School Uniforms in Japan

Japan introduced school uniforms in the late 19th century. Today, school uniforms are almost universal in the public and private school systems. They are also used in some women's colleges. The Japanese word for uniform is seifuku (制服).

In the majority of elementary schools, students are not required to wear a uniform to school. Where they are required, many boys wear white shirts, short trousers, and caps. Young boys often dress more formally in their class pictures than they do other days of the school year. Girls' uniforms might include a grey pleated skirt and white blouse. Occasionally the sailor outfit is used for girls. The uniform codes may vary by season to work with the environment and occasion. It is common for boys and girls to wear brightly coloured caps to prevent traffic accidents. It is normal for uniforms to be worn outside of school areas. However, this is going out of fashion and many students are wearing casual dress.

The Japanese junior- and senior-high-school uniform traditionally consists of a military style for boys and a sailor outfit for girls. These uniforms are based on Meiji era formal military dress, themselves modeled on European-style naval uniforms. The sailor outfit replace the undivided hakama (andon bakama 行灯袴) designed by Utako Shimoda between 1920 and 1930. While this style is still in use, many schools have moved to more Western-pattern parochial school uniform styles. They consist of a white shirt, tie, blazer or sweater vest with school crest, and tailored trousers (often not of the same colour as the blazer or sweater vest) for boys and a white blouse, tie, blazer with school crest, and tartan skirt for girls.

Much like the male uniform, the gakuran, the sailor outfit bears a similarity to military-styled naval uniforms. The uniform generally consists of a blouse attached with a sailor-style collar and a pleated skirt. There are seasonal variations for summer and winter: sleeve length and fabric are adjusted accordingly. A ribbon is tied in the front and laced through a loop attached to the blouse. Several variations on the ribbon include neckties, bolo ties, neckerchiefs, and bows. Common colours are navy blue, white, grey, light green and black.

Shoes, socks, and other accessories are sometimes included as part of the uniform. The socks are typically navy or white. The shoes are typically brown or black penny loafers. Although not part of the prescribed uniform, alternate forms of legwear (such as loose socks, knee-length stockings, or similar) are commonly matched by more fashionable girls with their sailor outfits.

Regardless of what type of uniform any particular school assigns its students, all schools have a summer version (usually consisting of a white dress shirt and dark slacks for boys and a reduced-weight traditional uniform or blouse and tartan skirt with tie for girls) and a sports-activity uniform (a polyester track suit for year-round use and a T-shirt and shorts for summer activities). Depending on the discipline level of their school, students may wear seasonal and activity uniforms in the same classroom during the day. Students may attempt to subvert the system of uniforms by wearing them incorrectly or by adding prohibited elements such as large loose socks or badges.
Miniskirts have been very popular in Japan, where they became part of school uniforms, and they came to be worn within the Kogal culture.

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