Corduroy School Shorts: England

Figure 1..--Several English schools adopted uniforms with corduroy short pants. Notice the school sandals.


Corrduroy is a fabric that was widely worm in both Europe and Noth America. It appears to have been developed in France, but with the Industrial Revolution was heavily produced in England.


Corduroy is a corruption of the French corde du roi, corde or material of the king. It was a material used as livery for the king's attendants on the hunt. It was in effect a kind of poor man's velvet. More details on corduroy in general are available on the corduroy short pants page. We are not precisely sure when the corduroy fabric became widely used in England and for boys' trousers. I do know it was worn by English and American soldiers during World War I because of its hardwearing characteristics. Perhaps it was, as a result, commonly used for boys knickers and shorts after the war, but I am not sure of this. I am also not sure to what extent cord was used for boys shorts and trousers in France. I do know that cord shorts were commonly worn by French boy scouts in the 1950s, although I'm not positive just when the Scouts began wearing cord shorts.


I believe that corduroy first began to be used for short pants in England during the 1930s. The long-wearing characteristics of corduroy attracted the interest of mothers. I believe that boys wore them for play in England much as modern boys wear jeans.

Adoption at Schools

A few schools adopted cord shorts for the school uniform because of their long wearing characteristics. I'm not sure precisely when began occuring, whether in the 1930s, but more likely the 1940s. I do know they were being worn at some English schools by the 1950s.


Everyday wear

Many of the school with cord shorts would use them for every daywear at school. They were the primary uniform worn at school. Usually the schools using cord shorts would have a dress uniform with proper grey shorts that the boys would wear for church or other special occasions instead of their everyday cord shorts.

Figure 2.--These boys wear utilitarian corduroy jackets with their cord shorts for everyday school wear.

Cord jackets

Most of the schools using cord shorts had standard blazers for the boys to wear. Several of these schools had cord jackets matching the shorts for everyday wear. These were often called lumber jackets as they looked like the jackets worn by American lumber jacks. These jackets were commonly worn by British boys in the 1940s and early 50s and only later adopted for school wear. Why this term became popular at prep schThe jackets were mostly grey, but a few schools had bluish jackets. These were worn instead of blazers or suit jackets during the school day. Unlike blazers they were not put aside during the day, but actually worn--often with jumpers as well.

The boys at these schools also had blazers or suits, but these were kept for dress occasions and generally worn with Terylene shorts or long trousers for formal occasions.


Most schools used grey shorts for the school uniform. They were usually a light grey, especially after a few washings. A few schools had different colors, including blue and rust colored shorts.


Personal Experiences

HBC will archieve here the personal experiences reported by English boys who went to schools with cord short uniforms.

Prep school: The 1950s


Navigate the Historic Boys' Clothing Web Site related pages:
[Return to the Main school uniform cord trouser page]
[Return to the Main school uniform garment page]
[Return to the Main school shorts page]
[Corderoy shorts page]

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Created: December 4, 1998
Last updated: 2:03 AM 8/13/2009