English Boys' Clothes: Personal Experiences during the 1970s

Figure 1.--Several English readers have provided us accounts of their school and other experiences during the 1970s. These boys attended a preparatory boarding school with a strict unifoorm policy.

HBC readers have also provided several accounts of their personal experiences during the 1970s, describing their clothes and school uniforms. These reports include accounts from several areas of England. We have also included a report from a Scottish reader. Most of our contributors note that boys fashions and the attitudes of boys toward their clothing had changed substantially since the 1960s, but some had traditionally orinented parents. There are accounts both of their school uniforms as well as clothes they wore at home.

Primary and Grammar School: The Northwest

I grew up in England during the 1970s. I was born 12 November 1961 in Northwest England. Started infants Sept 1966, moved to Juniors Sept 1969, and Grammar school Sept 1973. I attended the local infant school from age 4 to 7. It was mixed, and all boys wore grey shorts, other than that there were no uniform requirements. Girls could wear anything, but they all wore dresses or skirts. No girl ever wore trousers or shorts, it was unthinkable. The boys all wore long socks, usually grey, but sometimes patterned fawn or brown, even black. We never wore white socks, only girls wore white socks. The girls did wear tights, thick woolly things, never nylons.

Massive Change

There was a massive change in the attitude towards boys' clothing inBritain during the 1970s as I was growing up. The effect of the late 1960s revolution in youth thinking allied to a change in the perception of young people by the adults of the time led to a less prescriptive dress sense. I remember at the age of about 10 really wanting a pair of ludicrous--or so I think now--purple loon pants which my mother eventually bought for me after much whining on my behalf. Tank tops were also the "in" thing together with "woodies" which were fairly normal looking shoes except for the multi-ply wooden soles. As I said, it was a particularly weird time for fashion and perhaps we should be grateful for the punk revolution in the late 1970s which, if nothing else, took stupidity in clothing to the ultimate limits.


During the seventies the typical school appearal for junior boys was a grey school uniform,shirt,tie, v-neck jumper, short trousers and kneesocks. Until the age of 11, I wore that typical uniform. Your web site has brought back a few memories. In my younger years, I always hated having to wear shorts, either for school or casual play clothes. It made me feel infantile as I had such respect for my father I wanted to be like him and short trousers wasn't what he wore, so I didn't belive I should wear them. However I remember at about the age of 8, I must of harrased my mother so much she finaly gave in and bought me some longs for school. Long trousers weren't part of my school uniform. I remember that cold monday morning walking to school, friends commenting on my trousers, I presume with jeliousy. Whispers and comments from teachers went on all day. Even my form teacher pulled me to one side and commented with discust.


The earliest recollections I have of the type of clothes I wore as a boy growing up in the north of Englad during the early 1970's are about my school uniform. I was a day boy at school and a lot of my friends at home thought I was very posh because of the full uniform. Most of them wore shorts to primary school, but didn't have to wear blazers or caps. My friends Mothers would comment on how smart I looked. When I was younger, I suppose I had an angelic look, with very blond hair and my school uniform with its blue and white colours--looking back, I am sure that I did look very smart. Even as a child I always took a lot of care over my appearance and would not be seen with one sock down round my ankles. I'm not sure where that came from. Looking back. there are probably two reasons. I think I am particular about my clothes for two reasons. At home my mother always inspected us before we left the house and believed that untidy children reflected badly on the parents and how they were brought up.At school any teacher would tell you to tidy yourself up especialy if your socks had fallen down.As I said earlier, this was often emphasised with a slap on the back of your legs.Most of my friends understood that I went to a different school that had very different views,but I think they were glad that their school was not so strict.

Catholic Primary School

I was born in 1970. We liked to wear sneakers. I do recall having some sandals when I was much younger on holidays. I had leisure shorts when I was much younger which my mum had bought but never formal ones. My mum did take me to buy a pair of casual shorts once when I was 12. From what I can recall not many boys wore sandals, I think they were a bit outdated. I was sent to the local catholic primary school at the age of 4. The school saw itself as partially progressive and had a non-uniform policy, a fact that suited my friends and I, we all went to school in our normal "playing out" clothes. This being the 1970's meant a collection of woolly pullovers and flared jeans. Our non-uniformed state was made all the more obvious by the neighbouring schools who all had strict traditional dress codes including that most English of garments, grey short trousers. As far as I can remember some boys did wear shorts in summer before the introduction of uniform, but these were generally sports type with "T"-shirts. When I was very little I do recall some light blue summer shorts that I would wear which were fully elasticated. Very few boys wore stadard rather formal looking grey shorts. School sandals were also rarely worn, except by the younger boys.

Richard: Home and School Experiences

Once back in England we moved around a couple of times usually staying with relatives as my Father had not received his latest posting details yet. He worked on a couple of Stations whilst we lived reasonably close by. The schools I attended did not have formal uniforms and the conventions varied from school to school. Thus there was some overlap between what I wore at home and at school. Several topics occur to me here. One interesting topic is the play clothes that my brother and I wore as wll as our mates. We also had dress-up outfits. I recall in some detail our bed-time and bath routien at home.

My Short Pants Suit and Buying School Shorts: The 1970-80s

Mum dressed my brother and I the same for most of the time until I was about 10 or 11. This I hated. To look like my younger brother was so humiliating. My brother was never bothered about such unimportant things such as clothes, his mind was only on football all the time. We have become very close these days but he doesn't have many interests in life unlike me who has done many things such as kung fu instructer, glider pilot, football player and coach, plus even more... Our personalities are very differrent. He is like my dad and I am more like my mother who has to be on the go!! Unlike my father and brother who generally sit around and could not be bothered.

Bill--London Observations: The 1970s

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".

Jonathan--Growing up in England: The 1970s

A HBC reader had provided us some interesting memories about his boy experiences growing up in England during the 1970s.

Matthew: The 1970s-80s

I grew up in Southern England during the mid 70s late 80s. My parents were what could best be described as "traditionalists". They were both British and traditionalists not just in terms of fashion/clothing but on a whole range of issues. From as early back as I can remember I had bare knees. In my early years this was not a problem, however, as I got older it did become one.

Scotland: The 1970-80s

I grew up in Scotland during the 1970s-80s. My parents were (and still are) what could best be described as "traditionalists". Both were Scottish and traditinalists not just in terms of fashion/clothing but on a whole range of issues. From as early back as I can remember I had bare knees. In my early years this was not a problem, however, as I got older it did become one.

Formal Clothes for Church: The 1970-80s

I had a relatively strict and, probably, slightly old-fashioned upbringing. So, I suppose that the clothes and lifestyle that I had were more typical of a classic British upbringing in the late 1960s, rather than what most boys of my age were going through in the 1970s. As a younger boy, I did not wear a suit. I would normally have wore my school uniform either to Church or on other days when, outside school, formal clothes were to be worn, for example to visit relatives. School uniform was of absolutely standard British type. I wore short trousers with my uniform until are I was about 12, although I was put back into shorts for the summer during which I turned 13. As I said, my socks were always a long and grey. I frequently wore sandals with the more informal clothing but with a suit I always wore black lace up shoes. I remember going to Harrods, the big department store in central London. They had and has a range of short trousered suits. I don;t know why, but I remember that they had them in "short" and "longer" style--the latter being shorts which reached further down towards the knees. The short pants suits were in sizes up to 30" waist. They were all lined. My mother picked the shorter style for me.


Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Return to the Main English personal experience page]
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Clothing styles] [Countries] [Essays]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossary] [Satellite sites] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]

Created: March 9, 1999
Last updated: 12:19 AM 3/29/2007