Australian Boys' Clothes: Suits and School Uniforms, The 1970s

I live in South Australia and have done all my life. I started school in 1970 and my last year of secondary School was in 1982. I remember being mostly dressed in shorts and knee socks from a very young age until I turned 16. My Mum and Dad always reminded me that I should be in no hurry to grow up and being their only child I guess they wanted my childhood to last as long as possible. I never had any say in the clothing I wore and I just excepted what my parents brought for me to wear.

Primary School

I attended a Catholic School. In primary school I wore the school uniform. Greys shirt, shorts and socks with the school colours on the turnovers. All the boys wore the same. In colder months about 30 percent of the boys wore shorts the other boys wore long grey trousers.

Clothes at School

As my school required a uniform I was happy to wear it.

Summer uniform

In the warmer months I wore a light grey short sleeve shirt and black tie with thin green and yellow stripes. My shorts were grey with elastics back and side pockets. I wore the school issue of socks. They were long and grey with black, yellow and green bands at the top. When my socks became a little old my mother would always sew elastics on to the socks so they would stay up. Black lace up shoes was also required.

Winter uniform

In the winter we were required to wear a school blazer. Shorts were optional but I wore grey shorts all year round until I turned sixteen. Most other boys wore long grey trousers. The winter shorts were different from the summer. They were fully lined with button side tabs. I use to like them long and combined with my long socks, which thanks to mum always stayed up, my legs were not exposed to the cold as much. I also wore a grey v-neck jumper with the school colours trimmings. Some boys would complain about having to wear a uniform but I liked it and was happy to wear it. During the last couple of years that I wore shorts during the winter at school I was teased at times, as I was the only one in shorts that time of year. But it did not worry me much, in fact I preferred the short and long socks, as did my parents. I often wonder if it was peer pressure that stopped other boys from dressing in shorts all year round as well.

Clothes at Play

Around the house after school and on weekends I would mostly wear shorts and a shirt with a collar. My parents did not buy me any t-shirts unless they had collar. (By this I mean the shirt would only have 2-3 buttons. It did not button all the way down) When I was 10 I favoured a red, blue and yellow horizontal stripped t-shirt that had a white collar. My Dad use to joke that I would be buried in that shirt. I did not have any jeans until I was 16 years old. sixteen. My shorts were mostly the more formal type. Other than grey I remember having navy blue and white shorts. I would often wear an old pair of grey school shorts around the house. When I wore socks around the house they were always long. Mostly shades of grey without coloured bands, but also light and dark blue and black. In the colder months I would wear "v"-neck jumpers. Most of these where all one colour but some had coloured pattens.

Most, but not all of my shorts had elastic back and side pockets. One pair I remember well, were the ones I wore around the house. They were school shorts but not the ones I wore to school. Why I remember them is because they had a zip pocket. They were elastic all the way around with two pockets at the front. But just inside one of the front pockets was a special zip pocket for lunch money. I liked these shorts and would wear them frequently because of the zip pocket. I boy hates to lose those little things which are special to him.

My Parents

I would occasionally ask about long pants. My parents were both keen for me to wear shorts. I remember hearing comments like. Boys look more like boys in shorts. Boys look very smartly dressed in shorts and long socks. I think the main reason I was kept in shorts for so long was because I was an only child and my parents did not want me to grow up so fast. My parents would often say how I looked very smartly dressed in my shorts and knee socks. I was a very obedient boy and respected my parent's wishers more than most other boys did. I really did not have a problem wearing shorts all the time and did not complain at all. I just accepted that that was how they liked me to dress.

Other Boys

If I had been teased more then maybe I would have complain about having to wear shorts. But the fact is I was only teased occasionally. I was a very much into sport and excelled in most games. I guess I was not teased much because I had the other boy's respect with my sporting achievements. My Father would spend a lot of time with me kicking balls and playing backyard cricket so I developed skills that were above the average growing up.

I did not go unnoticed. Other boys would occasionally tease me a bit. They said I was crazy for wearing shorts on cold days. Sometimes they would comment on my knees. I remember being told that I could be recognised from quite a distance away because my knees would stand out. In high school, apart from one day, I was the only boy who would wear shorts in the winter months.

One day one of the other boys came to school in winter shorts. The other boys gave him a lot of unwanted attention. When they asked why he was wearing shorts, he said that "Kirk wears shorts and no-one picks on him." I remember distinctly their response. "They suit Kirk but you look stupid" Now whether they were just use to seeing me in shorts or whether shorts did suit me better I don't know. I do know that the boy never wore shorts in the winter again.

Dressing Up

Going out

When going out my parents always insisted that I dress neat and tidy. This included outings to the local shops, movies and parks. My Mum would always pick out my clothes and put them on the bed and I would wear them without question. When telling this to people today some cannot not believed how obliging I was as a boy, but I thought nothing of this at the time. It was just the way things were. I would never leave the house without a smart looking shirt and shorts with knee length sock.

Buying Suits

I had a number of suits growing up. As soon as I grew out of one it was replaced. The last couple of suits I had as a boy were tailor made. I remember thinking at the time, that I was important having a suit specially made. I now realise that it was because Mum could not find any suit with shorts pants. Soon after I turned 16 my parents brought me my first suit with long pants.

I remember going to the tailors to be measured for my last suit with short pants. At the time I thought I was quite special to have a suit specially made. I remember the tailor asking how old I was and being surprised to find out that I was 14. I guess he was surprised that I was having a short pantsuit made for me at 14 years old. Or maybe I looked younger than I was, who knows!


My suit shorts needed a belt and I am pretty sure they had one back pocket. The style of my suits? This I am too sure of. But it looked very much like what the boy is wearing on the on the Short pant suits national style page on the HBC site. (The English boy in the red cap.) Material? Now this is were I might not be able to help as I took very little attention to what my shorts were made of. The best I can do is to tell you what they looked like. I know they were not corduroy or flannel. The look very much like those worn by New Zealand boys. Which would make them terylene. My winter school short had a grey lining and were most comfortable and warm to wear. My summer school shorts did not have a lining.

Dressing Up

Other than to church I remember wearing my suits to weddings. My last couple of suit with shorts were grey and I wore long plain grey socks with black shoes with the suit. I also would wear a tie and light colour shirt. When I was 8-9 I remember a light blue suit with dark blue trimming with long socks that matched the suit.

My Friend

I will never forget the time one of friends stayed with me. I was about 12 at the time. He had stayed with us most of the week and the plan was for him to go to church with us and then he would go back to his home with his parents from there. My Mother just could not let him go to church in the clothes he had brought with him and insisted that he puts on one of my suits. My Mum told him that she thought that the clothes he had for church were not appropriate and said that he should borrow some of mind since we were about the same size. He said that was all right. I remember being surprised that my friend did not try to get out of wearing it. So, instead of laying out one set of clothes for me she put out two sets. When it came time to change my friend put on the suit with short pants without complaint. As I did not want him to feel uncomfortable I did not say anything about it. I do remember my Mum telling him that it fitted him very nicely.

As I said, he got dresses without saying much but when he got to church his older brother laughed and teased him. They had never teased me before and from that time on I was very self-conscience about wearing my short pant suit at church. I still was not made fun of, I guess they were use to seeing me dressed that way. His brother laughed a lot at the first site of him. Then carried on about his knees looking funny and his shorts being to long. Also about his tie as he did not normally wear one to church. He also said he had being spending too much time with me and was beginning to look like me. My friend told him to shut up a number of times. I also remember my friend's father smiling at him and saying that he looked very smart in a suit.

Before he went home that day, I was worried about our friendship and told him I was sorry that my Mum made him wear the suit. He still did not seem to be to upset and said he really did not mind wearing it. He brought back the suit the following week and I can't remember discussing the suit again. I was expecting to be teased the following week when I showed up for church in my suit as usual. But nothing was said. I guess they were use to seeing my dressed in my shorts each week and thought nothing of it. From then on though, I felt a little uneasy about my suit but I never complained about wearing it.


My Scout and Cub uniforms were very similar. The uniform consisted of shirt with a scarf, shorts with long socks. I wore a cap at cubs and wide brim hat for scouts. From memory all the boys in both Scouts and Cubs wore shorts.

Looking Back

As I mention, I often wonder if it is peer pressure that stopped other boys from dressing in shorts as well. Given that my friend did not complain about having to wear the short pant suit and the boy at my school choose to wear shorts one day of his own choice and never did again because of the things that were said by the other boys.


Christopher Wagner

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Created: February 3, 2000
Last updated: February 20, 2000