An example of an British preparatory school
A preparatory school is a private school to prepare the students
for UK's elite public schools. Here we have a line of 17 photos showing
the boys of a preparatory school from 1913 to 1929. The school was located
in Surrey, England.
Ein Beispiel einer britischen "Preparatory
British preparatory or prep schools developed as unique educational
institutions, distinct in important ways from private schools in other
European countries. Early prep schools were Spartan, strictly disciplined
boys' boarding schools, established to prepare young Britons for the
country's elite public schools. Modern prep schools have changed dramatically
from those early beginnings and are evolving as they adjust to major
economic and demographic changes in the United Kingdom. Harsh discipline
and austere classrooms have been replaced with positive disciplinarian
methods and modern, increasingly elaborate, educational and recreational
facilities which give some schools the appearance of year-round summer
camps. The schools report an impressive record of superior academic
performance, due to a variety of factors.
The school portraits here come from a preparatory school that was located
in Surrey. It cared for boys from about 8-13 years of age. It looks
to have been a rather small school. Apparently the school has been a
successful one as the number of boys seems to be gradually increasing
over time. Most of these schools were boarding schools and this one
probably was as well. The uniform the boys wear seems relatively unchanged
over the time frame here.
They would have come from affluent families.
Most Preparatory schools by the 20th century had uniforms, but differed
as to the details of their uniforms and how strictly it was enforced.
This school seems to have had a fairly strict uniform regime, although
we notice some variation in each portrait.
The school had a traditional peaked cap. It looks to be a brightly
colored cap, probably red. All of the boys would have had these caps,
although they are not wearing them in all the photographs. The schools
usually insisted the boys wear the caps when outside of school. And
they would have been expected to tip their hats to both school staff
and parents. Note that some of the caps have badges in their caps. These
are boys who have earned their colors in school games (sports). This
was a very important part of the program at both prep schools and public
Neck ties were an important part of the uniform. They often matched
the color of the caps and blazers. As this school has suits rather than
blazers, only the caps and ties match. Often boys who earned their games
colors or who were appointed prefects got special ties, but at this
school the boys all wear the same plain colored tie.
Besides the peaked caps, one of the most distinctive aspect of the uniform
was the detachable Eton collar. Note that some boys in the photograph
are wearing soft collars. The fact that in most of the photographs the
boys have Eton collars indicated that it was required by the school.
The Eton collar was very common in England before World war I. After
the War it gradually became less common. Some conservative schools continued
to require them even during the 1930s.
The boys wear light-weight suits, probably a light-gray shade. After
World War I, colorful blazers matching the caps became increasingly
popular at prep schools. This school retained the same suit throughout
the time period covered.
The boys wear both short and long pants. The British would say trousers
rather than pants. A few boys wear knickers. There seems to be a shift
over time. In the early portraits the school probably left it up to
the parents to decide on which type of pants the boys wore. By the end
of the period the school seems to be setting the rule. Here school rules
varies. The different options were age, form, or height. At some schools
only the prefects could wear long trousers.
The boys wearing short pants mostly wear knee socks, probably called
turn-over-top socks. We are not sure about the boys wearing long pants.
A few boys in the early photograph wear long stockings. This was not
very common after World war I which can be seen in the photographs.
The school does not seem to very strict about hosiery. Some of the boys
are wearing school socks, meaning knee socks with bands in the school
color at the top. This would be same color as used for the cap, ties,
and blazer if the school had one. Many of the boys are wearing school
socks, but many are wearing just plaun grey knee socks without the colored
The boys' footwear is a little more difficult to sort out. They are
wearing white shoes of varying description in the early photographs.
They do not look to be sneakers. Some look like football boots, but
it would be unusual to wear them for a formal school portrait. High-top
shoes were common in the early photographs, but after the War in the
1920s we mostly see low-cut oxfords. Curiously we do not see many boys
wearing sandals which became very common at prep schools after the War.
Many schools required them. It may be that the boys put on shoes for
the formal school portrait.