Australian School Uniform: Garments

Figure 1.--This Australian grammar school still has a very formal English-style uniform. (I believe it is a private school.) Note that only the boys wear boaters, the girls wear berets. Notice how the band on the boaters match the boys' ties.

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. Ot has been the private schools that have most commonly retained the English style uniforms while many of the state schools have adopted much more casual uniforms.

Private and State School Uniform Garments

The uniforms worn by Australian schoolboys has varied greatly. Private school boys have generally worn more formal uniforms, including caps and blazers. Some even wear boaters which have virtually disappeared even in England where they originated. Some state school boys wore no uniforms at all, although most do require uniforms--albeit many are quite casual. Generally speaking a boy at a traditional private school may wear uniforms that cost up to 10 timesmore than the more basic uniforms worn at state schools. There were many common elements, however, to the uniforms worn by both private and public school boys. Uniforms in both types of schools have evolved significantly in recent years and there are now more differences between the uniforms worn at the different types of schools. State elementary schools in particular can have very basic uniforms. The choice, however, is up to the local schools and some state schools, even elementary schools, can have strict uniform regulations--although it is not the norm.

Specific Garments

We have begun to collect some basic information on specific school uniform garments.


Australian private school boys wore caps, just like the ones worn in England. They were worn at both private schools and state secondary schools. They were particularly common at prep schools, but they were also required at many private scecondary schools. They were commonly worn through the 1950s, but began to become less common in the 1960s. A few preparatory schools continued to use them as part of the school uniform. Some private schools required boaters for dress wear. While the boater has almost disappeared in England where it originated, a number of Australian schools still use them. The boater is particularly popular at private schools. The beret is also worn, but only by girls. While Scouts in different countries have worn berets, boys as in Australia rarely wear them. Some of the few exceptions are France and Belgium. Some new styles of wide-brimmed hats have emerged in the 1990s. Caps based on American-style baseball caps have proven popular.


Once both private and satte secondary schools generrally required blazers or some kind of suit jacket. The blazer is today primarily worn by private school boys, both prep schools and secondary schools, although some of the schools have suits rather than blazers. They come in a wide range of colors, although blazers in Australia have generally been more subduded than the many bright colors and stripes that English preparatory school boys once wore.


Normal wear at secondary schools was a grey, long-sleeved shirt. Some had flap button pockets. White shirts were worn for formal occasions. In the 1980s many schools began introducing polo and other more informal shirts worn ith open collars without ties. A HBC reader reports that state school uniforms often used C.Fr. (closed front?) shirts in Navy or khaki. 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.

Figure 2.--This Australian boy wears the school sweater with colored trim worn at his Catholic school. Note the colored trim on the sweater and matching stripped tie.


The sweater was a garment worn by both private and public school boys. The sweater was usually a grey "v" necked style. Private school boys often had colored trim at the collar. Eventually the colored trim was also adopted by the public schools. In recent years, schools have often switched to colored sweaters, or increasingly less expensive color sweashirts. The sweatshirts have proven particularly common at publc schools.


Typical English school ties were worn at satte secondary schools and at both elementary and secondary private schools. has been dropping the tie as required school wear. Most were diagonal stripes in the school colors. Formal English school uniform was commonly worn through the 1950s, but by the 1970s, many schools had begun to adopt more casual styles. One part of the movement toward more casual styles. Ties are no longer worn at most state schools, but they are still commonly worn at many private schools.


We have only limitedinformation on the scholl uniform pants worn in Australian schools at this time. They appear to be very similar to thise worn in Britain. We notice some different styles and conventions beginining to appear especially after World War II. Most elementary school boys wore short pants, even when not required by the schools. Most prep schools required grey shorts. Flannel was common until the 1960s when Terrelyn worsted became wiely accepted. A few preo schools used khaki shorts. Boys at public elementary schools wore a wide range of shorts. Secondary school boys until the 1980s also mostly wore short pants and some still do, especially during the spring term. Short pants were commonly worn at both primary and secondary schools until after Word War II. After the War, especially in the 1960s, long pants began to become more common, especially at secondary schools Here there were sime differences between private and sate schools.


Kneesocks were once commonly worn by school children as was the case in Britain. Boys commonly wore grey socks and girls white socks. Since the 1960s kneesocks have declined in popularity. They are still wirn at many private scgools and at some state schools, especially the ones affiliated with religious groups. As in Britain, the kneesocks commonly have bands at the top in the school colors. These same colors are often used for scarves, jumper trim, and ties. Many state primary schools with uniforms now have ankle socks as part of the school uniform. Colors vary, but grey and white are common.


Australian boys have worn a wide range of foowear. In part because of the climate, many children went to school barefoot. Familybincome was also a fsctor. We note many Australian boys going barefoot to school in the 19th century. This was especially common in rural primary schools. Going barefoot was still common in the first half of the 20th century. Boot-like high-top shoes were common at the turn of the 20th century. Gradualy low-cut oxfords became standard. We note some primary boys wearing English-style school sandals, the ones with the "t"-strap. They were, however, never nearly as popular as in England. More common were open-toe sandals which were commonly called Roman sandals and worn during the summer term. Almopst always. at least vwith the boys, they were worn as part of aschool uniform. They were also worn by girls. Many schools required children to wear leather shoes, often black leather shoes. Australian children by the 1970s began wearing sneakers to school. Sneakers were an American fashion influence, but did not become popular in Australia until the early 70s. For the most part they are still only allowed at public schools whichbdid not have uniforms. They became common at schools that did not have uniforms.


An Australian eader tells us, "I had a brown and a black fake leather style satchels but only to grade 4 and then the fabric type sport bags gradually gathered pace and just about now have conquoured the school bag market here in the whole of Australia and my dad had a brown leather kitbag which he took to work and my older cousins had this kitbag too as a schoolbag but not me."

Unknown Garments

We have found some Australian school garments that we can not identify or are difficult to explain. We will archive these images here. Hopefully Australian readers will be able to provide some insights for us.


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Created: April 25, 1998
Last updated: 1:17 AM 7/25/2010