Swiss School Smocks

Figure 1.--These Swiss boys were photographed about 1943-45. Notice the wide variety of smock colors and styles the boys are wearing. Some are wearing the full size traditional smock while others wear the sleevless pinafore or apron style.

Switzerland is a multi-cultural and linguistic country. Smocks were commonly worn by Swiss-Italian and Swiss-French boys, but less so than the Swiss-German boys. They were mostly worn to school. As far as boys clothing is concerned, the French speaking part of Switzerland was comparable to France. It was compulsory for boys to wear a smock until 9-10 in the years 1930-1960, about one third would then continue up to end of primary school around 12 years. The style and colors of these smocks were left to the parents discretion, there was no uniformity but a wide variety in mainly three styles: back buttoning, side buttoning, and a pinafore style.

French Translation

As a help to our French readers, we a providing a translation of the summany paragraph. French readers have expressed a special interest in smocks. Of course there commements in French or English would be appreciated: Afin de faciliter la lecture à nos visiteurs francophones nous avons traduit et complété le paragraphe d'introduction en français. En effet de nombreux lecteurs de langue française ont manifesté un grand intérêt pour ces pages sur les tabliers d'école et nous les invitons à nous faire tenir leurs commentaires et expériences propres. La Suisse est un pays multiculturel et multilinguistique. A l'école les garçons des régions romande (parlant français) et tessinoise (parlant italien) portaient assez communément le tablier qui même souvent était obligatoire, alors que pour la Suisse allemande ce n'était pas la coutume. Le tablier était porté non seulement à l'école, mais aussi bien souvent à la maison ou pour jouer dans la rue. Pour la Suisse romande le style de tablier était assez comparable à la France et son port presque toujours obligatoire jusqu'à 9-10 ans au cours des années 1930-1960. Environ un tiers des écoliers continuait à mettre le tablier jusqu'à la fin de l'école primaire vers 12 ans. Le style et la couleurs de ces tabliers n'était pas imposé par l'école mais laissé à la fantaisie des parents. Il n'y avait pas d'uniformité mais au contraire une grande variété de couleurs, de tissus et de style dans principalement les trois genres suivants: Le tablier boutonné dans le dos (sarrau), souvent réalisé en vichy et fréquemment plissé, le tablier boutonné latéralement sur le devant (blouse), et le tablier plus simple ne protégeant que le devant et maintenu par deux bretelles croisées dans le dos.

Swiss Schools

Since Switzerland has no natural resources, education and knowledge have become very important resources. Therefore Switzerland claims to have one of the world's best education systems. Because the cantons are responsible for educational services (kindergarten, schools, universities), education may vary significantly between cantons. This means the the language of instruction, the curiculum and rules concerning school atire

Background on Swiss Smocks

Switzerland is a multi-cultural and linguistic country. Switzerland may be neutral but it is certainly not flavourless. The fusion of German, French and Italian ingredients has formed a robust national culture. Smocks were commonly worn by Swiss-Italian and Swiss-French boys, but less so than the Swiss-German boys. Smocks were mostly worn to school. The clothing worn by Swiss boys was strongly influenced by styles in the particular country thatvthe family was linguistically tied to, although there was much blending of these styles in Switzerland. The smocks types, for example, were not exactly the French or Italian types, there was much more variety and local fashion trends.


There was no national rule in Switzerland about wearing smocks to school. There were substantial variations among catons. Many individual schools, however, did have regulations requiring them. While Switzeland has three linguistic regions (even 4 with rumantsch)m there are 23 different cantons with 23 separate educational regulations. Some older Swiss will refer to 22 cantons. The Swiss decided to create a new canton (Fench speaking Jura was part of german speaking canton Bern). So we are 23 cantons. Each part of Switzerland is culturally linked to either France, Germany or Italy. Boys in the German cantons did not commonly wear smocks like Ticino (Italian) and Romandie (French) boys who in their cantons more or less has schools with compulsory rules--depending on the canton.


Smocks in Switzerland were usually worn on school days. This meant at school and at home. Few boys when they came home from school took off their smocks. They would wear their smocks for play at home and outside after school. About 80 percent of the boys did so. On weekends and vacations only 10-15 percent of the boys would still wear smocks.

Accompanying Clothes

Swiss boys wore a variety of clothes with their school smocks. Most boys wore them with short pants. Both kneesocks and ankile socks were worn. The kneesocks varied from solid colors, including white, to patterned styles. Both shoes and snadals were worn, varying from single bar strap shoes to English "T"strap school sandals and doublr strap sandals.

Linguistic-Cultural Community Differences

Policies and fashions toward school smocks varied greatly in the different Swiss linguistic, cultural communities. Basically this followed the practices and fashions in the neighboring countries with some destinctively Swiss inovations. The varying preferences for smocks is a visual manifestations of significant differences between French and German Swiss. Basically speaking, the French Swiss have taditionally been open open to cultural contacts with foreigners. The French Swiss, for example, have generally been more interested in the European Union and the Euro while the Germans and Italians have been more sleptical.


HBC has compiled extensive information on the smocks wore by Swiss boys in the French-speaking areas of the country. As far as boys clothing is concerned the french speaking part of Switzerland was comparable to France. It was compulsory for boys to wear a smock until 9-10 in the years 1930-1960, about one third would then continue up to end of primary school around 12 years. Then in secondary school it was much less common, especially after about age 13-14 years. The fashion began to decline in the 1960s. Today in Switzerland boys no longer wear school smocks. Several different styles of smocks were worn in a variety of different colors and patterns. There were also avariety of pocket and belting arrangements.


Swiss-Italian boys like the Swiss-French boys commonly wore smocks to school. Smocks in the Italian part of Switzerland were more likely to have collars. They had collars of different colours, not just white. Unfortunately HBC has virtually no uinformation on the Italian-Swiss smocks or for that matter the smocks worn by Italian boys in Italy.


I do not believe it was as common for Swiss-German boys to wear smocks. But little information is currently available on the Swiss-Germans. HBC has noted that some younger German boys at the turn of the century did wear smocks to school, but the fashion was not wide spread as in France. German-Swiss boys like their Germman counterparts did not wear normally wear smocks to school. There no doubt were some individual differences, especially German boys living in predomiantely French-speaking areas.

Individual Schools

Some information is available on individual Swiss schools, showing both the various styles worn by the boys and available information on the school regulations. The information is abstracted from the available images, but some information is available on the several different schools. At this time, HBC's information is mostly from the the French-speaking catons. Many schools there required the boys to wear smocks. It is likely that boys in the Italian-speaking catons also wore smocks, but HBC at this time does not have any information on these schoools. The schools in the German-speaking catons generally did not require smocks.

Christopher Wagner

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Created: September 18, 2000
Last updated: December 21, 2000