The Japanese School Uniform: Do You Know The Origin?

  • The Japanese school uniform is probably the most fashionable and stylish of all. It is not only a symbol of youth but also plays an important role in the country’s culture. Many people around the world adore Japanese school uniforms due to their kawaii appearance. There are many types of uniforms that range from standard to unique ones varying in the ensembles used. Japanese schoolgirl fashion changed over time due to the quick change of fashion trends. Let’s look closer on the different trends of school uniform in Japan over the years.

    The History of School Uniforms

    Japanese school uniforms have been around for 150 years. Its first model was similar to the appearance of European-style naval uniforms. It is called “seifuku” in Japanese and was first used in the 19th century. The idea was taken from scaled-down sailor suits worn by children coming from royal European families. It was relatively easy to sew and thus was easily adopted in the country.

    Talking about junior and senior high school uniforms, the traditional attire was taken from the Meiji era consisting of military-style uniform for boys and sailor outfit for girls. After which, many schools adopted a more Western-pattern Catholic uniform style. Girls started wearing white blouses with ties, blazers with their school crests, and skirts. Boys also wore white shirts with ties, blazers, and tailored trousers.

    Schools in Japan do not have gender-exclusive locker rooms; thus, it is quite difficult to change from classroom uniforms into sports uniforms. As a result, most students wear their sports uniforms under their classroom uniforms. Some schools are very particular with the hairstyles as well as the footwear, too.

    Traditionally, school uniforms were worn outside of school, but these days, students change into casual clothing upon going out of school.

    Public and Private Schools

    The different school uniform styles depend on whether the student goes to a public or a private school. Uniforms in public schools tend to be simpler compared to those worn by private school students. Some students do not wear any uniform at all but only regular clothing. Others wear fake uniforms in which they can choose everything from scratch.

    Girls usually wear vests or sweaters during fall and winter season. They also get to choose their preferred colors such as white, black, gray, and beige. The most popular brand for sweaters is UNIQLO. Every school has a summer version of their school uniform. In most cases, it consists of white dress shirts matched with slacks for males, and traditional blouses paired with tartan skirts and ties for females.

    The appearance of the uniform is highly dependent on the students’ discipline. Some of them subvert the appearance of their uniforms by wearing them incorrectly or by wearing prohibited elements such as badges or large loose socks. Some girls shorten their skirts, while some boys wear their trousers about the hips.

    Knee-Length Skirts, Short Socks, Loafers, and Ties

    In the year 1990s and 2000s, it became a popular trend for girls in Japan to roll their skirts up at the waist when going to and from the campus or going out in town after class. These days, most schools no longer allow it in order to prevent any scandals from happening. With the new dress code, there are more school girls who actually abide by it than those who wore short skirts. The best skirt length is said to be 15 cm above the knee, not too long nor too short. It depends on the school rule as others require longer skirts.

    Another trend in the ’90s was the use of loose socks which looked similar to leg warmers. This was a way of making the legs look thinner. The socks were quite hard to manage as they were so loose that the wearer has to apply an adhesive to the calves. A special term for this is “sock touch” as it prevents the sock from falling down the ankles. Still, today, snugly fitting short socks that come only part-way up the calf is a popular choice for many students instead of the knee-high socks.

    As of now, the latest trend is wearing really short socks. These are just some of the youth trends that change through time. When it comes to shoes, loafers beat the rest as they look good and expensive. Majority wear this in either black or brown color. For better style, some loafers come with heels.

    In order to show off a student’s personal taste, they use a ribbon or a tie that comes in many different types of colors and patterns to choose from. Most schools also require a certain school bag such as those made out of nylon and leather. These are the standard types. Some girls sport enamel bags, while others wear backpacks. Some use colorful nylon bags, too, to show off their individuality.

    Though many public schools allow students to come to class wearing the clothing they prefer, almost all students wear uniforms once they reach junior high school. Uniforms decrease the chance of bullying and instill a sense of pride and unity. The uniform cost is actually expensive as there are designated rules for each. You cannot just dictate whatever blazer or slacks you want to wear. A complete set of uniform for all seasons cost around 100,000 yen and is mandatory. Still, the school uniform trend throughout the years became the ultimate symbol of innocent vitality and youthful dreams in the country. But of course, what is popular now is expected to change in only a matter of time.