Scottish Personal School Experiences 1980s-90s

When I started primary school, my uniform comprised light blue long-sleeved shirt, striped school tie, grey shorts (mid-thigh length; these were by no means compulsory - long trousers were common even in the first few years, and certainly by the time I had reached primary seven, I was the only boy in my class to wear shorts), knee-length grey socks, grey v-neck jersey with the school colours around the collar, black blazer (again, worn by increasingly few pupils) and black school shoes (which had a Velcro fastening at first, until I learned to tie laces). During my time at primary school, the one major battle I had not won regarding uniform was the wearing of shirt and tie as opposed to a polo shirt. I had convinced myself that the switch to a new school would be the perfect time to at last change to a truly casual uniform. You could buy both sweatshirts and polo shirts from my new school with the logo, and most people wore these. Unfortunately, my mother was having none of it. While she did buy me one polo shirt, it was for wear only during P.E. lessons - at all other times I would wear the same sort of uniform I had worn at the end of the previous year, namely: grey or black sweatshirt emblazoned with the school logo, white long-sleeved shirt, striped school tie, black trousers, grey socks and black leather shoes.

Primary School

When I started primary school, my uniform comprised light blue long-sleeved shirt, striped school tie, grey shorts (mid-thigh length; these were by no means compulsory - long trousers were common even in the first few years, and certainly by the time I had reached primary seven, I was the only boy in my class to wear shorts), knee-length grey socks, grey v-neck jersey with the school colours around the collar, black blazer (again, worn by increasingly few pupils) and black school shoes (which had a Velcro fastening at first, until I learned to tie laces). I generally wore kneesocks. I didn't mind them. For school, I would have probably chosen shorter socks, but I never saw them as a major problem. My mother was always very careful to ensure that in the mornings I was always dressed smartly, that my hands, face and knees were clean, etc. I never wore sandals. I dont emember any coversations with my classmates about clothes. I daresay we had other things to talk about! I did perhaps occasioanally moan to them about mum, but in general we didn't talk about clothes.

When I got into about primary four, the school introduced a more casual alternative to the traditional uniform partly, I think, to keep up with modern fashions and partly to try to encourage the wearing of uniform, which had started to slip. This alternative was a white or light blue polo shirt with the school logo emblazoned where the pocket on a shirt would be, and a navy blue sweatshirt with the logo in the same position. This uniform was taken up very quickly by lots of the pupils including many of my friends, and I naturally asked my parents if I could wear it as well. Unfortunately, my mother refused, saying that a shirt and tie was so much smarter; I didnít argue this point too much at the time - I had recently managed to switch from wearing a blazer to wearing a plain anorak like most other people wore, and I didnít want to push my luck too far! I don't remember the details of our conversations. Just the general "disagreements" and that she seemed to almost always win.

When the next school year started the following August, I again tried to convince my mother to buy me a sweatshirt and polo shirt to wear instead - this time I had a partial success in that she bought me two sweatshirts to wear on the condition that firstly I would still wear my shirt and tie daily, and secondly that I would wear my v-neck jumper for special occasions (as determined by her). It was also during this year at school that I noticed for the first time that even the other kids who wore shorts during the summer changed to long trousers for the winter months and, although I donít remember ever feeling that cold (we were kept inside at interval or lunch on very chilly or wet days), I did begin to feel a little more conspicuous, and on one particularly wet day whilst walking to school, downright stupid. I raised this with my mother during the Christmas holidays, but she said that we were already halfway through winter, and that she was sure I could survive another couple of months.

Needless to say, I did not succumb to hypothermia, and survived to complete that year in shorts. At the start of the next school year, however, I told my parents (quite a few times, in fact) that, while I would happily wear shorts during the autumn, spring and summer, I had no intention of wearing them over winter - to my delight, they agreed, and I wore trousers to school for the first time in late October that year (I think I was in primary six). The next year at school (primary seven) was my last and, as I would be transferring to secondary school after the summer and was now ďgrowing upĒ, I only wore shorts for the first term. During October, I switched to long trousers as I had the year before, but this time I didnít switch back to shorts in the spring.

While the school really didnít care what we wore as long as it roughly resembled the uniform, my mother expected me to always be as neat as possible. The one thing that she really could not stand was the sight of a loosened school tie and open shirt collar: I was to leave the house with my collar and tie fastened tightly, I was to come home with my top button and tie fastened tightly, and the only time I was to remove it during the day was when we had to change for gym. Naturally, as I got older I began to resent this and would often wait until I was out of her sight to loosen my tie-sometimes even removing it completely-only to put it on again before leaving for home in the afternoon. My only respite from this rule came on the few really hot days that we occasionally got in summer, in which case I was allowed to go to school wearing a short-sleeved school shirt with open collar and no tie - I always thought it a bit unusual that my mother preferred that when it was too hot to wear a tie properly, I should not loosen it but rather not wear it at all.

Secondary School

During my time at primary school, the one major battle I had not won regarding uniform was the wearing of shirt and tie as opposed to a polo shirt. I had convinced myself that the switch to a new school would be the perfect time to at last change to a truly casual uniform. You could buy both sweatshirts and polo shirts from my new school with the logo, and most people wore these. Unfortunately, my mother was having none of it. While she did buy me one polo shirt, it was for wear only during P.E. lessons - at all other times I would wear the same sort of uniform I had worn at the end of the previous year, namely: grey or black sweatshirt emblazoned with the school logo, white long-sleeved shirt, striped school tie, black trousers, grey socks and black leather shoes.

Things got even worse that August when we went shopping for school clothes just before the term began. Once we had selected trousers and shirts and were just about to pay my mother decided to buy me two plain black v-neck jerseys as well. Now, this may seem petty, but no one at my new school wore jumpers like these; I had already had an induction day at the end of the last term, and I knew for a fact that very few people wore shirts, fewer still wore ties, and that absolutely no one wore a v-neck jumper. I was horrified, as well as slightly confused, for we had already purchased two school sweatshirts for me to wear. I think my mother saw my confusion and, ignoring my protests, explained that these would do for when I needed to look especially smart (I was certain that she would find reasons for me to look especially smart most weeks). I continued to protest that, even if she must buy me a jersey, surely one would be enough? This was, unfortunately, not her view.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, my first day at my new school was deemed a special day (as were many others), and my shirt, tie and v-neck jersey stood out among my friendsí sweatshirts and polo shirts. As I suspected, looking around the other first years as we assembled in the hall for the first time, only a few were wearing shirts and ties. This trend continued over the next couple of years, but then the shirt and tie began to become a little more common with, when I left for university, perhaps a third or so of the pupils (especially in the senior school) wearing it, albeit almost always with top buttons undone and ties extremely loosely fastened.







HBC




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Created: August 30, 2003
Last updated: September 4, 2003