Tabliers d'écoliers français : Sommaire

Figure 1.--Cette photo date des années 1920. Elle représente un jeune garçon (10 à 12 ans) dans sa tenue d'écolier. On remarque qu'il porte une blouse (également appelé sarrau en France), une culotte courte, des chaussettes montantes (également appelées mis-bas en France) et enfin des brodequins de cuir. 

Un lecteur français nous a fourni un sommaire court en français la de la philosophie sociale derrière les tabliers et les tendances françaises d'ecole liées à la chemise. A French reader has provided us a short summary in French of the the social philosophy behind the French school smocks and trends associated with the smock.

French Text

Cette photo date des années 1920. Elle représente un jeune garçon (10 à 12 ans) dans sa tenue d'écolier. On remarque qu'il porte une blouse (également appelé sarrau en France), une culotte courte, des chaussettes montantes (également appelées mis-bas en France) et enfin des brodequins de cuir. La blouse (ou sarrau) indique que c'est un élève de l'école publique car il ne porte pas d'uniforme (en France, l'uniforme n'est exigé que dans certaines écoles privées). [HBC note: "tablier" is also commonly used for school smock in France.] Jusque dans les années 1950-1960 le port de la blouse, ou sarrau, était obligatoire dans les écoles publiques.

C'était là l'expression de l'un des 3 thèmes de notre vieille devise républicaine : «Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité». Le sarrau exprimait l'égalité. En effet sous cette blouse, qui recouvrait tout, on ne distinguait pas la richesse ou la modestie, voir la pauvreté, des vêtements de l'enfant. Ainsi, croyait-on, les écoliers de la République étaient égaux. Le riche apparaissait, vêtu, comme le pauvre. Mais cela ne disait pas si le pauvre y trouvait de meilleurs moyens de subsistance, cela ne disait pas si le principe de «Liberté» était respecté (celui de pouvoir se vêtir selon ses désirs ou besoins).

Au début ce sarrau était de satinette grise ou noire et se boutonnait dans le dos, il descendait jusqu'à mi-mollets. Progressivement il s'est raccourcis et vers les années 1950 il a pris des couleurs, il est devenu bleu, vert jaune etc. Ici on notera qu'il se boutonne sur le côté, ce qui est plus commode pour l'endossé.

La culotte courte qui s'arrête approximativement au milieu des cuisses est probablement en lainage (avec les chaussettes de laine montant jusqu'aux genoux) elle indique, qu'à l'époque de cette photo, nous ne sommes pas en été mais en période mi-froide (printemps ou automne). En effet, à cette époque, il était d'usage que les garçons soient en culotte courte toute l'année (hivers compris), mais en été les chaussettes montantes étaient remplacées par des socquettes arrivant à la cheville. Les brodequins (solides chaussures montantes, en cuir, lacées jusqu'au dessus de la cheville) indiquent que ce garçon vit à la campagne où il faut de solides souliers pour marcher dans la boue des chemins. En ville, il aurait certainement porté de petits souliers bas. Enfin, on notera que le col blanc, de la chemise, rabattu par dessus le col du sarrau, est une coquetterie imposée par sa mère. Elle veut que son enfant soit beau, élégant, elle en est fière.

English Translation

Here is a photograph to illistrate your HBC web site. This photo date to the 1920s. It shows a a young boy (10 to 12 years) outfitted for school. He wears a school smock, short trousers, high socks (also called put-low in France) and finally leather laced boots. The smock indicates that he is a pupil from a public school because he does not wear a uniform. (In France, the uniform is required only in certain private schools). Until the 1950s-1960s, wearing a smock was required in public schools.

The requirement to wear smocks was an expression of one of the theee pronciples of our old republican slogan: "Freedom, Equality, Fraternity". The smock expressed the desire for equality. Indeed under the school smock, which covered the clolthes, one could not distinguish the economic level or fashion sence of the wearer. Ir was difficult to see if a boy wore poor clothesd. Thus the schoolboys of the Republic looked equal. The rich child appeared much like the poor child. But that did not mean that the poor child was this able to succeed better. It also in the view of some the principle of "Freedom" were restricted by requiring boys to wear smocks and not allowing him to dress in accordance with his desires or needs.

At first these smocks were satinet gray or black and buttoned at the back. It extended down to the mid-calf length. Gradually it was shortened and in the 1950s, collored smovcks appeared, including blue, green, yellow, etc. Here it will be noted that it is buttoned at the side, which more convenient for the wearer.

The short trousers which are shorter than earlier are probably woollen garments (with wool socks going up to the knees), This suggests that at the time of this photograph, it was not summer, but a cooler time of year (spring or autumn). Indeed, at that time many boys wore short trousers all year--including the winter. In summer the high socks were replaced by ankle socks. The laced boots (solid ankle boots, out of leather, laced to the top of ankle) indicate that this boy lives in the countryside where one needs solids shoes to go in the mud of the ways. Downtown, he would certainly have carried low-heeled shoes. Lastly, it will be noted that the white collar, of the shirt, folded back over the collar of the smock is a fashion probably imposed by his mother. She wanted her child to look smart and elegant and to be proud of him.


French HBC readers have provided some comments about the helpful summary on this page.

Very good photo of a French school boy from the 1920s. It is perfectly representative of the typical look. Also the text is very good which a clear short summary and good explanations. There are, however, some details that are not quite correct.
Equality: It is true that the initial reason for the school smock was egality among the children.
Back buttoning: Back buttoning smocks were still very common and worn by boys up to about 10 years of age until the early 1960s. One reader estimates that about half the boys wore a back buttoning smock in 1950. He adds, "I can affirm that, because my Parents made a very huge quantity of this model." The number of boys wearing smocks is apparaent from the Doisneau photos in a French class.
Compulsory: The smock has not been compulsory in French schools since the late 19th century, although some individual schools may have required them. More commonly they were optional, but many mothers chose them. While they were common, many photographs at French schools show some of the boys wearing smocks and othervboys without smocks. This is apparent in the Doisneau photos, but also portraits from earlier years.
Short pants: Short pants were also not composory, but most of the boys wore them, especially the children from affluent families. Boys with long trouses were very rare and were generaly from very poor families. One can see that the short pants were cut a above the knee in the 1920s, and often showed inder the smocks. Latter short pants became shorter. So in 1936-1950s, boys short pants were often covered by their smocks. Again see the Doisneau photos of 1950-60s and comparing to those of the 1930s.


Our English readers might find these vocabulary pointers helpful:
Boots: "Brodequins" are working or hiking shoes for the country or the mountain, but this word is less commonly used today.
Kneesocks: "Chaussettes montantes" means knee socks. The French also say chaussetttes hautes or simply chaussettes. All these terms are commonly used today. "Mi-bas" meaning knee socks is an old word for "chaussettes". It is no longer commonly used in popular language, but is found in the catalogs.
Smocks: A discussion of the various terms like "blouse", "tablier", and "sarrau" used for smock has been prepared by HBC.

Christopher Wagner

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Created: May 14, 2002
Last updated: May 15, 2002