*** Autralian schools school education Australia

Australian Schools

Australian school munifiorm
Figure 1.--Australian boys at most of the traditional private schools wears traditional English school uniforms. Note the band with the school colors on the knee socks.

A school uniform consisting of a blazer, school tie, and dress pants which is worn by boys in many countries, especially English-speaking countries. This uniform evolved in England during the late 19th century and spread to the English colonies which at the time spanned the globe. Australia of course was one of those countries. Australian schools, despite the widely different climate tended to follow the British syles very closely until the 1960s when they begun to develop their own distinctive styles and standards. Schoolwear was of course affected by overall Australian boys' clothing trends.

Historical Trends

Australian school uniforms, like those in other countries, have changed over time. The first school uniforms were simply copies of English school uniforms. The Australian school system was set up by English colonial administrators. They were schooled and trained in England and set up Austalian schools along the same line as English schools, complete with English school uniforms. We have collected some information about modern Australian school uniforms, but little information about earlier historical eras. We believe, however, that the further you go back the more similar Australian chool uniform is to European school uniform.

Regional Trends

We do not have details on regional trends in Australia yet. Some of our Australian readers are hesitant to describe country-wide trends. They have, however, provided us some information on school uniform trends where they live. Hopefully HBC will eventually begin to form some conclusions about regional trends a we compile accounts from different areas in Australia.


School uniforms are very common in Australia, but we are not sure just how common. A resercher writes us, "I am doing a project that requires socio/cultural data for Australia. I wanted to include the percentage of Australian schools that wear school uniforms, but am finding it very difficult to find statistics. I can assume it is about 99 percent as there are only two that I know of in Canberra that do not." Do you have any these statistics for Australia or know where I could get them?" As far as HBC know, most secondary schools do require school uniforms. We are not sure that uniforms are as common in primary schools. An Australian reader reports that beginning in the 1970s that quite a number of schools discointinued school uniforms, but a number of schools are now ressessing this decession. One australian reader writes, " The higher tier state primary schools which are about 30 percent of the primary schools in Australia have some pastorial care or religious instruction commonly have traditional uniforms. This includes the Catholic schools. About 35 percent of state primary schools have partial or very informal uniforms. The rest of the state primary schools or about 35 percent have no uniform requirement. Private schools (often with Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran and other Christian affiliations) require uniforms, often formal, traditional styles. This includes English-style blazers and shorts. School caps and hats are much less common."

Purchasing School Uniforms

School uniforms were often purchased in clothing shops or men and boyswear shops which had a school uniform section. Major department stores in the larger cities also had school sections. This is wear the school-specific items like caps, blazers, and ties as well as kneesocks with school trim were purchased. The major chain stors carried items like grey shirts and trousers and plain grey kneesocks. I believe there were also coop stores, but here I have few details. Most private and some state schools had shops where parents could buy seviceable used garments.

Australian school uniform
Figure 2.--Australian private schools by the 1990s were allowing older boys to wear long pants, but some boys still wore shorts and knee socks. The boys that did wear shorts in the late 1990s wore the long baggy style that had become popular.

School Types

School uniform standards tended to be different at the different schools, both age wise (elementary and secondary) and types (state, Catholic, and private). Uniform regulations at these different tupes of schools tend to be quite different. Generally the private schools, especially the traditional ones based on English public and preparatory schools give much greater attention to uniforms than than the state schools. Even so, most Australian state schools do require uniforms, although the uniform can be very basic--especially at state elementary schools.


Traditional school uniforms in Australia were virtually identical with British school uniforms. Australian schools were set up on the British model by British educators and colonial administrators. Many early teachers wre English and until recent years teachers werevactively recruited in England. Immigrants from England comprise the bulk of the Australian population. For these reasons, English school fashions were worn by Australian school children. Since the 1970s, however, a more informal, destinctly Australian style has emerged. Austrlian schools have for the most part continued the English practice of requiring school uniforms.


Most Australian school uniforms like British school uniforms upon which they are based are plain colored garments, primarily grey and blue. Other colors have appeared in recent years, but grey and blue are still the dominant colors. The plain solid color garments are often made a bit stylish by detailing in the school colors--most commonly on the jumper (sweater) collars and sleeve cuffs (sometimes the waist as well) and on the tops of the kneesocks. Jumpers also sometimes had a school logo. Australian schools sometimes used a kind of zig zag pattern rather than the school colors for the detailing, but this is now rarely seen. The one pattern that has been used for scholl garmebts is plaid. This was used for girls' dresses and skirts, never for boys' pants. We have noted a few schools, always at coed schools, in recent years using the same plaid worn by girls for boys' shirts.


Many Australian schools have seasonal clothing. The basis change is from heavy to light weight clothing depending on the temperature. Often this envolves a change in material. This varies from school to school. It is less common in the north where the climate is warm all year round. Sometimes there are differences in color, although this is limited by the fact that the uniforms are often in the school color. Some schools shift from a gray to a colored uniform. Some schools employ a patern, often a plaid or tartan, which is used seasonlly. We notice ine school which has a olaid/tartan as a Summer uniform for girls and boys. The Winter uniform is grey - shirts and shorts for boys and grey gym frocks for girls. Shoes and socks can change, but this is less common except at private schools.


There are a wide range of activities conducted at school, both inside and outside the classroom. Many of these activities required a specaialized uniform or sports gear. English schools, especially the private schools probably had more elaborate uniforms and specialized schoolwear than any other country. The school regulations varies over time and among the many different types of schools. Many schools had a dress uniform worn on Sunday or special school events. During regular school days a less elaborate uniform was worn. At some schools boys would come to schools in their blazers, but just wear their jumpers while in class. Some class room activities like art or science might require some sort of protective gear. Quite a number of schools sponsored youth group units such as Scouts. Some secondary schools had Cadet units. Many schools had a gym uniform. There was a variety of specialized uniform for various team sports.


Australian school uniforms following British styles had very destinctive uniforms for boys and girls. There are destinctie headwear styles for boys and girls. Thev boys wore pants and the girls dresses, often gym frocks, or skirts. This is the convention in all schools that we know of with uniforms. The colors vary. Blue and gray are the most common. The girls dresses are both solid colors and patterns--almost always plaid. Many schools have the girls wear white socks, both ankle and knee length. Few schools use white socks for boys uniforms, although we note one school in Brisbane where the boys wear white kneesocks. Some have shoe requirements such as strap shoes or sandals, but this varies. At non-uniform schools in recent years girls have begun wearing pants, both jeans and shorts. As far as we know, this is not the case at uniform schools.

Debate Over School Uniforms

There appears to have been a heted debate in Australia over school uniforms. They were very common at Australian schools through the 1970s. A reader note a court decession in 1998 affecting school uniforms. An Australian assessment reads "Back in October 1998, Queensland Ombudsman Fred Albietz concluded that it was illegal for schools to force students to wear uniforms. The case in question only dealt with 'socks', but it sets an important precedent regarding all school dress codes. Fred Albietz found that there is nothing in regulations that makes school uniforms compulsory, so parents and students who dislike uniforms are justified in ignoring 'undue' pressure from schools, not only regarding the common 'pull up your socks!' ritual, but also regarding hairstyles, skirt length, etc. Not suprisingly, the Queensland Teacher's Union promptly responded that the Education Act should be changed to give school principals the legal backing to enforce dress codes. Interestingly, Education Minister, Mr Dean Wells, has refused to act. A spokesman said he would wait until he had heard from all relevant parties. As before, the opinion of the magazine Optionality is not likely to be regarded as relevant by such people. But what is more important than the legal argument is that it has revived the discussion about what is in essence a moral issue." [Anonymous] A British reader comments, "The article is quite long and political. I do remember some sort of discussion here over uniforms back in the 1970s but not so fierce. Most boys I remember put up with uniform, And I even liked mine as wearing it in Germany when on a holiday. Nothing to do with the school shows (well - I wouldn't wear a tie by choice but I liked the other items - or maybe was just used to it). There were some non-uniform schools so parents had a choice, but most schools (like my C. of E. and a friend's R.C. primary school) did have uniforms. And our Mum's approved too so that was the end of any argument on our part. And my Mum was a great one for telling us to "pull your socks up my lad" both figuratively and literally so she would have had words to say over that court ruling I am sure!"

Individual Schools

HBC is collecting infrmation on individual Australian schools. The uniforms at these different schools help to show thde different uniform standards at different kinds of schools. This will help highlight schoolwear trends and regulations over time as well as provide a way of comparing uniforms in different countries. HBC is just beginning to build this section. Hopefully HBC's Australian readers will provide some information on their schools,

Individual Accounts

Some of our Australian reades have provided us information on their school experiences. These accounts provide interesing insights into Australian school uniforms and the school experience.


Anonymous, "Those disgusting school uniforms," Optionality Magazine, issued by Quintessence, Australia (October 1998).

Careful, clicking on these will exit you from the Boys' Historical Clothing web site, but several are highly recommended

  • Apertures Press New Zealand e-Books: Appertures Press has published three different EBooks about New Zealnd schools.
  • British Preparatory Schools: A photographic book depicting life at British preparatory schools during the 1980s. Most of the schools are English or Scottish, but schools in Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, and Ulster are also included. The pictures show the uniforms worn at many different schools.
  • British Prep School eBooks: Apperture Press has published six eBooks about different vaspects of British public schools. Volume I is a general assessnent. The other volumes deal with more specific aspects of the schools ahd school life.


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    Created: April 25, 1998
    Last updated: 11:56 PM 4/21/2013