School Uniform:  French School Smocks

Figure 1.-- 

While HBC has little information on what boys felt of wearing smocks before the 1940s, some information is available on the post-war era. We have received some varying reports suggesting that individual experiences could be quite different. Ther were also major differences over time. Smocks were very common through the early 1950s, but began to notably decline in the late 1950s and eraly 60s. Thus smocks were probably much less popualr with boys who had to wear them when they were less commonly worn.


One report suggests boys didn't mind smocks because they helped to protect their clothes. Thus they didn't have to worry about getting into trouble at home over damaging or soiling their clothes.


One HBC reader reports from the late 1940s and early 1950s, "We boys never discussed the subject iof wearing our smocks. For us, wearing a smock was normal and we never gave it much thought. Sometimes boys might tease another boy, especially poor boys with old torn clothes and shoes, but we never teased each other about wearing smocks or short pants, it was such an accepted thing."


More reports HBC has received suggest that ny the 1950s, especially the late 1950s and early 60s, French boys increasingly did not like having to wear a smock to school. Some boys complained that it was hard to get dressed in a smock, especially the back buttoning ones. Other boys just didn't like the look of a smock--it looked to much like a girls' dress. Even the idea of a smock was increasingly being seen as a little boy's or girl's garment because girls were continuing to wear smocks while fewer boys were wearing them. One French HBC visitor reported that he wore a smock to school until he was 14 years old, I detested wear the smocks. The other boys with few exceptions didn't have to, but I had a very strict mother. The others boys teased me about my smocks. He complained that the other boys taunted him, saying he looked like a girl in his smock.

A French reader reports, "My wife mentioned that an edlerly woman once mentioned about her boy born in 1940. Apparently he told her not long ago, "I realy didn't like the black smock." His mother answered, "I put a white collar on the smock to make it look smarter." Her son added, "Maman , I also dind't like my long hair when I was little boy." His mother replied, "Mon chéri, your hair were so beautifull with curls and blond and what about your father who wore a dress when he was a little voy." His mother was a bit surprised to hear his comments after 50 years had passed. Our French reader indicates that such comments are rather rare. He reports, "My freinds, my wife, and my brother have never heard a boy refuseing to wear a smock. All us children at the time found this style normal. This man probably is nopt being serious, but trying to tell a joke and teasr his mother.

Christopher Wagner

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Created: January 3, 1998
Last updated: March 26, 2002