16th Century

  • Early uniforms were referred to as ‘blue coats’, and consisted of a blue trench-coat jacket.
  • Blue was the cheapest dye available, and represented humility among students.
  • Christ’s Hospital was the first school in England to adopt a uniform.

19th Century

  • The elementary Education Act of 1870 made education available to all students in England and Wales.
  • All schools adopted a uniform to reflect to trends of the time.
  • Victorian schools were strict on appearance. ‘Cleanliness is next to Godliness’ was promoted to students.
  • Boys wore blazers, shorts and long socks, and caps were worn at some schools.
  • Boys were also expected to keep their hair short, and girls were required to tie their hair neatly.
  • Girls wore a tunic dress, pinafore and blouse.

20th Century

  • School uniforms reflected the British class system like never before.
  • Many private schools changed their uniforms to distance themselves from state schools.
  • Girls began wearing gymslips as athletic wear over blouses, and boys were allows to wear long trousers from the age of 14.


  • The Butler Reforms raised the school leaving age to 15.
  • Mixed gender schools became popular in the 1950s.
  • Schools were encouraged to create uniforms codes based on the time of the year.
  • Boys wore flat caps, shirts and blazers. Leather satchels became popular.
  • Girls worn gymslips in winter, and dresses in summer.


  • Pupils began rebelling against tradition, often unbuttoning their blazers and slackening their ties.
  • Girls wore a pleated skirt with tights, a blouse and blazer.
  • Boys were allows to wear long trousers from a young age.
  • Both girls and boys wore ties with shirts.


  • Changing trends saw the dressing down of uniforms in state schools.
  • Shirt collars and sleeves were fashionably widened in the playground.
  • Boys began to wear their hair long.
  • Girls were still required to wear skirts.


  • Fashion & culture had a big impact on 80s school uniform.
  • Students challenged conventional schoolwear like never before.
  • Girls wore shorter and shorter skirts.
  • While boys ties & trousers got skinner.
  • Customisation of blazers and satchels was common.


  • School uniform became more casual & comfortable.
  • Girls were allowed to wear trousers for the first time.
  • Trainers and casual footwear became acceptable in some schools.

The present

  • A large number of schools have restored the blazer and tie uniform to promote a more professional image.
  • Depending on the school, uniforms are casual or formal.
  • Contemporary uniforms are designed to be durable.