School Uniform: Other Garments

Figure 1.--.

School boys in various countries have worn a variety of other garments. While perhaps not as important as the ones listed separately, they never the less need to be mentioned. HBC has noted several other relatively minor items of school uniform. Some of these items were optional, such as balaclavas or gloves. Often there were no specific regulations governing the wearing of these items. Some items, such as sacrves were worn in the school colors, but were optional as to whether they were worn or not. Other items could be very much a part of the school uniform such as snake belts in the school colors. Some items such as capes were primarily worn in one or a small number of countries. There were sometimes differences between boys' and girls' schools. Gloves were not normally required at boys' schools, but they were at some girls' schools.


It was common for English boys to wear balaclavas in the winter, if only going to school but not during weekends. One HBC contributor remembers that his primary school used to have them optional during the 1970s, with colours of either navy blue, black, or grey. They were only worn by primary school age boys but as they declined in popularity, only the youngest of boys used to wear them until there completely disapearence during the early 1980s. The balaclava used to be a full woolen mask with only the face cut out. They would go right down to the bottom of the neck and throat, cover the ears and forhead. Some boys who attanded schools that required caps as part of their uniform used to wear them under their caps. They are similat to ski masks, but the entire face was cut out in a balaclava, nit just small bits for the eyes and mouth. The term balaclava is derived is from the name of a city in Russia made famous in Britain by the Crimean War. Presumably the wool faced masks were used by British troops during the winter and named after the Crimean city. Other clothing styles also emerged from the Crimean War were the cardigan and raglan sweaters. The Earls of Cardigan and Raglan were wartime commanders.

Figure 2.--French school children at private schools where uniforms were worn often wore capes rather than coats. I'm not sure why this was. Notice the one boy wearing a balaclava rather than a beret like the other boys.


Schools with uniforms varied as concerned a belt. Some boys in the late 19th and early 20th century wore suspenders (braces) rather than belts. Some English short tousers beginning about the 1970s had side tabs and partial elastic waistlines rather than belts. American boys in elementary (primary) schools often wore button on shorts and less commonly longs in the 1930s and 40s. Most uniform shorts since World War I have had belt loops. Often there was no rule about belts or only general guidelines. HBC has, however, only limited information here. The primary type of school belt that we have noted is the English snake belt, so named because of the clasp. Here there often was a required belt in the school colors.


French school children, both boys and girls, traditionally wore capes in inclement weather. They were worn by both boys and girls. They were mostly worn at private boarding schools where the children wore uniforms. I'm not quite sure, however, why the boys wore capes rather than coats.


Gloves have not normally been an item of school uniform at boys' schools. We suspect that some boys' military schools had white gloves as part of the formal dress uniform. Other than this we do not know of gloves being worn by boys as part of the uniform. Of course many boys wore gloves to school diring the cold winter weather, but this was not part of the regular uniform. A British reader reports that boys schools did not commonly make gloves part of the school uniform, but in the 1950s knitted wool gloves were quite common when he was in school. I do not know if how many schools attempted to adopt specific colors for these gloves, but believe that this was not common. We believe that some British prep schools did have regulations about the type and color of gloves worn, but did not generally require the children to wear them. A British reader attending a prep school in the 1950s remembers school grey gloves. Boys at one prep school during the 1970s wore a grey-green gaberdine over-coat with grey knitted gloves during the winter. Some girls' schools, however, did require gloves. We have noted reports from British schools. We have no information about schools in other countries at this time, but suspect that some girls' schools in France, Italy, and other countries also required gloves. This was especially true in the 19th century and early 20th century. A former pupil at St. Paul's Girl's Schools in the 1890s recalls receiving an "order mark" if seen arriving without gloves. [Davidson, p. 87] This continued at some schools well into the 20th century. A student at Sacred Heart Convent in Hammarsmith recalls being rebuked for being a disgrace to the school when caught by a teacher on a bus in the morning without her gloves on. [Davidson, p. 81] One author reports that abnormally tight gloves were used as a punishment at some convent schools for infractions such as biting nails and pinching. The offending pupils are said to have regarded this as a "nightmare punishment". [Davidson, p. 154]


Private schoolboys often wore scarves during the winter. The scarves would be in colors matching their uniforms. Interestingly, scarves were not uncommonly worn with just a blazer and not always with an overcoat. A British source indicated that one could keep quite warm in just a blazer when a scarfe was worn. Another source indicates that this was just boys from posh private school flaunting their preceived status.


We do not have a great deal of information about sleepwear at this time. This would only concern boarding school and thus affect on a relatively small proportion of school children. we know that some schools did have rules about schoolwear. Sleepwear and robes are mentioned in many school clothing lists. Many schools, at least modern schools, have a fairly relaxed approach to sleep wear. This includes schools that have required school uniforms. Schools oftn required boys to have bath robes for use at night after changing into sleepwear. Sleeowear itself was mostly night shirts in the 19th century. This changed in the early/mid-20th century to pajamas. Oler boys might wear underwear rather than pajamas. Here most schools now let the students decided for themselves.


Davidson, Alexander. Blazers, Badges, and Boaters: A Pictorial History of School Uniform (Scope Books: Horndean, 1990).


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Created: December 5, 1998
Last updated: 10:42 PM 4/6/2007