Scotland as part of the United Kingdom has basically followed prevailing British school uniform styles. Standard school uniform styles in England and Sctland are esentially the same. It would not be possible be difficult to identify British and Scottish school boys. There have been, however, some differences. In addition, as a more traditional part of the country, changes often occur more slowly in Scotland than in England. The major difference is of course the kilt. We are not sure to what extent the kilt was worn in the 19th century at bloth state and private schools. We do know that in the 20th century that most Scottish private schools adopted the kilt as their dress uniform.
Scottish schools have primarily folowed the lead of English schools, both state schools and private schools. While are chronological information is limited, we have begun to acquire some information on Scottish school wear and uniforms over time. While the trends are quite similar to English trends, there are some destinctive aspects of Scottish school uniform--the most obvious being the kilt. Unfortunately we do not at this time have good information on kilts in the 19th century. The kilt, however is not the only difference. The more traditional outlook of Scotland has also resulted in some differences. While the kilt and assocaited garments is the only destinctive garment, the time line of uniform trends is sloghtly different in Scotland than England.
The modern school sytem in Scotland is quite similar to that in England. There are some differences, in part due to the separate historical tradition. The Act of Union wih England (1707) did not create a unitary British state, although it did combine parliaments. Local government was left largely untouched. And in Scotland at the tme there ws a developing public education system which was not the case in England. A Scotish reader reports, "Up here in Scotland, Primary School education lasts 7 years - so we have Primary 7 boys up to age 12. In England the modern primary schools only have children up to age 11." There is also substantial curriculum differences, especially at the secondary level. English education focused on greater depth in a smaller number of subjdcts while Scottish schools tend to pursue a broader number of subjects with somewhatvless depth.
The types of schools in Scotland are quite similar to those in England Most schools were founded after the Act of Union (1707) when Scotland joined with England and became part of the United Kingdom. The schools systems, however, were not unified. England at the time did not even have a public school system, but Scotland had begun to build one. There are now state primary and secondary chools. Also in the state schoolsare schools with religious affiliation. There are some differences. The religious make up of Scotland is different than England which has some impact. The private schools in paticular are different. There are fewer public schools (private secondary schools) in Scotland. Rather there are a number of academies which are are full-term private schools. Such schools in England are often called colleges.
Scottish school uniforms are quite similar to English school uniforms. Essentially school uniform styles in the United Kingdom were set in much more populace England. The principal difference is of course the kilt. The only other major difference is that boys at private schools common wore colored rather than just grey kneesocks. Blue shorts were also more common in Scotland. HBC has relatively limited information on Scottish school caps. We believe that the tradition peaked school cap like the ones worn in England were standard wear for Scottish school boys. Scottish schools required blazers much as English schools. HBC knows of no important difference between Scottish and English school blazers. Many Scottish schools by the 1980s also had dress uniforms consisting of tweed jackets which were worn with kilts for dress occasions. Scottish schools have ties much like English schools. Some private Scottish schools let boys wear open collared shirts with their blazers, but never with the formal uniform of tweed jacket and kilt. The boys wearing open collared shirts generally wore them with short trousers. Most schools required boys wearing long trousers to wear a tie. Short trousers were widely worn at Scottish private schools. Not only did prep schools have short pants uniforms, but many secondary schools also required the older boys to wear short pants as well. Many Scottish schools appear to have been more traditional than English schools in this matter. Many Scottish schools used the kilt as part of the uniform. Usually it was not worn every day. More commonly the boys wore a blazer or sweater and short pants during the day. The kilt, however, is not a very practical garment for boys. Several of the elite Scottish private schools, both public and preparatory schools, had uniforms with colored knee socks (blue, red, burgandy, purple, green, and black). Red was a particularly popular color. This is in sharp contrast to English schools which usually had grey knee socks. Scottish boys have have used bookbags much like English boys. The continental over-the-shoulder type of book bag used by European boys does not seem to have been common in Scotland.
The Scottish school system is strutured along the primary and secondary levels common around the world. The state schools have these standard divisdions. This is complicated slightly by the prep schools which more or less bridge the gap between primary and secondary schools. There are also academies, private schools that have both primary and secondary units. School uniforms are common at both primary and secondary schools. Almost all secondary schools have uniforms.A Scottish contributor provides some information on school uniforms in Scotland.
There are a wide range of activities conducted at school, both inside and outside the classroom. Many of these activities required a specaialized uniform or sports gear. Scottish schools, especially the private schools probably had more elaborate uniforms and specialized schoolwear than any other country. The school regulations varies over time and among the many different types of schools. Many schools had a dress uniform worn on Sunday or special school events. During regular school days a less elaborate uniform was worn. At some schools boys would come to schools in their blazers, but just wear their jumpers while in class. Some class room activities like art or science might require some sort of protective gear. Quite a number of schools sponsored youth group units such as Scouts. Some secondary schools had Cadet units. Many schools had a gym uniform. There was a variety of specialized uniform for various team sports.
Boys varies as to what they did when they came home from school. Some mothersinsisted that they change out of their school uniforms to make sure they kept there school clothes in good condition. Some boys were anxious to do so as they didn't like their uniforms. Other boys couldn't be bothered to do so. Especially if they went to a private school, there was not a lot of time for play after school so they saw it as a bit of a waist to go to all the bother of changing clothes. Boarding schools also varied greatly as to what they did after class. Some schools allowed the children to change in to regular clothes. Atother schools the children wore the uniform all day long.
Clothing trends at Scottish schools can be followed by a look at different types of individual schools at various locations throughout the country. HBC at this time has images from only a few schools but hopes to expand this section. Except for the kilt, schoolwear styles are quite similar to England--perhaps a bit more conservative.
Scottish children going to secondary schools or private schools commonly purchased their school uniforms in local shops or in major department stores. Often chain stores had the more simple items for state primary schools. There were also larger stores in the big cities that specialized in schoolwear. One of the more important stores specializing in schoolwear for Scottish schools is Aitken & Niven in Edinburgh. Aitken & Niven was established in 1905 as "gentlemen's tailors of distinction". The first few years proved successful for the store and it continued to trade during the World War I by expanding into Ladies Tailoring and Military Service uniforms. The advent of World War II introduced fabric rationing, and a threat to Aitken & Niven's business. A & N in 1943 introduced its School Wear Department. The company celebrated its 100 th anniversary in 2005. The company now has a web site offering the uniforms for many Scottish schools. They have also set up "Uniform2, a marketplace for pre-owned schoolwear for the budget minded. In addition to school uniforms, Aitken & Niven offers a wide election of sportswear.
Scotland like England has an active cadet program where secondary school clildren receive some basic military instruction. The program began before World War I, but I have few details on the history of the program. The dress uniform at most groups is the kilt, but for training, pants are generally worn.
A few accounts are available from or about individuals about theor school experiences in Scotland.
A colection of short accounts that are not detailed enough for a complete separate page.
We have little information about this boy except that his name was Cyril. The portrait was taken at an Edinburgh photographic studio. It was undated, but looks to have been taken about 1920, perhaps a little later. Except for the hat which might have been worn on a sunny day to watch a cricket match, Cyril is wearing what looks to be a preparatory school uniform, although there is no school badge on his suit coat. The image raises some intriguing questions. Interestingly, he does not look like a Scottish boy. HBC does not know how common it was for non-British boys to attend schools in Scotland or elsewhere in the United Kingdom during the 1920s.
I came across your web site and found it rather interesting. I'd like to add some of my own personal memories and comments. I went to school in Elgin, Scotland, during the 1960s. Nearby was Gordonstoun, the Public School attended by Prince Charles. Apart from this claim to fame it was well known throughout Scotland for its uniform--boys of all ages wore short trousers. Because of this, many of us local boys were also kept in shorts longer than might have been expected. What was good for Prince Charles was good enough for us.
A HBC reader provides memories about his Scottish boarding school
When I started primary school, my uniform comprised light blue long-sleeved shirt, striped school tie, grey shorts (mid-thigh length; these were by no means compulsory - long trousers were common even in the first few years, and certainly by the time I had reached primary seven, I was the only boy in my class to wear shorts), knee-length grey socks, grey v-neck jersey with the school colours around the collar, black blazer (again, worn by increasingly few pupils) and black school shoes (which had a Velcro fastening at first, until I learned to tie laces). During my time at primary school, the one major battle I had not won regarding uniform was the wearing of shirt and tie as opposed to a polo shirt. I had convinced myself that the switch to a new school would be the perfect time to at last change to a truly casual uniform. You could buy both sweatshirts and polo shirts from my new school with the logo, and most people wore these. Unfortunately, my mother was having none of it. While she did buy me one polo shirt, it was for wear only during P.E. lessons - at all other times I would wear the same sort of uniform I had worn at the end of the previous year, namely: grey or black sweatshirt emblazoned with the school logo, white long-sleeved shirt, striped school tie, black trousers, grey socks and black leather shoes.
An English reader writes, "This is an interesting section. I went to school in England, but know next to nothing about Scotland. In the south of England we were always under the impression that you needed a strong constitution, a long kilt and a tough hide. It is interesting to read about schools in Scotland. I hope Scotting readers will add to what you have collected so far."
Related Links: Careful this will exit you from the Boys' Historical Clothing web site, but each of these sites are highly recommended
Boys' Preparatory Schools: Lovely photographic book on British Preparatory Schools during the 1980s with over 200 color and black and white images.
New Zealand Schools: Apertures Press e-Book on New Zealand schools available
>British Preparatory Schools: Volume I: New Aperures Press e-Book on British preparatory schools available
British Preparatory Schools: Volume II: New Apertures Press e-Bbook on British preparatory schools in progress
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