Then & Now: Japanese School Uniforms!

School Uniforms in Japan! Do you know about sailor fuku?

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One of the most iconic Japanese looks is the sailor-style school uniform, or sailor fuku (セーラー服). Have you ever wondered where the sailor look originated from? We did! After some digging, we found that Japan has an interesting history with school uniforms! Let’s learn some history on the origin of this iconic look!

Did You Know? The Japanese word for “uniform” is “制服/seifuku!”

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Tomomi would have worn this to school during the Edo period of Japan!

Before sailor fuku came into fashion, both male and female students and teachers wore traditional trousers called hakama (袴) over their kimono. During the Meiji era (1868 – 1912), Japan began to take a lot of influence from the West. While the fashion for males shifted to more European/American style uniforms, female students and teachers continued to wear hakama over their kimono. This look became associated with women’s education and even today, you can often find female students and teachers wearing hakama during graduation ceremonies!

Sailor fuku and gakuran.

In 1920, female school uniforms took on a new modern look and were inspired by the sailor suits that were popular with the children of European royalty. While the boys’ uniform, gakuran (学ラン), adopted a more formal military style, girls’ uniforms had a very simple cut and could easily be made. Making sailor fuku was often a project in home economics classes. It’s amazing to see how the gakuran style has changed very little since then but the sailor fuku style has evolved with more colors, fitted tops, and shorter skirts!

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Blazer fuku in one of the most standard styles.

In later years, a more updated Western version of school uniforms, called blazer fuku (ブレザー服), was introduced. Blazers, collared shirts, and vests became a more common dress code at Japanese schools. The cut of the jacket and styles of ties or bows can vary from school to school so it’s not uncommon to see internet rankings on which school is the most stylish! You can also distinctively tell which school a student goes to based on the style of their blazer fuku.

Students like to wear cardigans and hoodies to have a more casual look to their uniform.

During warmers months, you can find many students opt to forgo the blazer and wear cardigans or hoodies instead. Oversized cardigans are popular with junior and high school girl students as the bagginess accentuates the short skirts and gives a cuter look. Wearing a hoodie also lends a stylish and sporty vibe to an otherwise formal look for the male students!

There are many styles of school uniforms these days, but the sailor fuku style remains one of the most iconic. It’s more commonly worn by junior high students as most high schools have adopted the blazer fuku look. Elementary school and kindergarten students have their own style of uniforms as well, so if you would like to learn more about, let us know in the comments below!

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