Australian School Uniform: History

Australian school uniforms, like those in other countries, have changed over time. The first school uniforms were simply copies of English school uniforms. The Australian school system was set up by English colonial administrators. They were schooled and trained in England and set up Austalian schools along the same line as English schools, complete with English school uniforms. We have collected some information about modern Australian school uniforms, but little information about earlier historical eras. We believe, however, that the further you go back the more similar Australian chool uniform is to European school uniform.

The 19th Century

Australia's history of European settlement is quitelimited. Substantial nymbers of Europan settlers did not arrive until the mid-19th century. The state schools did not require uniforms for elementary age children. We see children in the 19th century wearing a wide variety of garments. Some children dressed up for school. We also see many children wearing pinafores. Secondary schools, which were attended by only a small number of affluent children, basically adopted the uniform of the English public (private) school. Many private schools were formed in the 19th Century. These schools, like the state schools, were set up by English educators. They adopted the ethos and educational sysyem, as well as the uniform of English preparatory and public schools.

The 20th Century

Australian children generally wore uniforms ti sdchool in the 20th century. HBC has much more information about Ausdtralian school uniform in the 20th century. School uniforms look very British at the begiining of the 20th century, except thst msny Australian children, both boys and girls, went to school barefoot. This basic trens continued until after World War II. After the War more casual uniforms gradually began to appear. Some private schools retained traditional British uniforms. Many state schools shifted to more casual styles that seem better suited ti a country with a warmer climate. Alsdo we begin to see fewer children going to scjool bsrefoot, especially at urban schools.

The 1900s

We note numerous Australian school photographs from the early- 20th century. The boys look much like English boys, so much so that it is difficult to distinguish them, although th background some times suggests the location. We note both schools that wore uniforms and others that do not. Early in the century some boys wore sailor suits. Peaked schoo caps and flat caps were common. In Britain the peaked cap was much more common than the flat cap. And we note a few boys wearing boaters. Eton collars were very common until after the War. Boys wore suits to scjhool, but not necesarily uniforms. Norfolk suits were popular. Boys commonly wore knee pants and knickers, except for some of the older boys at secondary schools. Many boys went barefoot, especially at the primary schools. This was in part seasonal. Boys were more likely to wear long stockings snd sure during the coller months.

The 1920s

We no longer see boys wearing sailor suits to school after World war I. As in England, short pants were very common, perhaps becuse of the climate which was much warmer than England.

The 1930s

We continue to see Australian boys wearing British-style school uniforms in the 1930s. The peaked school caps were becoming more standard, but we see various styling. Some boys wore boaters, but mostly private schools. We see more boys wearing uniforms, both blazers and jackets. We see some destinctive blazers as in Britain, mostly at private schools. Grey shirts and sweaters were very common. Most boys wore short pants. Australian uniforms were very similar to British uniforms, except for footwear. Going batefoot was quite common, especially for the younger children. Shoes and kneesocks were also worn, especially during the cooler months. Another difference with the British, was that boysd did not very commonly wear sandals, although girls did. Sandals had become very populr for scjhool childten in Britain, but not in Australia. The fact that so many Australian children went barefoot was presumably a factor. We no longer see boys wearing long stockings, but some girls did.

The 1950s

Australian schools continued to use English school uniforms through the 1950s. Even more so than English boys, Australian boys wore short pants school uniforms. Even at secondary schools short pants were common. Some schools, both state and private schools to wear short pants. Despite the warm climate in Australia, boys commonly wore blazers and kneesocks. Caps were also common and we note various styles. .


Figure12.--This portrait of an Australian primary school was probably taken in the 1970s. Schools varied. This school required a uniform.

The 1960s

Major cganges began to take place in Australian school uniforms during the 1960s. Some primary schools, as in England began to adopt simple uniforms. The boys wore short pants and kneesocks. The secondary schools continiued to wear English school uniforms. Caps went out of style in the 1960s and blazers were less commonly worn. Boys, even older boys, continued tomwearvshort pants and kneesocks. This differed from England where older boys no longer wore short pants school uniforms, except for a few traditional private schools.

The 1970s

This portrait of an Australian primary school was probably taken in the 1970s (figure 1). Schools varied. This school required a uniform.


Figure 2.--Australian private schools through the 1970s and into the 1980s often required all boys, even the older boys, to wear blazers, ties, short pants, and kneesocks. A few private schools still do.

The 1980s

Notable changes in Australian school uniform occurred during the 1980s. Many changes more in tune with the Australian climate were introduced during the 1980s. Many casual styles replaced the more formal English styles. Blazers and ties became increasingly less common. More older boys began wearng long pants to school. Many schools introduced seasonal uniforms with long pants during the winter and shorts during the summer.

The 21st Century

Many Australian schools continue to require uniforms in the early 21st century. The styles vary widely from school to school. Australian uniform styles are increasingly casual, especially at public schools. There are also regional variations. Some schools have incorporated sun-safe styles. Some schools still have more formal uniforms with blazers and suits. Most of these scgools with formal uniformsa re private schools.






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Created: April 25, 1998
Last updated: 6:27 AM 3/9/2011