School Uniforms in Germany

There is no tradition to wear school uniforms in Germany, and today, almost all students of state schools, private schools or universities do not wear school uniforms. However, certain garments have been common to students in former times:

From the 16th century, students (especially of secondary or grammar schools and similar institutions) were often subject to regulations that prescribed, for example, modest and not too stylish attire. In many cases these regulations were part of wider laws concerning the clothing of all citizens of certain social classes.

A blue coat became a widespread obligatory status symbol of students of secondary schools; it fell out of use during the latter half of the 18th century. In newer times, school uniforms in any real sense did not exist outside of convent schools and private boarding schools. At times, certain fashions became so widespread that they approached uniform status; this is true in particular for so-called student hats (Schülermützen) that became widespread from the 1880s on and remained somewhat popular until they were banned by the Nazis. Their wearing was advocated by teachers and the students themselves and occasionally made mandatory, but never on a national or statewide level. Another instance are the sailor suits that became fashionable around the turn of the 19th century. These, too, were not usually a prescribed uniform.

The Nazis banned student hats - the last remaining, if voluntary, form of unified student clothing - because they considered them an attribute of class society. They did, however, institute mandatory membership in the uniformed Hitler Youth (HJ) from 1936 on. HJ uniforms were worn in the HJ training academies and in the Napolas; students of other schools sometimes wore them to school at their own discretion.

In recent times, the introduction of school uniforms has been discussed, but usually the expression "uniform" (the word is the same in German) is avoided in favour of terms like "school clothing" ("Schulkleidung"). School clothing has been introduced in a small number of schools, for example in Hamburg-Sinstorf in 2000, and in Friesenheim and Haag (Oberbayern) in 2005. In these cases the clothes are collections of shirts, sweaters, and the like, catering to contemporary fashion senses. Uniforms in a more traditional sense are almost never proposed in earnest.

The debate on mandatory school uniformed intensified in Germany when two Muslim girls dressed in burka arrived at a school in Bonn in 2006. The girls' actions were interpreted as political action and were subsequently suspended from school. The then Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries in an interview with the Welt am Sonntag stated that the simple solution to the issue under consideration is mandatory introduction of school uniforms for boys and girls across Germany. She further argued that school uniforms would help to prevent conflicts arising from religious or political differences. Her stance was supported by the then Minister Of Education Annette Schavan. The proposal was met with opposition from the teacher union and opposition political parties. The teacher union argued that school uniforms are not the solution for integration problems nor fight fashion obsession. The leader of the teacher union Heinz-Peter Meidinger also added that the school uniforms have been a controversial issue in Germany over the years.

Opposition to school uniforms
A senior member of the Green Party, Krista Sager, also said that the introduction or school uniforms would be unacceptable state interference in religious matters. She then proposed that individual schools have to find their own solutions and rejected solutions imposed by government. She further noted that school uniforms are no longer up to date and their imposition would be rejected by the current generation of students. The conference of education ministers, a body which decides on school policies, also kicked against school uniforms. They cited historical reasons dating back to WWII with memories of Hitler Youth's uniform still fresh on people's mind. They also concluded that the imposition of school uniforms would be excessive government encroachment on personal liberty of pupils and parents. A number of schools also sell branded clothing that can be worn as a sign of school-pride.

The Bildungsstreik movement fights against School uniforms because they are mentioned being part of some kind of militarism.

Site Map