The popular blazer, now commonly worn by boys, first appeared in England during the 1830s. It eventually appeared at fashionable public (private secondary) schools. It became popular at British school as sports wear, especially for cricket. (Leave it to the English to dress up in a blazer for sports.) The origins of the blazer is enduringly preserved in the blazers of cricket clubs around the world. It gradually spread around the world. It England and other Empire countries it was strongly associated with schools. In other countries it became more of an informal suit commonly worn by boys.


The blazer as so much of the male wardrobe has military origins and dates to the 1830s. It seems that Queen Victoria who played such a pivotal role in the history of boys' clothes was scheduled to visit the HMS Blazer in 1837. The captain who was preparing his ship for the young Queen's visit. He noticed how shabby his crew looked. Uniform standards at the time in the British Navy were quite lax. The captain decided to smarten up his rather shabily outfitted crew. He had short jackets made in navy blue serge with shiny brass Royal Navy buttons. The first blazers were double breasted, another military inspired fashon. The Queen was so impressed with the crew's appearance that it the captain decided to make it an permanent part of their outfits. The style was adopted by other captains. The blazers the captain ordered were probably inspired by the heavy thick reefer jackets that British seamen wore. Reefer jackets were so named because sailors wore them while hauling in the "reefs" (sails). They were almost always doubled breasted like the captains new jackets.


The blazer jacket was initially flannel, striped in bright colors, and included a patch pocket where the school shield appeared. One fashion columnist wrote in the The Lady's World (1887),

The stripped flannel jackets, under the familiar name "blazer" brilliant in coloring, created for the river and the cricket field are worn on nearly all occasions now by girls and boys.

The School Blazer

Blazers gradually became the standard dress for British school boys. The brightly colored and stripped blazers that appeared during the summer at English schools and clubs helped to perpetuate the term blazer in the late 19th Century. The bright red jackets of the Lady Margaret Boat Club, Cambridge was said to look ablaze. These jackets, unlike the original naval blazers, were single breasted. The standard navy blue was replaced with the colors of the school or club. They were initially only worn at outdoor sporting events. Blazers spread from the public schools to the preparatory (private elementary) schools. The bright colors and stripes chosen by many prep schools attest to the sporting origins of the school blazer. Boys' clothes at the time employed mostly drab colors. The blazer and shirts with soft collars generally replaced Eton suits and collars during the 1920s. British school boys in the 1920s began wearing short grey pants and knee socks with their blazers. The blazers and required peaked caps were often bright colors or stripped, giving us the current image of the traditional English school uniform. This style continued in vogue through the 1960s. Shorts with blazers were the standard dress at prep schools and even some of the secondary schools. Shorts and caps became less common during the 1970s, except for smaller boys. The blazers have, however, continued as standard wear, although they have become plainer. This is primarily due to the hight cost of the very extensive wardrobe once common at private schools. Many schools in an effort to broaden their appeal to middle class parents have attempted to simplify the uniform requirement. Blazers also appeared at American private schools, as in England, initially for sport.


A naval blazer has flap pockets, but all three pockets on a sporting or school blazer should be patch. The breast pocket should be a patch rather than the more common welt. This is so that a creast can be easily sewn on. The side pockets should also be patch to match.

Figure 2.--Even in the 1990s boys sometimes during the summer wear shorts, generally chinos, with their blazers. They do not, however, wear knee socks and dress shoes.

Dress Clothes

The blazer became increasingly popular in the 1930s as a less formal style of dress wear for boys. It was quite common by the 1950s for American boys to have a blue blazer as part of their basic wardrobe. Some boys might wear short grey pants with their blazer, but most boys, especially by he 1960s, wore them with long grey pants. Penny loafers often completed the ensamble. An optional style appeared during the 1970s of wearing chino or khaki pants instad of grey ones. Fashionable younger boys might wear chino shorts. The classic blazer for boys retains many of the characteristics of the original navy blazer, down to the navy blue color and shiny brass buttons. The material, however is now more commnly flannel than serge.

Country Trends

Boys in many different countries have worn blazres. The blazer is most stronly associated with England, but worn in many other countries. . We are building country Pages. We notice blazers in America, England, Scotland, South Africa, and many other countries. In some countries the blazer was primarily a school garment. It other countries it was more of a kind of informal suit.


Related Chronolgy Pages in the Boys' Historical Web Site
[Main chronolgy page]
[The 1830s] [The 1840s] [The 1850s] [The 1860s] [The 1870s] [The 1880s] [The 1890s] [The 1900s] [The 1910s] [The 1920s] [The 1930s] [The 1940s] [The 1950s] [The 1960s] [The 1970s] [The 1960s] [The 1980s] [The 1990s]

Related Style Pages in the Boys' Historical Web Site
[School uniform] [Long pants suit] [Short pants suit] [Eton suits] [Jacket and trousers] [Short pants] [Cap] [Norfolk jackets] [Ties]

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Created: November 10, 1998
Last update: 1:04 PM 10/10/2016