*** school uniform: national styles -- North America

School Uniform: National Styles--North America

North Amerrican schools
Figure 1.--These Canadian school boys in 1973 are working on a class project. Canadian boys like American boys have generally not worn school uniforms. The boys are dressed much like comaparable American schoolboys. Notice the turtle necks. Image courtesy of the MC collection.

Two of the major countries of North America (Canada and the United States) have both been profoundly influenced by England. Although English fashions were important in both countries, the idea of school uniform was nasically the 19th century English concept as appropriate for affluenet children attending exclusuve public schools. Public school children have not traditionally worn uniforms. They were, however, adopted in the parochial (Catholic schools) and Americans in particular begun rethinking the idea of school uniforms in the 1980s. Quite a number of schools have begun to adopt voluntary uniforms.


Many Bermuda children do wear school uniforms and the styles are heavily influenced by British styles as Bermuda has from the beginning been a British colony.


HBC has very little information on Canadian schoolwear. We believe that like the United states, Canadian boys have not traditionally worn school uniforms. We suspect that it would be difficult to tell images of French and American school children apart just by looking at them.Some pribate schools may have adopted English style school uniforms. The Catholic schools are especially important in Canada, especially in French-speaking Quebec. Boys there never seenm to have worn smocks as in France itself.


Assessments of French schools are very positive. The World Eeconomic Form according to a 2004 report ranked becicoonly 74 out of 102 other countries in the quality of education. That rank was just below Cameroon. Mexicans generally agree that public schools are not very good, but disagree asto just why. Some say it is inadequate financing and poor facilities. Others point to the country's powerful teaching union--the National Educaton Teacher's Union. Mexico has a highly centralized educational system. State government plays little role in Mexican education. Nor does local government and parents play an important role. HBC has only limited information on Mexican school uniforms. Not all schools require uniforms. Many state elementary schools do not require uniforms, but secondary schools do require them. The general fashion is white shirts, ties, sweaters, and grey long pants. Short pants are not commonly required, except for gym uniforms. Kneesocks ("calceta escolar") are not common for boys, but as in the image on this page, they are worn at some schools. Kneesocks are much more common for girls, perhaps because mist Mexican boys wear long pants to school. Kneesocks are very common at girls' schools which is perghaps why they are commonly called school socks.

United States

American school children, with some exceptions, have not worn school uniforms. America's parochial school children have worn uniforms--although I'm not sure when uniforms were introduced. Private school children--especially America's elite private schools modeled on British preparatory and public schools--also had uniforms. Quite a substantial number of children were involved in the parochial schools, but the number of private school children until recently has been much more limited. American public (state) school children have not worn uniforms, although quite a number of public schools have begun to study the issue. Many in the 1990s have begun instituting non-compulsory uniform policies. The uniforms are seen as useful in addressing the difficult problems of discipline and student violence.


Related Chronolgy Pages in the Boys' Historical Web Site
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Related Style Pages in the Boys' Historical Web Site
[Long pants suits] [Short pants suits] [Socks] [Eton suits] [Jacket and trousers] [Blazer] [School sandals]

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Created: June 20, 1998
Last updated: 7:02 AM 1/17/2020