History of School Uniforms


While more debate and discussion may center around school uniforms than ever before, they have actually been around for hundreds of years. School uniforms are becoming more popular in schools in the United States, but all around the world, students have been wearing school uniforms for generations, beginning in England. In this blog, we will go over the history of school uniforms so you can have a richer appreciation for them.

Early History

The first school uniforms recorded were in England in 1222. One school required their students to wear an outfit called a “cappa clausa,” which looked like a robe. It wasn’t until the 16th century that use of the modern school uniform was recorded. One example is Christ’s Hospital, a boarding school in England, which mandated school uniforms that featured yellow stockings and a blue cloak, which earned the nickname “blue cloak schools” for all similar, charity-based schools.

Prep Schools

Over time, school uniforms were associated with prep schools and private schools as more and more schools that fell under this umbrella adopted them. These were extremely formal; for example, Eton College students wore top hats and tails until 1972.

Modern England

Now, it is common for elementary and secondary school students to have school uniforms. This began as a movement towards more cohesion and school pride. They were also intended to even the playing field for students of all incomes. Uniforms have continually become more modern over time; rather than incorporating a tie and blazer, many schools opt for polos and sweatshirts in the school colors. At the same time, there are many schools who have maintained the same uniform they have had for centuries. Christ’s Hospital is an example of this, maintaining the same uniform they have had since the 16th century. Many students list the uniforms as one of their sources of school pride.

United States

School uniforms weren’t used in the United States until 1900, when parochial and private schools adopted them. It wasn’t until 80 years later that public schools began instituting school uniform policies. The first public schools to have school uniforms were in Washington, DC; however, these programs were optional. At this time, school administrators noticed an improvement in many students, with more positive attitudes and fewer disciplinary instances after implementing these policies. Many American schools then decided to adopt school uniform policies asa result.

Long Beach Study

In 1994, a study of Long Beach, California public schools provided the data that sparked a rise in the popularity of school uniforms. The study found many benefits, including a 35 percent decline in crime, a 50 percent drop in school muggings, and a 75 percent drop in sexual incidents.

Though there has been a lot of legislation around school uniforms, there are no states that either require or ban uniforms. Only around 20 percent of schools require uniforms in the United States, with most of them being elementary schools in cities as opposed to suburban or rural schools.

School Uniforms Around the World Today


Australia first adopted school uniforms in the 1920s, and they were very similar in style to the formal uniforms of England. After World War II, uniforms became progressively less formal, and today, it is much more common for school uniforms to be quite informal.


School uniforms became common in Africa due to efforts by missionaries. These uniforms differentiated the school children from other children. Around World War II, school uniforms were particularly popular in totalitarian states in Africa as a way to recruit young people. Today, school uniforms are most common in Africa, serving to unify students.


In the 19th century, school uniforms were adopted in China, showing the new Western influence. Early uniforms reflected both the Western inspiration for the uniforms and traditional Chinese fashion. In the past, China has been criticized for having uniforms that are too gender neutral. Today, Korean fashion has influenced many of the uniforms, with girls wearing blouses and plaid skirts and boys wearing ties and jackets.


Japan’s school uniforms were influenced not by England, as other countries, but France. They began as a way to foster a sense of status among Japanese citizens. Girls’ uniforms are modeled after sailor uniforms, and boys’ uniforms military uniforms. Japanese students often wear their school uniforms outside of school as well, accessorizing it to make it more personal.

We hope you have found this comprehensive history of school uniforms informative. If you need wholesale school uniforms, shop our selection today. Wholesale School Uniforms has a wide selection of school uniforms to meet your needs.