Save a few exceptions, school uniforms are the norm for all British school children. They were first introduced during the reign of Henry VIII in the form of long trench-coat style jackets in dark blue. This was supposed to teach humility amongst children.
The Elementary Education Act of 1870 offered elementary education for all children in England and wales and the school uniforms became very popular.
Uniforms reflected the fashion of the time with girls wearing blouses, tunic dresses and pinafores and boys short trousers and blazers until the age of 14 when they wore long trousers.
The Butler reform in 1950 made school free and compulsory until 15. Schools were encourage to harmonize school uniforms codes with other schools.
Nowadays, school uniforms are required to be fair for both gender, not be too costly and accommodate religious freedom. Nowadays, this consists in a shirt, skirt or trousers and a coloured jumper. Some schools also add a tie and a blazer for a smarter look.
School uniforms have sparked a controversy. On the one hand, it is believed to create pride in belonging to a school, remove distraction from the classroom as there is no social pressure to dress in any particular way and erase social discrepancies.
But proponents of abolishing school uniforms say that while this is true on paper, uniforms come at a cost and cheaper alternatives can mean the child is punished for not wearing the right uniform, or mocked by his/her peers for wearing a cheaper version.
Some private, or independent schools take pride in their radically different uniforms.
Harrow’s public school for example requires students to wear a white shirt, black silk tie, grey trousers and dark blue jacket. In addition to this smart outfit, students must wear a Harrow hat, a varnished straw with a dark blue ribbon. The had must be worn between all lessons and when meeting a teacher, a forefinger must be raised to the brim of the hat as a sign of respect.
Photo by Robertvan1 at en.wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)