U.S. School Clothes: Individual Schools--The 1950s

Figure.--A daily ritual at American schools was the plege of alegiance in each classroom and raising the flag outside the school. This school looks rather like a junior high school, but the younger boy in short pants is elementary school age. Notice the boys wearing saddle and other leather shoes. The school is unidentified, but was located in Virginia.

We still some younger boys wearing short pants to school in the early 50s. And in the South and rural areas areas a few children came to school barefoot. Neither were, however, very common. We mostly see boys in elementary (primary) schools wearing casual shirts. Striped "T"-shirts were very popular and jeans. During the winter, jeans wre available with flannel linings. Leather shoes were mostly worn, but we see some sneakers. Black high-tops with white soles were the most common, but sneakers were not yet stylish. Almost all girls wore dresses or skirts. Saddle shoes were worn by boys and girls. Boys wore casual shirts to school, although some boys buttoned them. Jeans were not worn extensively in high schools. Many schools actually prohibited them. All high school boys wore long trousers. Ties and suits were not worn. The principal exception here was parochial schools. Some began requiring basic uniforms which often included white shirts and ties. A few private schools required suits and ties with a British look.

Tampa Elementary School (1950s)

Here we see who we believe to be First Graders at an unidentified Tampa, Florida elementary school. Kindrgarteners and First Graders are a little difficult to destinguish, but the class here looks like First Graders. The only information is the name of the studio, Crane & Crane. Their clothing looks like the early-1950s to us. The girls all wear prim dresses, often with baloon sleves. The boys wear both 'T'-shirts and casual collared shirts. No one has buttoned their collar. Buttoning collars was common at the time. We see both short and long pants, but no jeans. Two boys have suspenders. Short pants were not common in American schools after the early-50s. First and Second graders were an exception, especially in the South.

St. James School (1950s)

The Saint James School for Boys was located on the main street of the small town of Berlin, Connecticut (some 10 miles south of Hartford). It operated from 1954-78, although its best years were past by the early 1960s. It founder and only headmaster, the late Leonard Francis (1918-1992) who also founded Camp Leo, near Laconia, New Hampshire, from 1946-87, had distinctive ideas on student attire. A HBC reader had provided some information about the school.

Tyrrel Elementary School (1951)

The Tyrrel Elementary School was located in Port Arthur, Texas. We have an image of what we would guess to be a 3rd grade class in 1951. The school looks like a modern post-War school. It looks like a typical American primary school in the 1950s. All the girls wear dresses. The boys all wear long pants. Some boys wear collared shirts and other boys wear stripped "T"-shirts. One boy looks to be wearing a Cub-Scout "T"-shirt. Two boys wears a Western-style shirt with pockets/collar in contrasting colors. I remember having a shirt like that. One boy wears overalls. That was unusual in urban schools by the 1950s, but may have been more common in rural areas. A few boys were barefoot which by the 1950s was becoming uncommon in American schools.

Frankewing School (1951)

The Frankewing School was located in Giles County, Tennessee. It was a small rural primary school. We see boys in 1951 wearing both stripped and collared shirts. We see jeans, overalls, and slacks. Afew younger boys wear short pants. We note boys wearing Keds and going barefoot. Going barefoot was no longer very common at American schools, but we see it at a few rural southern schools. Tennessee schools were still segregated in 1951 so the children are all white.

Jefferson School (1953)

Here we have an image of the Jefferson Scool, an elementary (Primary) school in West Allis, Wisconsin. It is a third grade class photographed near the end of the chool year in May 1953. The children would have been mostly 9-years old. The girls all wear dresses, ather long ones. The boys war boyh collared shirts and "T"-shirts. One boy wears a tie and others have buttoned their collar button. The "T"-shirts are mostly stripped. One boy wears a Hopalong Cassidy "T"-shirt. Pne boy has suspenders. All of the boys wear long pants.

Vienna Elementary School (1952-56)

The Vienna Elementary School looks to be a standard American elementary (primary) school with a 6-year, grade 1-6 program. It was located in Vienna, the county Seat of Dooly County, Georgia. Dooly County was one of the original landlot counties which were created from land ceded from the Creeks after the Creek War. It is locted in south-central Georgia. We have some class portraits from the 1950s. The girls wear a variety of dresses. The boys are notable for their short hair cuts which were very popular at the time, especially in the South. They mostly wear striped T-shirts and coloful collared shirts with jeans. These garments were very common at American schools at the time. Going barefoot at school was common in southern States before World War II, but that began to decline after the War. It became much less common by the early 1950s. Many of the youngr boys were barefoot in 1953. Vienna was the county seat and thus not a rural school, but Dooly was a rural county without any large towns.

Rose Branch School (1954)

We note the Rose Branch School located in the little town of Lamar, in Barton County, Missouri. It was quite a small school. Many school systems after World War II began doing away with these small chools as more children were bussed. We have only one photograph from the school, taken in 1954. Several boys wear T-shirts. Almost all of the boys wear jeans, a few old-fashioned bib-overalls. About half of the boys are barefoot. Also note the short hair cuts. We can't tell much about the girls because there are not very many of them and they are in the back row. I'm not sure what "#69" meant. Perhaps the country schools were numbered.

Caton-Chappel (1954)

This class photo was taken in 1954 at Caton's Chapel Elementary School in Sevierville, Tennessee. In mid-1950s most of boys and girls still attend in bare feet. Often it was more common for the boys to go barefoot. This was becoming less common in Americas, but we still see boys mostly in the southern sastes attending barefoot. Also notice that the boys all wear long pasnts despite the fact that it was a warm day. One boy wears overalls. The girls all wear dresses. These look like the younger children in the school, presumably 1st and 2nd graders.

St. James (1955)

This may be the same school as another St. James archived on HBC. It is also located in St. Louis. But there may be more than one St. James in St. Louis. This we do not know yet. Here we have a photo of a kindergarden class from St. James School. The scool is identified as being located in Dogtown, apparently a suburb or district of St. Louis. Dogtown (also seen as Dog Town) seems an unusual name. It apparently was an Irish immigrant neighborhood in St. Louis. This photograph was taken in 1955. The children were all dressed in white. I think this might have been a graduarion photograph.

Grafton School (1956)

The boys are all dressed quite casually by the 1950s. All the boys at the Grafton School in 1956-57 are wearing long pants, many wear jeans. One boys wears jeans and keds. Even the 2nd graders wear long pants, nearly the youngest boys at the school. This is how I remember American elemeentary schools in the 1950s. Boys at most schools always wore long pants. The girls are also dressed casually, but all wear dresses.

Wahiawa Elementary School (1956)

Wahiawa Elementary School was founded to educate the children of farmers who were brought in from California (September 1896). We don't have much informatioin about this, but apparently many were Japanese-Americans. We have a ckass portrait of the 6th grade in 1956. This would have been the oldest children at the school. The pupils don't wear a uniform. Many boys wear Hawaiian style shirts and go barefoot. We note boys going barefoot on the mainland during the early 50s, but it becoming quite rare by the mid-50s. Note that even in Hawaii that the boys are wearing long pants.

St. Catherine's Catholic School (1956)

Here we have a photograph of classroom (No. 8) at St Catherine's Catholic School in Chicago during1956. I'm not sure if this meant 8th grade. Unlike public schools, many Catholic elementary schools went through 8th grade. The children look like they may be a bit younger, poerhaps 7th graders. Both boys and girls wear smart uniforms. Now almost all Catholic schools, and some public schools, have uniforms like this. It was an innivation after Workd War II. Many Catholic schools adopted these uniforms in the 60s. The boys wear white shirts and ties with dark long pants, probably navy blue. The girls wear white blouses and dark colored sleeveless dressed on top. I suspect that the girls wear tights or white socks as part of the uniform. Often there were strict rules on this. They may be a little spruced up, but we suspect that both the parents and school made sure they dressed neatly for school.

Chicago Elementary School (1957)

This photograph shows the First Grade class in a Chicago public school during 1957. Note all the short crew cut type hair cuts the boys have. I was a First Grader only a few years earlier in 1949. And recall this is how children dressed at the time. I also recall the short hair cuts, but not nearly as many. Boys wore casual shirts, often buttoned at the collar. Girls wore prim dresses like the ones we see here. The only clothing differences I see are twwo children in front. One one boy with a fashion concious wears a smart sports jacket and bowtie with short pants. And the girl beside him whose mother was less concerned about formality also wears short pants. I don't recall either outfits in elementary (primary) school when growing up in Washington, D.C. There were differences at the time. We do see some short pants in the South, but boys wearing suits and sports jackets with short pants were not very common.

Roselawn School (1957)

Here we see a typical American elementary school. The school was located in Cincinnati, Ohio. We do not have any detailed information about the school. We assume that it was a 1st theough 6th shool, although we are not sure about grade 6. There was also a kindergarden. As there was no uniform, the clothes worn by the children at schools like are a good reflection of how children dressed over time in the United States. Here we see a 2nd grade class. The portrait illustrates a lot of typical fashions at the time. The girls are all wearing dresses or blouses and skirts. Not of the girls are wearing pants. The boys wear a wide variety of coloful shirts. Note how many of the boys button the collars of their shirts. Several boys wear open collars and white "T" shirts. These boys are all wearing colorful collared shirts. In warmer weather many boys would have worn T-shirts. One boy wears a long-sleeved polo shirt. There is a wide range of stripes and checks. All of the boys wear long pants.

Gordon Elementary School (1957-58)

The photo was taken at Gordon Elementary School, in Wilkinson County, Georgia, a rural county. It was taken during the school year 1957-58. It shows a 5th grade class. The boys wear colored long-sleeve collared shirts. Jeans seem very popular for the boys. Notice the well-worn knees. The girls wear dresses and skirts. Notice how full the skirts were. The girls called them 'poddle skirts'. At least three boys are barefoot. It is not clear if they went to school barefoot or took off shoes at school. It looks like they have shoes under their desks. I have not seen that before. Apparently it was still normal to go barefoot for boys aged 11-12 years. If they had shoes with them, they didn't put them on for the class photo. The girls are all wearing their shoes. We are not sure why the boys are barefoot, but it would not have been poverty. We suspect the boys were more comfortable going barefoot.


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Created: 11:25 PM 6/27/2008
Last updated: 2:52 PM 10/27/2018