** school uniform schoolwear : United States -- garments





U.S. School Clothes: Garments


Figure 1.--This photograph is unidentified, but it looks to us that it might be highschool boys in the late 1930s. The younger boys wearing knickers may be a junior highschool student. Notice the ties and sweaters.

American boys have worn a wide range of garments to schools. These garments have varied over time and there have also been regional differenes. The type of school was also of some importance. American boys for the most part did not wear uniforms. There are a few exceptions such as military and preparatory schools and a few private schools. American boys simply wore their regular clothes, often somewhat more formal than play clothes. This however changed over time. We see garments like sailor suits and kneepants suits in the early 20th century. Many boys wore corduroy knickers to school. Most boys wore long pants to school in the 1950s, but shorts were also worn by some areas. This varied regionally and chronolgically. Pimary boys by the mis 20th century were wearing more casual clothes such as "T"-shirts and jeans. To our knowledge American boys did not wear smocks, but they were worn at some schools for art classes. Cold weather garments were important during the Winter, especially in the northern states. Most boys had raincoats for inclemet weather.

Uniforms

American boys for the most part did not wear uniforms. There are a few exceptions such as military and preparatory schools and a few private schools. Here we will deal with military school uniform garments separately because they are so specialized. Private school uniforms, other than military schools, were based on the destinctive uniforms worn at British public (private boarding) schools. Several different garmenhts were worn at the schools. Peaked school caps were common. Uniforms began to become more popular after World War II. The parochial schools were the first to commonly adopt uniforms. Many inner-city primary schools began adopting uniforms in the 1990s. Normally they were not compulsory. And new kinds of private schools appeared, especially those founded by conservative Christian religious groups, disturned by the increasing secularization and permissiveness of the public schools.

Regular Clothes

American boys simply wore their regular clothes, often somewhat more formal than play clothes. This however changed over time. We see garments like sailor suits and kneepants suits in the early 20th century. Many boys wore corduroy knickers to school. Most boys wore long pants to school in the 1950s, but shorts were also worn by some areas. This varied regionally and chronolgically. Pimary boys by the mis 20th century were wearing more casual clothes such as "T"-shirts and jeans. To our knowledge American boys diud not wear smocks, but they were worn at some schools for art classes. Cold weather garments were important during the Winter, especially in the northern states. Most boys had raincoats for inclemet weather. A reader writes, "I was talking with a friend about changing fashions. She told me that when she was in middle school in Berkeley in the late 1940s, boys wore unwashed corduroys, letting them get as dirty as possible. They also liked to wear them as low as possible. Things go in cycles! I also asked her about blue jeans. She said that boys in this area were never prohibited from wearing jeans at either the schools she attended or at the schools she taught at. The prohibition was against girls wearing jeans to high school, which was finally lifted in the mid-1960s. Today it's rare to find a girl who isn't wearing jeans. The dresses and skirts that used to be everyday wear are now reserved for special occasions." We have not yet worked on school shoes. We do note, however, an interesting article about the Portland public schools which taught boys shoe repair.

Generic School Garments

Most school school garments were worn at both uniform and non-uniform schools. In Britain, the school uniforms at public (private boarding) schools helped popularizwe a variety of garments styles for school wear. This was not the case in America as the private schools were not as inflential as in Britain. For the most part, American boys just wore their regular clothes to school, although they tended to dress up until the 1930s. These pages are needed in part so we can link school paragraphs from the main garment pages. We note peaked caps beung worn at both uniform and non-uniform schools.

Gym Clothes

We note boys ding calesthetics in the early 20th cebntury. They look to be wearing their own clothes rather than gym unifirms. We are not sure when gym uniforms were fitst worn. We think that they were being commonly worn in high schools by the 1920s. Gym or Physical Education (PE) used to be an important part of the school program, especially at the secondary level. Primary (elementary) schools did not always have PE classes and did not have special gym clothes or uniforms. This was different in secondary clothes. PE was a class and grades were given. There were uniforms and most schools were strict about wearing the proper gym clothes. This changed in the 1970s when school dress codes and gym uniform requirements were significantly relaxed. The PE program was also deemphasized at many schools. A HBC reader has provided us some information about his gym experinces: Gym uniforms in California during the 1960s-70s.

School Gear

A range of gear is associated with American school children. These itemns are mostly associated with books and lunch. At first as far as we know this involved a leather belt. I don't think this began until the 19th century. Two factoirs are at play here. First, belts were not commonly used to hold up trousers in the 17th and 18th centuries. Second, books and paper were expensive and children did not have much to take back and forth to school. Rather children used slates to do school work. Only in the mid-19th century do we see children taking books home from school. And they are often depicted taling them home bound together with a leater belt. American children never had book satchels like German chilldren. After World War II we begin to see backpacks. I recall using an old army back pack. At first only the boys used them. Eventually we begin to see purpose-made school backpacks in bright colors and all kinds of special features. We note children taking lunch pails to school in the late-19th century. They were the same as workers took to work. In the 20th century we begin to see lunch boxes. Until after World war II, few schools had cafeterias. Children brought a lunch or came home for lunch. We are not sure when lunch boxes first appeared, but see them in the 1930s. There were plain lunch boxes and soon we see boxes decorated with popular figure from Shirely Temple to Hopalong Cassidy. This gradually declined as more schools added cafeterias and free lunch programs.







HBC






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Created: 7:28 PM 4/29/2005
Last updated: 11:22 PM 3/7/2014