French School Smock Attributes: Equality

Figure 1.--T 

A school smock was seen as a way of reducing social distinctions. Children from poor families that could not afford nice clothes need no longer be embarassed. The smock certainly served the purpose of a uniform, covering differences in the clothes worn by children from different economic circumstances. In this regards it served the same purpose as the school uniform in many other countries. Requiring the smock was an exercise in government-enforced equality. Even affter the fovernment dropped the requirement, some schools maintained it. And even if the school did not require it, many mothers continued to send their boys to school in smocks, but primarily other reasons. A French reader tells us, "The requirement to wear smocks was an expression of one of the theee pronciples of our old republican slogan: "Freedom, Equality, Fraternity". The smock expressed the desire for equality. Indeed under the school smock, which covered the clolthes, one could not distinguish the economic level or fashion sence of the wearer. Ir was difficult to see if a boy wore poor clothesd. Thus the schoolboys of the Republic looked equal. The rich child appeared much like the poor child. But that did not mean that the poor child was this able to succeed better. It also in the view of some the principle of "Freedom" were restricted by requiring boys to wear smocks and not allowing him to dress in accordance with his desires or needs."

Christopher Wagner

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Created: May 14, 2002
Last updated: May 14, 2002