French boys all wore school smocks when the French Goverment mandated them in 1871. Later most boys continued wearing them when the Government eased the requirement, although we do not yet know when this occurred. Some schools also required them. Gradually the school smock became optional in most schools. It was up to a boys' parents, usually the mother, as to whether he wore a smock or not. Some mothers may have let the boy decide, but we think it was mostly the mother. Some boys would regularly wear their smocks. Other boys might wear smocks only on some days. Other boys never wore mocks. Another question is what the boys did when they came home from school. As best we can tell, most took off their smocks as soon as they got home.
Boys in some cases wore smocks to school because it was required. In most cases, however, Ftrnch boys wore smocks even when it was not required.
French boys all wore school smocks when the French Goverment mandated them in 1871. Later most boys continued wearing them when the Government eased the requirement, although we do not yet know when this occurred. Some schools also required them. The age of the boy was a factor here. French Goverment regulations and many school regulations involved the age of the boy. At many schools it depended from age up to which wearing a smock at school was compulsory (usually 10 years).
As long as wearing smock was compulsory boys did wear their smock
every school day (and mostly other days). It should be noted, however, that even after the required age, some boys still wore smocks to school, usually because their mother insisted.
Gradually the school smock became optional in most schools. It was up to a boys' parents, usually the mother, as to whether he wore a smock or not. Some mothers may have let the boy decide, but we think it was mostly the mother. Some boys would regularly wear their smocks. Other boys might wear smocks only on some days. Other boys never wore mocks.
Past the compulsory wearing it was the family rules that determined whether or not a boy would wear a smock to school. Here families varied greatly. In this regard it was usually the mother who decided such matters.
Strict families: In strict families boys wore smocks every day up to 12, years of age, in some cases even 14 years. Actully this was a little complicated. Some mothers were very strict about how their son;s dressed, but not all that keen on smocks.
Other families: In other families it could happen that boys came to school some days dressed in smocks and some days without smocks. A variety of factors could be involved here. It could be washing day and there was not a clean smock available. A type of school activity may be planned that day that might get his clothes dirty. Other variables may be involved. The boy might not be returning directly home after school due to a sporting activity. The boy might be visiting grand-parents. Many other posibilities exist. . There are also some other reasons for a 12-14 years old boy who did not normally wear a smock to suddenly come to school again with a smock. He may haved soiled his jumper or pants or even ruined them and thus a smock could hide this. Some mothers reportedly used an old smock as a punishment, saying that if you are going to behave like a little boy, you can wear a smock like one in short pants and a smock. An old smock or a smock from a younger brother was often handy. Many other possibilities might be the cause of a boy suddenly wearing smocks. Onr reader reports his mother being absent for a few weeks because of family problems. His father insisted he wear a smock to school to cut down on the washing.
This French postcard shows an idealized image of a boy doing his asignments at home (figure 1). He is shown wearing his school smock. This doe not seem very realistic. As far as we can tell, most boys took of their school smocks as soon as they got home from school. We are not entirely sure if this was because they didn't much like the smocks or if mother wanted them to keep it clean for school.
While HBC has little information on what boys felt of wearing smocks before the 1940s, some information is available on the post-war era. One report suggests boys didn't mind smocks because they helped to protect their clothes. More reports, hoever, suggest that French boys generally didn't like wearing school smocks. 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.