Victorian, Edwardian and George 5th U.K.

--- School uniforms in the U.K. ---

The "generations of schoolboys" uniform from the 1920s to the 1950s
This uniform, but with variously colored caps and blazers, were widely worn by boys at private preparatory schools. It consisted of parts such as: cap, regulation blazer, tie, vee-neck pullover, shirt, grey flanell shorts, knitted knee socks, often school sandals. Most boys attended the state schools and did not wear uniforms. Their clothing, however was somewhat similar. Most boys had school caps, but withhout private school badges. Suit jackets were also common, but boys at state schools did not have the distinctively colored blazers. Short pants, knee socks, and sandals were worn by boys both at the private prep schools and the state primary schools.

Die typische Knaben-Schuluniform der 1920er - 1950

Parts of the Uniform
Parts of the uniform were: cap, regulation blazer, tie, vee-neck pullover, shirt, grey flanell shorts, s-buckle-belt, knitted knee socks, often school sandals.

Teile der Uniform

Style: A great variety of colors, including circles and school crests decorated these caps which flooded British streets with boys going to and coming home from school. The colorful caps mostly had black linings.

General: Virtually all British schoolboys wore these peaked caps through 1940s and the 1950s. Both state and private schools required them. They at first in the late 19th century appear to have been used as a kind of sports or games cap. Eventually they became a standard uniform item and were even worn at state schools without uniforms.



General: The English school blazer added great variety to the sometimes dowdy school uniform. State secondary schools like the private schools had highly varied and colorful blazers through the 1950s.
Originally the blazer was developed as smart summer wear for affluent Britons but was soon adopted by the country's elite Public Schools. The developing preparatory schools also adopted the blazer. They were viewed as somewhat informal wear. More formal atire would be an Eton suit and hard collar. Blazers were worn with soft collars and the school tie.
Assessing English schools can be quite complicated because of the many different types of schools. Most schools, except for primary schools, adopted blazers as part of the school uniform. There were even some primary schools, especially Anglican primary schools that had blazers. There were, however, many variations among schools and over time concerning blazers.

Style: It was not just a colorful suit jacket. The blazer had several destinctive construction characteristics that diferentiated it from a suit jacket. There were variations of course, but they were not very common. Blazers were made with lapels. The lapels were important because a variety of pins issued by the school were pinned on here. These could be house pins or position pins like prefect, librarian, and many others.
The school crest was worn on the left chest pocket. Often it was the initials of the school, but some schools had logos or elaborate crests. There tended to be two side pockets. These were also commonly patch pockets and usually unlike suits did not have flaps.
Blazers generally had three buttons, although there have been some with two buttons. Some schools enforced rules about how the blazer should be worn concerning the buttons.
Another important characteristic was the absence of a back vent. Suit jackets had these vents, but blazers did not. With the front buttons buttoned this could make for a tight fit.

Colour: The many different colors of the blazer included bright colors, although colors like black, dark blue/navy, and grey were also worn. The colorful blazers were often worn with caps in the same color.

Trim: Many schools had color piping around the edges of the blazer and on the lapels. The piping was of contrasting colors. Blue blazers, for example, had yellow or white piping. Brown blazers might have red or a white striped piping. Some times piping would be used to reflect status at the school.




General: In many cases the school tie was not introduced before the 1920s. Thereafter it became common. In most state secondary and many state primary schools, as well as in practically all independent schools, a school tie became a part of uniform, even if it was not always compulsory.

Colours: There were both solid color and striped ties, usually in school colours. The striped ties were both horizontal and diagonal. The diagonal striped ties were adopted from the ties worn by sports clubs. The horizontal stripes began to decline in popularity after World war II, especially after the 1950s.
Some of the earliest school ties, of the narrow square-ended type, were knitted; others were made from woollen or cotton cloth. The tapering type were of woollen or cotton cloth. Later with the introduction of artificial fibres, these might be used, either in a wool and artificial fibre mix or on their own.

Length: The lengths of school ties have varied, usually according to the ages of the pupils for whom they were intended, with those of state primary or independent preparatory schools being shorter than those of secondary schools.

Width: The widths of the tapering versions have also varied, again with those for younger boys tending to be smaller than those for older boys. Rarely general fashion had influence on schoolwear. At least some influence was visisible as the widths of the ties increased or decreased.

More: The pupils of independent boarding schools were typically housed in different buildings - 'houses'. These would play each other in competitive games and perhaps compete in other ways too. The system was applied to independent and state day schools for the purpose of sport and other competitions. It is not usual for boys' houses to be indicated in school uniform although it is sometimes done. One way was to have different house ties, usually of a standard basic colour but with stripes in different house colours - most commonly blue, green, red, and yellow.
'Colours' is the name given, in British schools, to an award for contributions to school sport. A boy who had gained such distinction could show the fact in his school uniform in various ways, but most common was the wearing of a distinctive 'colours' tie. Often the ties were awarded in front of the whole school, with boys who had won them going onto the stage to receive them from the Headmaster to applause from the rest of the school. Also prefects would wear a special tie.



Vee-neck pullover
General: England can be a chilly place, especially on a drizzy day, and there are normally a lot of them. Virtually every English schoolboy wore sweaters to school, except during the warm summer months. Here there were no school rules. Unlike other school uniform garments, the children could decide whether to wear their jumpers and when.

Style: The most popular style has been the "V" neck sweater because so many schools insisted the children wear ties. We have noticed cardigans and crew-neck sweaters being worn, but by the 1950s, the grey "V" neck sweater was the standard style.

Colour: Uniform sweaters were mostly grey. While grey was the most common, there were several other colors used as well. White was used for cricket.

Trim: There were jumpers with a variety of color detailing or trim. Countless combinations were possible. Jumpers might have color detailing at the collar, wrist cuffs, or waist band. The color detailing was most common at the collar, mostly "V" collar jumpers. The detailing would be in the school colors. The detailing often matched the ties and kneesock cuffs. And the color was commonly coordinated with caps and blazers or sometimes scarves for winter wear.
Prep schools most commonly had jumpers with trim in the school colors. Many Anglican schools also had these sweaters. They were less common at state primary schools, but not unknown. A factor here was the cost. Plain grey jumpers were less expensive.

More: School sweaters were done with flat weaves. Out of school hand-knitted jumpers sometimes had an elaborate "cable stitch" pattern yet you would never see such a pattern on a school uniform jumper. The one exception was the white sweaters done for cricket. These sweaters did sometimes have the cable knit weave.

Pullover mit V-Ausschnitt

General: The standard school boy shirt after Eton collars disappeared during the 1930s were grey with always standard pointed collars. Gray shirts were considered paractical for schoolwear because they did not show the dirt as much as a white shirt. For dress occasions a white shirt was usually substituted. Most shirts buttoned all down the front. A Rugby style which buttoned only part of the way was popular in the 1950s.

Material: The material in the 1950s was mainly of a wool mixture (Viyella), making for a warm, rather heavy shirt.


Belt with S-shaped buckle
General:The so-called 'snake-belt' was at one time an extremely common item of the English (and indeed of British) school uniform, although it tended to be also worn on many other occasionsas part of regular boyswear.

Construction: It consisted of an elasticated strip, fastened at the front with an S-shaped metal hook-buckle fashioned as a snake; it was, obviously, this feature of the belt which gave it its popular name.
A metal slide, together with a loop in the belt, enabled it to be adjusted to an individual boy's waist far more sensitively than could be done with the usual tang and series of holes and also, of course, allowed its length to be increased as a boy grew. The slide and loop arrangement also ensured that there was no long end left dangling. Boys' short and long trousers were provided with loops through which the belt could be threaded.

Colour: Their availability in a wide range of single or twinned colours meant that they could be readily obtained in school colours to match those of blazer, school cap, tie, and badge. Occasionally, they might be compulsory but more often they were optional.

Width: At first, snake-belts had been made quite wide - 1.75 inches (44 mm) - and occasionally they incorporated two snake-buckles, one above the other. This width was not really suitable for boys, especially smaller ones; the belts also had insufficient elasticity and tended to become loose. In the 1930s the width was reduced to 1.25 inches (32 mm) whilst the introduction of artificial fibres gave a lighter webbing with greater elasticity and durability.

Gürtel mit S-förmiger Schnalle

General: Short trousers began to appear after the turn of the 20th century. Short trousers for school wear were very common inter the inter-war era and continued into the 1950s. They became very common for primary-age children as well as at preparatory schools. And the younger boys at grammar schools (selective secondaty schools) and public schools (private secondary schools) often wore short pants (at least in the first two years). Senior boys wore long grey or black trousers.
Short pants were worn both in the summer and winter term, with no seasonal change. Apparently the English until the 1960s did not think it unusual to send boys off to school in short pants in the middle of the winter. A few private schools kept even older boys in shorts.

Material: Flannel was especially common in the early 20th century. Flannel became a material commonly associated with schoolwear.

Construction: School shorts were usually made without back pockets.


General: Boys wearing shorts generally wore grey knee socks, or turn-over-top socks as the British might say. Some school pemitted ankle socks (or sandals and no socks) during the summer.

Colour and trim: Many schools had socks with the school colors in stripes or a solid bar at the top. This was usually the kneesocks, but a few schools even had ankle socks with colored trim. Many boys wore plain grey knee socks as they were less expensive. Some Scottish schools had colored knee socks. British boys of any age never wore white socks with shorts, except for sports.


Primary-boys after World War I often wore closed-toe brown "t" strap sandals. These sandals became so common at primary school that they became referred to as school scandals. Various types of sandals were worn, but by far the most common remainded the close-toe "T" strap style. Clark's school sandals were a standard. Some private schools required them.
Another possibility were lace-up low-cut Oxfords.
Especially common in gym class was the plimsol.



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