The traditional Japanese school uniforms are known throughout the world. The style of wearing a neatly pleated skirt, sailor-collar shirt, and high socks is so endearing that even students in countries where uniforms aren’t required enjoy wearing the style. While you may be familiar with the style, have you ever wondered where the style came from or why it is worn?
Japanese school uniforms have actually been around since the Meiji Period, an important time in Japanese history during which the people began to change old traditions into more modern ones. The original school uniform was a traditional kimono worn with a hakama, a style of wrap around skirt. Soon, the tradition changed again, creating a more military style appearance with boys in a smart looking Prussian type uniform and girls wearing a blouse with a sailor collar and a pleated skirt. In 1920, the modern style uniform was introduced at a girls’ school in Fukuoka, where it consisted of a long sleeve shirt, over the knee skirt, black stockings, and shoes. The uniform was chosen by Elizabeth Lee, who was fond of European and American culture.
Wearing a uniform is no longer required in some Japanese schools, but the attractive and comfortable style of uniforms has made them very popular among children and their parents. In particular, the girl’s sailor-type uniform has become trendy, largely in part due to the appearance of the sailor uniform in Japanese comic books known as manga. The uniform has gained popularity in other countries through manga and Japanese animated films called anime. In particular, the Sailor Moon series featured teenaged heroines in cute sailor-style school uniforms.
Today’s Japanese school uniforms are made up of a jacket, sailor collared blouse, pleated skirt, knee-high white socks, simple black shoes, and a brightly colored cap that is designed for safety when walking in traffic. Many girls choose to wear a brightly colored bow around their neck as well. Each school has a different set of colors for their uniforms, with most consisting of blue or green, and some preferring a tartan pattern skirt. Modern girls offer their own take on the uniform, adding accessories like baggy long socks, fun charms, and wild hair ties to show off their personalities. Boys also add touches to their uniforms, often leaving ties loose and buttons undone.
Despite the changes to the look, Japanese school uniforms are still wildly popular at schools across Japan. The look is popular in many places outside of Japan, and there are many places to purchase both real and stylized Japanese school uniforms. Parents in many parts of Japan remember the school uniforms of their youth, and enjoy seeing their children wear the same traditional styles as they head off to school. The United States and several other countries are seeing a rise in the popularity of required school uniforms, and many are inspired in part by Japanese school uniforms. While many people offer theories on why the uniform is so popular, the simple fact is that Japanese school uniforms are a stylish and fun way to hit the books.