South African School Rainwear

Figure 1.--.

We like to include personal accounts about individual experiences. This includes both published works and accounts from readers. A South African reader has provided us some information about the rainwear he wore in school as a boy.


I grew up in the Western Cape region of South Africa in the 1950s.


It rains a lot with nearly 6 months in which rain can regularly occur. Consequently, raincoats were an important part of going to school.

British Influence

From reading your site, it is obvious that South African school rainwear was directly copied from British styles.

Raincoat Types

I have noted several different types of raincoats. Some of which I remember quite clearly because I wore them as a boy.

Gaberdine raincoat

The gaberdine raincoat was very common and my parents insisted that I wear one, even though it was totally unsuited to any significant rainy weather. It always got soaked right through and I couldn't understand why they insisted on such obviously unsuited material for a raincoat. Their reasoning was that it would "keep you warm" and thus it was used as an overcoat as well, thereby becoming a dual purpose garment. Although how a soaked garment would keep anyone warm is anybody's guess!

Ruberized raincoats

Rubberised raincoats were also popular, including direct copies of the double breasted gaberdine style. Unlike the gaberdine copats, these really worked--repelling water very effectively. They were not, however, very stylish. They always came with detachable hoods and were considered girls' raincoats although I remember some boys who wore these but with the hoods removed. Your other correspondents are quite correct in observing that older boys were considered sissy if they wore raincoats with hoods. Perhaps less traditionally minded parents also realized that gaberdine is a very poor material to keep water off their offspring. By the 1980's it was difficult to find the traditional gaberdine double breasted style in shops.


Instead we were expected to wear a Sou'wester style rainhat that was the dorkiest looking garment one can imagine and in any case would never stay on in the wind that plagues the Western Cape.

Nylon raincoats

Fashions changed and by the 1970s, nylon raincoats with hoods were replacing the gaberdine and rubberised cloth styles for both genders. These were cheaper to buy and thus economics as much as changing taste dictated the fashion. These days both boys and girls wear nylon hooded raincoats but the style of the hood has changed from the square cut style of the 50s and 60s to the much simpler style that is seen on cheap anoraks and wind jackets.


Incidentally, the square cut style of hood was considered 'female' while the simpler duffle coat style was considered 'male'. I remember a womans' fashion duffle coat that hit the markets in the late 60's with the square cut styled hood. One never saw this on mens' coats.

Color Campaign

In the late 70s, a campaign to reduce traffic accidents involving scholars by replacing the dark raincoat material (traditionally navy blue unless a school wanted a different uniform colour) with highly visible orange raincoats was underway in the Western Cape and this helped to usher in nylon raincoats.



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Created: 4:04 AM 3/30/2006
Last updated: 4:04 AM 3/30/2006