Historical Web Site
[Main Chronology Page]
[The 1880s] [The 1930s] [The 1940s/a>] [The 1950s]
[The 1960s] [The 1970s] [The 1980s]

Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing School Uniform Pages
[Main Australian School Uniform Garment Page]
[Main Australia page]
[England] [France] [Germany] [Italy] [Japan] [New Zealand] [Scotland]
[United States]

Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Page
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Clothing styles] [Countries] [Topics]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Satellite sites] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]

Created: May 20, 2001
Last updated: May 12, 2004