Young Fashion: Public School Dress Codes of the 1960s and 1970s (2023)

Ms. Inglish has taught fourth through twelfth grade for 12 years, coached sports for 35 years, and witnessed the results of uniforms.

Young Fashion: Public School Dress Codes of the 1960s and 1970s (1)

Fashion Rules Change Every Decade

Were any of you in grades K–12 during the 1960s or 1970s? Do you remember what you wore to school? The East and West Coasts were probably more fashionable and relaxed in their rules in those days, but some of the Midwest was still very conservative. Some of the finer points of the dress codes back then make me laugh today!

In the Midwest, during the '60s and '70s, fairly strict dress codes were established and followed in most public, parochial, and private schools. During the '70s, some universities attempted to outline and enforce dress codes from the '50s and '60s, but these attempts failed. By the 1980s, youth from kindergarten to college were wearing nearly anything they wanted.

In the past, it was mandatory that girls look different from boys. Everyone was expected to be able to tell the difference between genders by the clothing students wore. Those standards have fortunately died out over the years.

Young Fashion: Public School Dress Codes of the 1960s and 1970s (2)

Young Fashion: Public School Dress Codes of the 1960s and 1970s (3)

Young Fashion: Public School Dress Codes of the 1960s and 1970s (4)

Young Fashion: Public School Dress Codes of the 1960s and 1970s (5)

Young Fashion: Public School Dress Codes of the 1960s and 1970s (6)

High School Fashion in 1965: Patty Duke on her "Patty Duke Show" about identical cousins and high school mates Patty and Cathy. Here, Patty is with Jeremy Clyde of the popular duo Chad and Jeremy in July, 1965.

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(Video) David Hoffman Has Some Fun With 1950s High School Dress Codes. Did They Work?

Dress Code for Boys: 1960s and 1970s

Shirts

Shirts had to button down the front and have collars. Both short sleeves and long sleeves were allowed, but not sleeveless (muscle shirts). Polo-type shirts were okay as well, but T-shirts were not. Some boys wore ties with their shirts, but it was not mandatory.

Pants

Pants had to be dress trousers or casual slacks like khakis. Jeans were not allowed*.
Hard shoes like loafers or shined shoes with shoestrings and socks were required. Athletic shoes and sandals were not allowed. Families used a lot of shoe polish—it was messy and smelled like petroleum.

*Once in a while a boy here or there could wear jeans and go without reprimand. I lived in an agricultural state where many of the residents worked on farms and wore jeans.

If I remember correctly, allowing jeans for all the boys was the first step in relaxing the school dress code in my area, followed by permission to wear tennis shoes for boys only. Girls were still not permitted to wear tennis shoes at that time.

Hair

Hair was to be cut to the ears or just above, with a cleanly edged neckline—hair shaved short or in a crew cut was fine. In other words, no mullets, pigtails, "Beatle" cuts, mohawks, or large Afros. Boys were not permitted to shave their heads bald. For boys, braids, designs shaved into the sides of the head, and unnatural colors were also not allowed.

Jewelry

Boys were not permitted to wear earrings. One or two rings per hand were permitted, but bracelets and neck chains were discouraged.

Pocket Knives

A lot of boys carried pocket knives, just as their dads and granddads had when they were young.

Young Fashion: Public School Dress Codes of the 1960s and 1970s (7)

Dress Code for Girls: 1960s and 1970s

Girls could only wear dresses or skirts with blouses—no trousers or slacks of any kind. In fact, it was the early- to mid-1970s before female office workers were permitted to wear pantsuits in the workplace in my city—and they had to be a matching jacket and slacks set.

Tops

Blouses or dresses could be either long- or short-sleeved but were required to be opaque. If sleeveless, armholes had to fit closely enough so that no part of the bra, slip, or straps could be seen. No low-cut or backless dresses or blouses were permitted. No black bras under white blouses, because the bras showed through. No short or bare-midriff blouses were allowed, but blouses could be tucked in or worn outside the waistband of a skirt.

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Skirt Length

The length of skirts was not much of a problem in elementary school, but after grade six, skirts were checked regularly by school administrators. Skirts were required to touch the floor when girls kneeled on both knees at once. This test was required of several girls every day in the hallways at class changes.

Girls with skirts longer than knee length also were required to kneel. Floor-length skirts and dresses were also prohibited. We also could not wear tight skirts or skirts with slits. Mini skirts began appearing about the mid-1970s, but many schools instituted length requirements for those, and some teachers carried yardsticks to measure them.

Shoes

Shoes had to be of solid construction, closed-toe, loafers or shoestring-tied shoes. Athletic shoes and sandals were not allowed. Socks were required until high school, when socks or hose could be interchanged.

Hair

There were no particular requirements for hairstyles other than to keep it clean and out of our eyes so we could see. Dying your hair unnatural colors was discouraged. This is particularly funny to me now, because my mother tried an auburn rinse on my hair without doing a spot test first, and my hair turned orange. A couple more washings and it was less orange, and nobody seemed to notice the next day.

Makeup

Makeup was not permitted until junior high or high school, and then it was to be moderate to light. A couple of the girls wore a lot of black mascara, but teachers let it pass.

Jewelry

Wearing a lot of jewelry was discouraged because jangling bracelets and long earrings could become loud and disruptive. Moderation was the rule. One day, a 10th-grade girl with pierced earrings was walking down the hall, and a boy walked by and ripped the earrings from her ears. We saw a lot of blood. Very few girls in my school wore earrings after that.

Are Uniforms the Answer?

About half the schools in the US have implemented some type of school uniform. They argue that this directs more of the student's energies toward schoolwork and less toward fashion, beauty, and dating.

The most successful public school uniforms are just regular clothing in black and white. Kids can wear white shirts, blouses, or T-shirts with black slacks, skirts, or shorts (no short shorts), and black shoes. White socks are encouraged, but they can wear any color. In my city, the parochial school students show their individuality with colorful and wildly patterned socks with their uniforms.

Uniforms take a lot of financial pressure off middle- and lower-income families, especially those with multiple children. Some schools use tan slacks and skirts instead of black. Our local department stores ensure that these items are reduced in price each autumn for back-to-school sales and sometimes eliminate sales tax as well.

Kids in my city have been attacked for their name-brand street clothing, jackets, and shoes. Adopting uniforms has helped reduce clothing-related violence in the schools in my city that switched to school uniforms.

Modern Fashion Trends

Fashion trends in schools are drastically different now from what they were in 1968 and 1978! We were sent home if our skirts did not end at the mid-knee level or below—no pants, no shorts, no tight skirts, no skirts with slits, etc.

A hallmark of modern teen fashion seems to be skin-tight jeans. It reminds me of an old Star Trek: The Original Series episode in which Kirk and Spock time travel to the old west, and a resident looks at their clingy tunics and stretch pants and asks, "Are you folks with the circus?"

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: How can I cite this article?

Answer: Thanks for asking! I'd like the citation to be this:

Young Fashion: Public School Dress Codes of the 1960s and 1970s by Patty Inglish; April 27, 2012. https://bellatory.com/clothing/Public-School-Dress... Retrieved on (add the date you post the citation somewhere)

© 2012 Patty Inglish MS

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on October 10, 2019:

Hi Zoe! -- I'm happy this article has been useful for your studies! Thanks very much for your comment. Much success to you!

Zoe on October 10, 2019:

I am a student using this for National History Day club this was so helpful

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on January 04, 2019:

Hi Jim! -- I think the only hairstyles I recall for girls are the flip, reverse flip, page boy, beehive, and pixie for the 1960s and 1970s. For guys - buzz, crew cut, pompadour, and duck tail. Good luck with your book!

Jim Davis from Los Angeles on January 04, 2019:

I found this article while researching content for a new song I am working on titled "I Remember Sixty Five" the year I graduated from high school. The song is about high school and life in a small Southern town. While I remember the time and events vividly, I did not remember the names of hairstyles, etc. This article was very helpful. Thank you.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on July 16, 2012:

Hey, Everybody! - Clothing certainly has changed. The only thing I wanted to change when we were in high school was the rule against slacks. We were really tired of kneeling down in hallways to see if our skirts touched the floor. In the middle-to-end of the Viet Nam War, there were more important things to attend.

While teaching GED classes for over a decade, we encouraged Bermuda (or a little shorter) shorts in spring and summer, but women with bikini bathing suit tops were sent home. Baggy saggy pants and underwear showing are pretty silly attention-getters, which also were sent home. Then one summer some women came to class with sleeveless shirts with huge armholes - and no bras - home again, home again, lickety split.

(Video) 1960s Fashion

Susan Hazelton from Northern New York on July 15, 2012:

Boy, this is a blast from the past. My schools dress code looked like the one you published in your hub. I can remember having to wear dresses or skirts and blouses. The hem had to be at about the knee. There was no wandering into school wearing slippers instead of shoes, hair looking like you hadn't combed it in a week, or skimpy tops that showed your belly or your cleavage. And there certainly were no boys running around showing their boxers. Up, awesome and interesting.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on July 15, 2012:

Great hub Patty. Sorry it took me so long to find it. You and I must be from the same era. Shirts were mid knee and actually measured sometimes. Boys hair could not touch their collars. You brought back many memories of mine with this hub of yours. Overall, I'm glad that those rules prevailed over the "anything goes" rules (what rules?) of today. At least kids were not killed for their shoes or jewelry, etc! Voted up, interesting and sharing.

2patricias from Sussex by the Sea on April 28, 2012:

We both remember the days when boys dressed like boys, and girls like girls. Then, there was a time when everybody dressed the same.

Now, buying baby/toddler clothes for grandchildren, we both notice that here in England there is a very strict divide. It is almost impossible to buy "neutral" baby clothes. Right from birth size there is a pink/blue division. Rather sad.

This is an interesting Hub - voted up and interesting.

Sunilkath from Gurgaon on April 27, 2012:

Nice hub remembering me, my school dress code some boring butt cool.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on April 27, 2012:

This hub brought back memories as those were my school years. In 9th grade about the time school was ending for the year a bunch of us girls decided we would wear bermuda shorts to school. Our reasoning was if enough of us did it they would let it pass and it was hot outside. Well, we all got sent home to change into appropriate clothing. I hadn't thought about that in a long time. Very interesting hub.

Sondra Rochelle from USA on April 27, 2012:

Great Hub! I went to school in the 50's, so you can imagine what WE wore...poodle skirts, pony tails, DA haircuts, Ivy league shirts and hats, knee socks...everybody dressed for success LOL!!

Deborah Neyens from Iowa on April 27, 2012:

I had to click on this hub. I went to Catholic grade school in the 70s and we had to wear plaid skirts with white blouses. No pants. Girls would bring pants to pull on under our skirts to go outside for recess in winter. But I was quite the elementary school activist. When I was in third grade I started a petition to allow girls to wear pants in winter and got every girl in school (and most of their mothers) to sign it. After that, we were allowed to wear pants during the winter months, but they had to be one of the colors in the plaid skirts - red, blue, or green. And no jeans, of course.

The rest of my time in that school was spent finding ways to break the dress code, by wearing the wrong color socks or a different shirt over my white blouse, etc. I spent many a noon hour in the principal's office writing out "I will not break the dress code uniform" 500 times. (They had to throw that extra "uniform" in at the end of the sentence to make it all that much longer.) I guess I wasn't cut out for Catholic school. I got to transfer to the public school for high school.

Linda J Smith from Google on April 27, 2012:

Great hub!

Donna Cosmato from USA on April 27, 2012:

Nice trip down the memory lane of fashion. How times have changed!

Allen Williams from Pennsylvania on April 27, 2012:

I remember quite well in the 1960s the girls were not permitted to wear pants. They had to wear a dress or a skirt. My sisters and other girls always complained that their legs were cold in the winter when we walked to school. That rule was changed in the late 1960s when the girls could wear pants on cold days.

(Video) 100 Years of Boys' Clothes | Glamour

I also remember my cousin getting his hair cut in class because it was past his ears and the teacher warned him to get it cut. The teacher tied him to the chair at his desk and cut his hair with a scissor.

Good hub. I voted up and awesome.

FAQs

What did students wear to school in the 1960s? ›

1960s Kids' Fashion Clothing including denim jeans and corduroy slacks, tapered trousers and stylish pullovers, Sailor dresses, jumpers and bold plaids with bow accents, Pants-dresses, double-breasted jackets, flared slacks, ruffled shirts and turtlenecks, pleated skirts and button accents ....

What was the dress code in the 60s? ›

In addition to tailored skirts, women wore stiletto heel shoes and suits with short boxy jackets, and oversized buttons. Simple, geometric dresses, known as shifts, were also in style. For evening wear, full-skirted evening gowns were worn; these often had low necklines and close-fitting waists.

What did students wear to school in the 1970s? ›

The 1970s: Bell-bottoms, cowl-neck sweaters and boogie shoes

In the boys and young men's department, v-neck sweaters and reversible jackets carried the day, while poly-cotton blend jeans featured flared legs.

What was the dress code in the 1970s? ›

Popular styles included bell bottom pants, frayed jeans, midi skirts, maxi dresses, Tie dye, peasant blouses, and ponchos. Some accessories that will help pull together your early '70s Hippie outfits are chokers, headbands, scarves, and jewelry made of wood, stones, feathers, and beads.

What did teenage girls wear in the 1960's? ›

Blue skirts, white blouses for girls; blue slacks, white shirts for guys. For social occasions you could wear your skirt length shorter than what was acceptable at school. The dresses at left and right are light and fun. We called these hip huggers.

How do you dress like the 60s and 70s? ›

How to start a 60s & 70s style wardrobe | dressing vintage

How do you dress like the 60s? ›

Choose clothes with bright colors and bold geometric patterns. Button-down shirts, miniskirts, and dresses are all good options. Accessories like oversized bows, low-block heels, and wide ties are also popular choices. Another way to dress like you were in the 1960s is to create a hippie-style outfit.

What did girls wear to school in the 60's? ›

1960 Girls Clothes

Description Girls of 1960 were all about earth tone plaids and darker green shades, especially for fall fashion. Tapered plaid trousers paired with tunics or button down shirts were popular as were pleated skirts and bib-front and collared dresses.

What did teenage girls wear in the 1970s? ›

1970s: Bell-Bottoms, Denim, And Midriffs Were A 70s High School Fashion Dream. 1970s teen fashion was heavily inspired by the hippie movement, as evidenced by a profusion of tie-dye. Both girls and boys donned flared pants, and denim was wildly popular.

What did 1960 children wear? ›

The early 1960's didn't see much change in young boys fashion either. Clothing was very plain, with grey being a common colour. Shirts and shorts/trousers were obviously popular although shorts were often just trousers cut down. Waist coats and long grey socks were also common.

What did people wear in the 60's and 70's? ›

Bell-bottom jeans, hipsters and T-shirts were worn every day. Flower patches were everywhere and bandannas and ribbons were worn in their hair. Floral patterns were universal and the focus was on vibrancy and colour.

What did people wear in the 70s and 60s? ›

White suits with plunging necklines and wide lapels were common. When not in bellbottoms with halter-neck tops, women most often wore slinky knee-length wrap dresses. Jumpsuits and platform boots were popular with both sexes, as were hot pants and top-to-bottom gold lamé.

What colors were popular in the 60s fashion? ›

Deep, darker colors were the rage in 1960. They especially covered the spectrum between purple, red and green. Colors like like grape, plum, wine red, garnet and olive green. In contrast, neon bright pink was also a very popular color for those looking to make a statement.

What pants were popular in the 60s? ›

Women's 60s style pants, crop pants, capri pants, cigarette pants, denim jeans, and pedal pushers were all common in the Swinging Sixties. High waists, full hips, and a tapered leg was the fashion of the early to mid 1960s. They came in every pastel, neutral or bright color imaginable.

What style was popular in the 70s? ›

15 Top Trends from the 70s
  • Bellbottoms. Bellbottoms were like the clothing mullet before the mullet was really a thing. ...
  • Platforms. Wanting to be taller is a common wish among people. ...
  • High-waisted jeans. ...
  • Tie-dye. ...
  • Feathered hair. ...
  • The afro. ...
  • Corduroy. ...
  • Circular sunglasses.

What was school like in the 1960s? ›

Schools were crowded and noisy – not even half as cool and fun as Hollywood often portrayed them to be. There were plenty of opportunities for extra-curricular activities like drama clubs but for sports teams, they were just for male high school students.

What year did girls get to wear pants to school? ›

In 1972, the Education Amendments of 1972 passed in the United States, which, as part of the Title IX non-discrimination provisions, declared that dresses could not be required of girls. Dress codes thus changed in public schools across the United States. In the 1970s, trousers became quite fashionable for women.

When did jeans become high fashion clothing? ›

Late 80s: Me and My Calvins. A century after its invention, jeans were finally embraced by high fashion. Calvin Klein was the first designer in 1976 who showed blue jeans on the runway.

What did girls wear to school in the 60's? ›

1960 Girls Clothes

Description Girls of 1960 were all about earth tone plaids and darker green shades, especially for fall fashion. Tapered plaid trousers paired with tunics or button down shirts were popular as were pleated skirts and bib-front and collared dresses.

How did school dress codes start? ›

School Dress Code Laws

The first school dress code law was established in 1969 by the U.S. Supreme Court. The case, known as Tinker vs. Des Moines Independent School District, involved several high school students who wore black armbands to school in a planned protest against the Vietnam War.

Who was the first girl to wear pants? ›

Elizabeth Smith Miller is often credited as the first modern woman to wear pants.

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