English School Shorts: Boys Attitudes

Figure 1..--.

The attitude of English boys toward wearing short pants to school as part of their school uniform changed over time.
The 1910s-20s: I'm not sure what boys thought of them as they were being intoduced. Presumably there were schools in the 1910s and 1920s where the boys wore knickers or even long trousers that changed the uniform to short pants. I'm not sure how the boys reacted to this.
The 1930s-40s: Short pants were so commonly worn during this period that I doubt if the boys thougt a great deal about it. A HBC contributor who went to school in the 1940s tells me that he didn't like wearing shorts as the school was so poorly heated. He was cold during the winter. Another HBC contruibutor tells me that this was probably a minority view. It was so universal for boys that I doubt if most boys ever thought about it. Pretty well all schools in those days were poorly heated by today's standards--they still were in the 1950s and 1960s when I was at school, indeed so were people's houses in those days, it was an English cultural thing, there was postwar economic austerity, fuel shortages, etc. and central heating was completely unheard of--and if, like me, one grew up wearing short trousers all the time I think one was just used to it and I don't think one really noticed the cold at all.
The 1950s: Shorts were still commonly accepted, but by the late 1950s, many boys--especially the older boys began to wear long pants.
The 1960s : Older English boys stopped wearing short pants, especially in southern England. They viewed them as juvenile and wanted to wear long pants. Schools began dropping the short pants requirements as boys complained about having to wear shorts.
The 1970s: Even the Boy Scouts dropped short pants. I'm not sure the boys complained about having to wear them. A HBC contributor believes that this change (ordered in 1970 by the Boy Scouts Association, though it took some years into the 1970s to be fully implemented) was a top-down ruling, driven from above by the adult scout hierarchy in a futile attempt to be "modern", and that many actual Boy Scouts resented the change. Following the example of the older boys, younger boys began asking for long pants even in elementary school. The attitude was the same, many boys thought that only little boys wore short pants. The fear of being teased was the primary reason, but during the winter especially boys preferred long pants. Another factor was the appearance of girls at English schools. Primarily for financial reasons, many private schools began going coeducational in the 1970s. The older boys at these schools especially wanted to wear long trousers.
The 1980s: Short pants by the 1980s had become unpopular with most Ebglish boys except for sportsand summer casual wear. Many boys complained that they were cold in the winter. Older boys were shy about wearing shorts, especially when other boys their age dressed in long trousers. Boys wearing school shorts, especially the older boys, often complained of being teased by other boys.

Christopher Wagner


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Created: December 4, 1998
Last updated: October 30, 1999