* school smock country trends: Belgium tablier boerenkiel schort

School Smock Country Trends: Europe

Figure 1.--

We notice children in several Europran countries wearing school smocks. They are most asociated with France, Belgium, Italy, and Spain, but they were worn to a lesser extent in several other countries. They were introduced to reduce obvious social-class differences in the public schools, First by the Second French Republic (1870-1940). We think the French influence was important in spreading the school smock to other countries. For some reaspon we do not fully understand, except for the importance of France, we mostly see smocks in souther, largely Catholic pegions of Europe. The classic schoolboy dress in France is the beret and smocks. Most French schoolboys by the turn of the century were outfitted in smocks, originally back-buttoning smocks. French boys trudging to school with their smocks and school satchels (book bags), as French schools requited extensive home work, is a common image in France. Schools smocks were still commonly worn after World War II, but most schools apparently no longer required them. It seems to have been left to the discretion of the mother. They began to disappear in the 1950s except for girls or younger boys. French visitors to HBC indicate that as older boys they were teased for wearing smocks because French boys began to look on them as girls clothes.


HBC at this time has no information on the wearing of school smocks in Austria. We have no information either about the old Audtro-Hungarian Empire or the modern state od Austria which emerged after the fall of the Hapsburg dynasty at the end of World War I (1914-18). This is important as a very large number of current European countries emerged from Austro-Hungary after World War I. Hope fully our Austrian readers will provode some information here.


Smocks styles and usage in Belgium generally followed the pattern in France. Smocks were very commonly worn by Belgian school children. Unfortunately, HBC has not yet been able to find any information on Belgian smocks. This is a serious limitation on out national smock coverage because we believe that Belgium is one of the countries where smocks wre most commonly worn. Hopefully a Belgian reader will contribute some information on school smocks. We do have some information on smocks on one of our Bdelgian school uniform pages.


A Bulgarian reader writes, "I saw your articles about school smocks and I would like to add, that school smocks survived in Bulgaria as boys' wear till the late 70s-beginning 80s. I wore a black shiny satin school smock, buttoned at the back, with pockets in front, when I was 10-12. It was a great fun for me, because till my third year I lived in Moscow, Russia, where smocks weren't worn in schools at all. When we moved to Bulgaria in 1978, and I went to school in Sofia, this dress-like uniform looked a little bit strange to me first, but I found it very comfortable then. In 1982, when I was 7th grade, the smocks were replaced by Russian-pattern uniforms--navy blue suits with trousers and coat. But on my opinion, black satin smocks were the most comfortable uniform I wore- especially in hot weather."


No information avaiable.


We do not believe that school smocks were commonly worn in Denmark, but at this time have no information.


There are countless illustrations in children's books of English boys and girls wearing gayly colored smocks. Most of these illustrations beginning with Kate Greenaway appear highly imaginative. We simply have no evidence yet to confirm that boy commonly wore smocks to school in the late 18 and early 19th century. (Of course tht does not mean that they definitively did not.) We have noted boy at home wearing smocks during the late 19th and early 20th century--generally boys from affluent families. We know more about this period as there are many photographic school portraits. English schools for the most part, however, not require smocks. State schools did not require iunifoms. Boys rarely appear in these images wearing smocks. Private schools did require uniforms, but we do not know of a school requiing the boyhs to wear smocks. A few private schools did use smocks for the pre-prep boys. One choir school, St. Mary of the Angles Song School, used smocks as the everyday uniform.


The classic schoolboy dress in France is the beret and smocks. Most French schoolboys by the turn of the century were outfitted in smocks, originally back-buttoning smocks. French boys trudging to school with their smocks and school satchels (book bags), as French schools requited extensive home work, is a common image in France. Schools smocks were still commonly worn after World War II, but most schools apparently no longer required them. It seems to have been left to the discretion of the mother. They began to disappear in the 1950s except for girls or younger boys. French visitors to HBC indicate that as older boys they were teased for wearing smocks because French boys began to look on them as girls clothes.


German boys did no commonly wear school smocks nor did German schools reqwuire smocks. The school smock, however, was not unknown in Germany. Some individual boys in the late 19th and early 20th century did wear smocks to school. Generally these were younger boys. Presumably there were areas of Germany where smocks were more common. Presumably smocks may have been worn to some extent in Alsace-Loraine, the area of France sized by Germany in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. This was, however, before smocks were required as schoolwear by the French Government.


HBC has little early historical information about Greek school smocks. Smocks were introduced in French and Italian schools in the late 19th century. We are less sure as to when Greek children began wearing smocks to school and how common it was during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Smocks for boys have been primarily an elementary school garment, although girls at times have been required to wear them in secondary schools as well. Many elementary school children, both boys and girls, by the 1950s appear to have wore smocks to school. The school uniform for the Demotiko in the 1950s and 60s consisted of blue smock with white collar for girls and boys. I'm unsure if the Government actually specified the specific style as there are some differences in the smocks worn by the children. The few images avaialble at this time suffests that the boys and girls wore smocks of similar style and color. The term used for the school uniform in Greece is "Scholiki podia" or simply "Podia" which means "Apron". This was the standard uniform but in many cases it was acceptable for boys to wear a blue sweater with blue or grey short or long trousers instead. In poor and/or isolated regions teachers and school authorities tolerated non-uniformed students. As a result almost none of the children in those areas wore a uniform in school. The democratic Karamanlis government of 1974 changed the shool uniform requirements. Now, boys and girls in Demotiko had to wear the blue smock with a large white collar and there were theoretically no exceptions to the rule. School photographs during this period, however, show considerable divrsity in what the children wore. This varied greatly from school to school and over time. There were no regulations as to what children wore with their smocks. More and more boys began wearing long pants to school during this period--especially in the cooler winter months. In 1982 the social democrat government of Andreas Papandreou abolished the school uniform once and forever. Smocks continued to be worn at some private schools for a few years. Greek children, especially the boys, never wear smocks to school any more. They much prefer the popular "formes".


A 1969 film shows Hungarian boys wearing blue front-buttoning school smocks. HBC is unsure how common this was. In the film. the smock was required as all the boys were wearing them. Hungary at the time had a Communist Government with a very centralized school system. School regulations such as weraing smocks might have been set by the central Government rather than each individual school, but few details are currently available. Given the fact that the boys tended to unbutton them after school, they do not seem to have been very popular.

Figure 3.--Many boys prefer the front buttoning smocks, but some schools insist on a uniform style such as this Italian school in Rome during the late 1970s which required back-buttoning blue smocks.


Italian schoolboys in the 20th century also commonly wore smocks. The Italian boys generally wore dark-colored smocks with large white collars and floppy bows. Such smocks were commonly worn through the 1960s, but became less common for older boys in the 1970s. There is no national standard. The decision to require a smock is up to the individual school. Many state and private schools, especially schools for the younger children, do opt for smocks. Many younger children still commonly wear school smocks. The colors are now much more diverse. It is all up to the school, but brighter lighter colors are now common as are patterns such as checks or gingham. Some schools have different colors for boys and girls. Mothers have different attitudes toward smocks. Some just went along with what the schools required. Other found them a handy way of dressing children for school. One Italian boy tells HBC that his mother insisted he wear a smock for the first year after primary school. He was the only boy in his class who wore a smock and was teased about it. Smocks are still worn in Italy, unlike many ther countries like France where they are now rarely seen.

(The) Netherlands

HBC has little information about Dutch boys wearing smocks. We do not believe that they were as common as in some areas of neighboring Belgium. Images from the turn of the century do show Dutch boys wearing pinafore-like smocks. A Dutch source reports that boys did wear smocks, but not as a part of the school clothing like in France/Spain/Italy. Smocks are called "boerenkiel" (kiel=smock for boeren=peasants) and were common in rural areas until about the mid-1930s. We do not believe this was very common, but do not have adequate information at this time for any definitive conclusions.


Communist authorities after World War II introduced black later changed to dakk blue smocks which were called fartuszki. There were different styles fgor boys and girls, the brincipal diiference wa the length. They were worn by both primary and secondary students of all ages. Styles varied somewhat. The children wore a school badge on their sleeve or breast pocket. There was also a badge for the best student in each class.


Portuguese children at private schools, both boys and girls, in 2000 still coonly wear school smocks. HBC believes that children in public school formerly also wore smocks, but in 2000 they are only commonly worn at private schools. Boys commonly wear them to about 10 years of age, but some schools use them for boys up to about 12 years. Colors vary with each school having destinctive colors.


No information available.


We do not notice many Russian school children wearing smocks, either during the Tsarist or Soviet period. We do note one image of what looks like Soviet kindergarden children wearing smocks. We are not sure how common this was. Nor do we know if it was a local or regional convention. We also do not know if smocks were used only for kindergrden children. A reader who went to school in Moscow during the 1970s reports that smocks were not worn at any school he recalls.


We do not see Scottish children wearing school smocks to any extent. We do note the younger children at one Glasgow scgool wearing smocks, but that is the only Scottish children we have ever noted wearing smocks.


HBC has no information on wheter smocks are worn in Slovene schools. There certainly have been many changes influencing Slovene education in recent years, including Austro-Hungary, the Yugoslav Kingdom, German NAZI and Itlaian Fascist occupation, Communist Yugoslavia, and now an independent republic.


Spanish school children were commonly wearing smocks by the 1930s, although I am not sure when this paractice first began. Young kindergarten age children still commonly wear smocks in Spain. It is no longer common, however, for older boys to wear them--but some still do. A Spanish contributor to HBC in 1999 reported seeing school boys about about 7 or 8 years old still wearing the smocks over their street clothes.


Switzerland is a multi-cultural and linguistic country. Smocks were commonly worn by Swiss-Italian and Swiss-French boys, but less so than the Swiss-German boys. They were mostly worn to school. As far as boys clothing is concerned, the French-speaking part of Switzerland was comparable to France. It was compulsory for boys to wear a smock until 9-10 in the years 1930-1960, about one third would then continue up to end of primary school around 12 years. The style and colors of these smocks were left to the parents discretion, there was no uniformity but a wide variety in mainly three styles: back buttoning, side buttoning, and a pinafore style.


We have found a few images of boys wearing school smocks, but we fo not know what country they were from. Often the country is obvious from the style of the smock. Here colors, cut, and collars are all fctors. Many countries had very destinctive smock styles, although tghis chznhed over time. Other countrirs had more genreric styles. In some cases we can narrow down the country to a few alternatives, but ca not be sure about the specific country. Belgian and Fench smocks are hard to destinguish. Spanish and Portuguese smocjs re also difficult to destinguish. Here we hepope that our European readers can help identify the country.


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Created: January 11, 2002
Last updated: 9:36 PM 10/8/2009