Even younger boys by the 1970s wanted to wear "modern" fashions out of school and many mothers allowed this. I remember a TV show from the early 1970s that very accurately depicted contemprary boys' fashions. It was and "And Mother Makes Three". Many schools in the 1970s would allow boys to have long hairstyles whilst rigidly enforcing uniform requirements, such as short trousers for the younger boys. This was a big change from the 1960s where "short back and sides" was the order of the day for hair styles. My school regulations stipulated that "hair should be no longer than collar-length" (I started secondary school in 1970.) I'm sure fortunes were lost and made by clothing manufacturers in assisting boys to be "fashionable" at school whilst still being in uniform. I noticed substantial differences in how boys viewed short trousers in the 1970s and 80s. I'd be interested to know the experinces of others in and out of school during the 1970s. I think most accepted that they had to obey the school dress regulations but wanted in return the freedom to choose when out of school. From my experience of this era many boys were given this freedom - including many who chose to join the Cubs
or Scouts and accepted the uniform regulations. Many also were not given this freedom as their parents still wanted to "lay down the rules".
I'll have a go without getting too much into my life. It's amazing how thinking about what clothes your wore as a child brings back so many memories--and that so many arguments with parents and frictions with friends/siblings were about this subject. I'm locked onto it so if I start rambling on just skip to the relevant parts for the website.
I had two brothers, an older and a younger brother. We were a family of modest means and lived in several different areas of London. We were not a close famliy - everybody did their own thing as far as possible. We lived in a poorer part of London, and they were building new housing - but in New Towns outside of the city. Without a Dad we were also reliant on council housing. My cousins who lived in Yorkshire owned their own house and had more stuff - clothes and suchlike. But we seemed to have more fun. I mean to say - my experience of Boyhood in England in the 1960s-70s is not typical. I have noticed that many contributions came from wealthier families - who may have paid to go to private schools which is why I wanted to tell my story. My experience of most of the boys, primarily because after primary school I went on to a Grammar school (selective secondary school). I find these HBC personal experince pages very informative. It would be good if more people got in touch with their experiences of the period and they provide a very useful historical record.
My name is Bill. One thing that would spark me off when I was a kid was being called "Billy Boy" by my brother or his mates. The only worse thing was being called "William" by my mum or a teacher. That was nothing to do with the famous literary character--more to do with that name was reserved for me when I was in trouble. I couldn't stand those Richmal Compton books as I couldn't relate to them. Same with the "Jennings" books. These give a false impression of England - for the majority of kids-- but they do truthfully portray English boyhood for a minority. I must admit that many of my friends did like those books as a sort of escapism.
I always regret that we were not the sort of family who had a camera.Even my grandparents and cousins up in Yorkshire didn't have one which is a shame as we went out to some nice places up there and would be wearing all sorts of different clothes.
The only family photos I can remember were taken by someone outside of the family - the ones of me in Germany or my school passport one.My grandparents had one of my uncle when he was in the Army and one of my Mum in nurse's uniform on their sideboard but none of them as children which is a shame as my grandmother used to make them clothes and they would be unique.My Uncle did sometimes tell me and my cousin about these clothes when we were complaining about clothes our gran bought us and he said we were lucky compared to him and my Mum!.I used to use this to try and make my Mum understand why I didn't like some of the clothes she or gran wanted me to wear but she denied that she had ever complained as a girl though my Uncle insisted that she had!
My brothers and I attended several different schools as a boy. These schools had different outlooks on both education and school uniform. As a resiult we boys had
somewhat different educational expderiences. We attended regular state primarie and Church of England (C of E) primaries and regular and direct grant grammar schools. This was i part because we moved and our parents choice of schools. Of course we had to do well academically to get into the grmmar schools. School uniforms were adopted by each individual schools so there were differentsin how we dressed for school. Changing fashion trend were also a factor here. My primary school was a traditional Church of England school in West London. I started there in September 1964. We had a strict uniform: cap, blazer, shirt and
tie, shorts (grey), gartered socks with green rings around the tops, black shoes even from the earliest years (age 5). My friend who I used to play with started at the school on the same day as me, but his parents took him out of the school after a few weeks and sent him to a more relaxed school up the road (a low-level post war school - ours was an old Victorian building). His school had no uniform and I remember noticing that at an early age. I too had donewell on my 11+ and had been accepted at a grammar school, but a different one to my brother. We had moved in the Summer of 1970 to another district of London and I was due to start at my secondary school. This was what was known as a "Direct Grant Grammar School" My new items of school uniform were the school blazer, tie and long kneesocks in the school colours. Shorts were not compulsory in the main school but some of those who were moving up from the "prep" department wore them to start with along with those of us who were still had our primary school shorts in reasonable condition to wear out. I lived a sort of double life after beginning grammar school. One in school and one with my mates out of school whoh were not the same people because no other boy at my school lived in my area, most travelling in from the suburbs. My younger brother had meanwhile been enrolled at a new primary school in the area that we had moved to which did not require a uniform so he started the new school year in jeans!.
My older brother was in the cubs during the late 1960s. I avoided joining to keep away from him. Both Cubs and Scouts came to our primary school in their uniforms on meeting days. I remember my brother coming to school in a Scout uniform on "Commonwealth Day" in their long trousers and thinking how ridiculous they looked although I thought the same of the Cubs. Scouts were pretty strict about uniforms and "parades". I remember him spending ages getting his uniform "just right" - especially on Sunday when they had "church parade" and he had the "honour" of carrying the troop flag. His Cub gear was bought at a small shop that we normally did not frequent. Mum used to let my brother wear a pair of our grey school shorts for his Cubs church parade on Sunday.When my older brother was in the cubs - the late 60s - my mum allowed him to wear his school shorts to church parade on Sunday but had him wear a pair of our playshorts to the actual weekly meetings as she didn't want our school shorts spoiled. He used to complain that he didn't look "right" and would be different to the other boys. As it turned out this was the same with a lot of the other boys then. Other mums obviously had the same idea. I wasn't in the cubs but me and my mates used to come across them sometimes when they came over to the park from their hall to play rounders or something (we used to make fun of them until they chased us away). I remember a lot of them were wearing a variety of play shorts in various colours/styles and only a few grey school shorts. It was only on Sunday when I used to see them going in for church parade as I was coming out of Sunday school that I noticed they were all dressed up in their best school shorts - which was the official uniform.
I don't remember being particularly fashion consious at this age 10-11 just wanting to feel comfortable and having fads like my grey jeans, wearing my grey school shirt--which was of a flannel-type material and very comfortable to me (if I did come home after school I'd only change out of my school shorts for jeans pull on a favourite jumper if needed over my shirt. I liked to wear the jumper tied round my waist and head out with my mates. We wore khaki shorts and sandals in the Summer - with short or long socks - if I wore long socks I allways wore my school garters with them. In the Winter I wore jeans. Like I've said before when we were kids we never used to plan things much – where we'd play etc. or who with. We'd just turn up
on the bombsite or in the park and see what was going on and if there was nothing doing we'd head off somewhere else in search of
adventure. I've also written about how, outside of the school holidays, Saturday and Sunday afternoons were our main play times and
how, from the age of about 9, when I first met him, until 11, when we moved to another part of London, my main playmate was
Michael. In the summer of 1970 we were rehoused to another area of London. I got in with a group of local boys through playing football in the local park. If not wearing the football strip, this group had a sort of "summer uniform" of t-shirts worn with brushed-denim shorts
or shop-bought jean shorts. I asked my mum for some but she refused saying I had plenty of clothes - half of which were hand-me-downs from my brother.
I hated any "dress up" occasions that forced me into something different or unfamiliar. One such instance was school occasions (prize days, carol concerts, trips out to museums) when a white shirt was stipulated for boys. Even in Summer I found these white shirts cold and comfortless. A minor change was not in the clothes but how we wore them. This occurred when for some reason my mother had got off work early and came to meet us from school to go on a shopping trip. This always involved her trying to restore us to the smartly dressed boys she'd sent out that morning and involved retying ties, tucking in shirts and pulling up socks followed by a hair combing. All very embarrassing for an 11-year-old in front of his mates. The major "dress up" occaisions were the thrice yearly visits to our grandparents in Yorkshire. For these my Mum always dressed me in a pair of "prince of wales check" shorts which I HATED.
We did quite a bit as a family. We didn't have lots of money so visits to parks were common. I recall our visits to several different parks. We liked visiting our local park. It was near us and we went to a lot. Often after school. We also went to Kew Gardens. That was a favorite of my older brother. He liked the conkers.
There are solme garments I rember in particular. Some I have discussed in other sections. I talk about my school clothes in the school section. I also have distinct memories of knitted sweaters. I particularly recall a paor of checked shorts I had. I hated them. On the trips to my grandparents, grandmother always helped my mum out by buying us new socks and underwear. The latter of which we found "old-fashioned" being white cotton briefs and singlets while we were used to wearing coloured briefs and t-shirts for vests. She also ALWAYS gave us gloves and "bobble-hats" for Christmas! I also remember the pajamas I wore. Mine had cats.
Most of my clothes had always just seemed to suddenly just be there – I don't remember much going shopping much for them. The one eception was shoes. Most of my clothes came down from my brother or mum just bought them and we wore them. The only exceptions I can remember was a small shop that sold knitting patterns, wool, cotton buttons and the like. Since so many children wore the same type of clothes to school every item had to be labelled so they wouldn't get mixed up after P.E. lessons etc. - but that's another subject. There was a special shop where mum got labels for us.
Our trips to the barbers were a real adventure. I never actually saw my primary school uniform regulations in a printed form, but I am sure that my Mum was sent it when we started at the school so I don't know if it mentioned hair. Anyway at that time most boys did have the "short back and sides" that my Mum preferred too and I never saw any boys with anything other. As I have told you it was quite a shock when I went to secondary school and some of the younger posher boys did have long hair - even in the prep school but even then the "no longer than collar length" rule was applied. Anway as I say Mum wouldn't allow me or my older brother to have long hair and when it came to the point where I was allowed to choose my own hairstyle it was a "skinhead" cut which was very short anyway and then the schools objected to that! There was a variation between schools in the 70s and parents then went along with that.My little brother went on to a non-uniform school when we moved and he was allowed to have longer hair (by Mum not due to school regulations) than me and my older brother had ever been allowed.
Our mum when she was in the mood used to tell us about when she was a girl in Leeds. (We were always asking her!) She told us that at her schools the girls (but not the boys) used to have "deportment lessons". This involved basically walking across the room with a book balanced on the head.Of course we had to try it at home - and I could never keep the book balanced - though my brother could! The other posture thing with me was, as HBC discusses, verbal admonishments, from both teachers and mum. I've already told you about the school rule about boys not being allowed to have hands in pockets and part of the reason given for that was that it made you "slouch". My mum too didn't like this. I normally had my pockets full of something or another anyway so there was no room for hands! I noticed the HBC page on posture correcting devices. I never remember, however, seeing any posture correcting device being used when I was a boy. The other thing I remember was that she always said that we must wear our satchells properly on our backs - over both shoulders
and not hanging down from one as some boys did. She also said that that way we were her "little soldiers" so I was quite pleased to
do that. When we did the shopping on Saturday I always wore my satchell on my back and we would take along three or four net bags that my mum had. When we carried these home (and even my little brother had his too) mum always made sure that the bags in the left hand and the right were "balanced" and were not too heavy for us.
I like many boys at my school became very interested in the trendy clothes popular at the time. There were quite a number of fads and different attitudes toward fashion. I find it quite surprising that even today I can remember a lot about about the clothes and the hair styles that were popular at the time. I guess that goes to show how important fashion was to us. Perhaps he fact that we had to wea unifoms at school made fashion even more important to us after school. In our area most of the boys wanted to wear "skinhead" fashions out of school and I was no exception. These fashions spilled over into the schools and those who followed them could not be faulted as the smart parallel levi "staprest" trousers, button down Ben Sherman shirts and highly polished black shoes fulfilled the dress dress requirements. The other fashion at my school was the "hairy" look , i.e. boys wanting to wear flares, round collar shirts and grow their hair long. These fashions led to numerous "announcements" at the morning assemblies and letters home to parents--the operative word being "sensible". Hair was either too short ( skinhead "crops") or too long (over the collar), flared trousers were not "appropriate" - and boys (a skinhead fashion) should not wear braces [suspenders]. Boots ( "Doctor Martin" "bovver boots" for "skins" and platform-sole high boots for the "hairies") were banned.
Many schools in the 1970s would allow boys to have long hair styles whilst rigidly enforcing uniform requirements, such as short trousers for the younger boys. This was a big change from the 1960s where "short back and sides" was the order of the day for hair styles. My school regulations stipulated that "hair should be no longer than collar-length" (I started secondary school in 1970.) Boys would push this as far as they dare. The only other area where boys could "rebel" was in footwear. The older boys wore "Doctor Martin" boots which they felt conformed to the "black lace-up shoes" rule. My school (and others I know) put a stop to this with a "no boots" rule. The boot fashion was given a particularly bad image becaue it wss followed by the notorious "skinheads". Then there appeared a "Doc. Martin" shoe.
I'm sure fortunes were lost and made by clothing manufacturers in assisting boys to be "fashionable" at school whilst still being in uniform. One example is "penny collared " shirts - i.e. round collars rather than pointed - being sold by the thousands in white (not a colour in keeping with the times). These were even done in school unifirms, I think first by Trutex. Another example are black flared trousers--but not too flared as they were manufactured exclusively for schoolboys. The boy's who had to wear shorts did not have so much choice.
I remenber a few conversations or incidents about clothing as a boy growing up in London. Here there were conversations with mum, my brothers, and schoolmates. As far as I can remember when we were young we wore what mum put out for us. I don't remember any major arguments before my objecting to wearing a pair of my elder brothers "baggy" shorts for school one morning when I was about 9 years old. I don't recall a lot of discussions with my brothers about clothes, except when they would tease me about the check short I so disliked. I do recall one episode with by brothers. I can remember a few conversations involved comparing who was wearing what at my secondary school.
Another topic of interest is how we used to get our clothes clean. As I've told you my mum was never over-fussy about our clothes like some mums were but she did like us to look smart for school, Sunday school and went we went up to our Grandparents. Because she was working a lot of the jobs that needed
doing around the house were done at weekends and we were expected to help out in various ways.We didn't really mind – although we used to argue with each other sometimes ! - but my mum always got us organised and pointed out that once everything was done we could get out and play so it was best just to get on with it – which was true!.
I never knew anything about bathrobes at all. When I stayed at my cousins in Yorkshire we did wear dressing gowns over our pyjamas. I was allowed to wear his newer one and he an older one. Both bought by Gran no doubt. At home we were not so formal. After our bath Mum took us up to the kitchen where it was warmer to dry us off, comb our hair and then get us into our pyjamas which were airing by the oven. Then we wore an old jumper over them while we drank our milk before bed. We did then wear our plimpsoles as slippers as Mum didn't like us walking about in bare feet.
I remember a TV show from the early 1970s that very accurately depicted contemprary boys' fashions. It was and "And Mother Makes Three". The two brothers attend the same school which required short pants for the younger boys. As soon as the boys get home, however they both change into similar long pants casual outfits. Peter the younger boy (David Parfitt) is constained by school regulations to cap, short trousers, and regulation
socks hile his elder brother nly has the blazer, shirt and tie in common. Out of school they are both in long "fashionable" trousers and t-shirts.
I could go on and on. Like the (expensive) Ben Sherman socks and the "shame" of wearing "cheap" British Home Stores imitations !
Of course the nice summer weather and free time when school was out affected the clothes were wore. Often we had special clothes that were bought just for summer holidays. In some cases these were items we did not always wear at home. I especially remember a trip I took to Germany one summer.
As I write I remember other things and the holiday idea came into my head as we always had holidays at "Holliday Camps" - or caravans when we had them at all the English seaside resorts. My brothers and I really enjoyed the seaside holidays and playing on the beach. People did dress differently when they were on holiday away from their local areas. It was only when I went to my secondary school that I realised that even then (the 70's) some families were holidaying abroad and I am wondering how that might have started to effect fashions back here and the other way round. It would be interesting to put out a call to people to see if they used to have special holiday clothes or brought any back with them.
A HBC page reminded me of something once again.When we were younger me and my mates used to play cowboys and indians. This was mainly in the long Summer holidays when we were off school.Some kids did have costumes that were sold in shops but most improvised and me and my mates would pinch stuff from our houses and then share it out for a game.One of my mates used to be popular as his Dad had a load of “snuff hankies” - highly patterned rather than the usual white – which the “cowboys” would wear round their necks – that with blue jeans and some sort of check shirt did the job.Of course a couple had shop-bought hats that they would take turns in wearing – when the wearing was “dead” and “scalped” someone else would wear it. Some also had toy guns. There were also other games and costume improvations.
I took a summer trip to Germany in 1968. I was 10 years old at the time. Between the ages of 10 and 14 I was in a swimming club and we did an exchange trip with a German club. Most of the German boys were older than we were but we still competed against them and they put us up with their families. We also had a race swimming across a lake up in the Alps - which I remember was freezing even though it was the height of Summer. I lived with a German family that had a boy my age. We became good friends. While there I mostly wore my school clothes. His father was an avid photographer and took lots of photograph to send back to my mum so she could see how I was doing. As a result, a lot of my surviving boyhood photographs are from this trip.
Fall meant going back to school. Like most British boys I think, fall brings back memories of conker collecting and fighting. I was not a keen conker fighter, but I certainly have conker experiences that I remember.
I have always been fascinated by nationality. I remember friends I had as a boy with foreign backgrounds. I am intreagued by some of the differences such as different approaches to games like Cowboys and Indians. I'm still fascinated by the thought that German boys were more into "Indians" and French "Cowboys" as you report readers saying on the country trend pages on that topic. I hope more German/French readers write in to confirm/deny it. Maybe in the postwar period it was because German boys could not be "cowboys" as they weren't allowed toy guns. I wonder if they were even sold in the shops. Bows and arrows may have been seen as "safe". Also I wonder what the toy gun situation was like in France?. I know a friend of mine, who was English but had Polish parents, was not allowed toy guns as a kid. He claims that for all the devastation of "The Blitz" and such Britain as a whole had not experienced war in the way that much of mainland Europe had - and maybe he's right. His parents also sent him to a non-uniform primary school but made him dress up to go to "Polish School" on Saturday mornings where they learnt the language and Polish folk dancing and stuff. He says he didn't like it at the time but appreciates it now. The same with a mate of mine who's mum was Irish and made him go Irish dancing on Saturday mornings and as he had to attend mass on Saturday he complained he never got a day off like we did . He didn't go to our school but a Catholic primary which had a uniform even stricter than ours - all blue and gold. That's why he was always one of the wildest in our Summer cowboy and Indian games on the bombsite - and it was always to his house we retired if any of us got injured as his mum would patch us up (she didn't work) without going on at us for the state we were in so she had two sides to her.
I'd be interested to know the experinces of others in and out of school during the 1970s. I think most accepted that they had to obey the school dress regulations but wanted in return the freedom to choose when out of school. From my experience of this era many boys were given this freedom - including many who chose to join the Cubs or Scouts and accepted the uniform regulations. Many also were not given this freedom as their parents still wanted to "lay down the rules". This is a London experience and, talking to people from Northern cities there seems to have been less choice for boys - I don't think this is to do with money just different attitudes - but that's a generalisation. I do know that Scottish primary school children finished at 12 years of! age rather than 11 as in England and that many of them were denominational and so, perhaps, rivaled each other in having the smartest uniforms (Liverpool in England is similar) but now I'm getting into conjecture.
I have been fascinated with reading about the experience of others on the HBC pages. I find especially interesting the accounts from others who were boys at about the same time I grew up. Both the acoounts of other English HBC contributors as well as those from other countries are fascinating. It's funny how boys remember some common experiences even though in different countries.
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