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What's in a school uniform?

By Laura Smith-Spark

BBC News

Prussian model

In Japan, boys in secondary school wear an outfit modeled on 19th Century Prussian army uniforms. Called the gakuran, it consists of a dark jacket with stand-up collar and buttons down the front, worn with trousers.

Girls, on the other hand, wear a dress called the sailor fuku, based on European naval uniforms.

(Picture source

Japanese schoolgirls' sailor dresses are modeled on naval uniforms

But as Christopher Hood, director of Cardiff University's Japanese Studies Centre, points out, the designs have nothing to do with Japan's own military past.

Rather, they date from the establishment of the formal education system in the 1870s, when Japan looked to Germany, France and Britain for ideas.

An interest in school uniform is strong in Japan, he added, As fashion parades show off different schools' latest twist on the designs. Even characters in manga, or cartoons, are often dressed in gakuran.

And, as in many countries, Student uniform strictly adhered to the policy.

"There's a standard length for skirts and teachers would bring along a measurement tape to check," Dr Hood told the BBC News website. "Of course kids in Japan, like everywhere, look for ways to bend the rules."



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