When I started this post I realised I had so much I wanted to say that I would actually need two posts ! ! ! So in this first one I want to talk about the two main styles of uniform and a little of the history of school uniforms in Japan and then something about personalising uniforms. Next week I will focus on School uniforms in J-pop but first lets get to know the uniforms and something about the girls that wear them ! ! !
In Japanese schools when the lesson starts the kids stand up and formally bow to the teacher. This is to show they are focused and ready to learn and as sign of respect for the teacher. We ready to start now – so stop talking at the back of the class and pay attention ! ! !
Lesson One – History
Education for girls was limited to the aristocracy for most of Japan’s history. But after the Meiji restoration Japan opened to the West and began to industrialize and a middle class formed. The first schools for girls were founded and they followed the western model. At first girls would wear traditional Japanese clothes to school, but in 1921 in Fukuoka Jo Gakun, a Christian high school for girls, a revolution was about to take place.
The Head Mistress was an American lady called Miss Elizabeth Lee. She was famed for her beauty, and the stylish sailor suits she wore to school were considered modern and stylish. Also the traditional Kimono was not practical for study and physical activity and so soon some of the girls started to copy her look. It quickly caught on and the first sailor suit school girl uniform was established in Japan.
Sailor Suit uniforms were considered very modern and a symbol of the liberalisation of women and girls roles in society. Even during the war, when all things western were shunned, they continued to be worn for this reason (although trousers were worn instead of skirts and a padded hood was worn to protect the girls from the terrible fires caused by the bombing)
The two piece sailor suit is cute, comfortable and practical and was the standard uniform style for girls up to the 1980 decade. But in the 1980’s the first private schools began to use a “preppy ” style uniform based on plaid or plain skirt, white blouse and a caramel or blue, or black blazer jacket. This gave the school the opportunity to show a nice big crest on the blazer and it was seen as a more adult uniform by the girls and quickly became popular in high schools.
Time some music ! ! !
AKB48 areof course the most famous school girl image band in the universe ! ! ! They usually wear some variation of the preppy style school uniform. In this video which is about graduation from high school, you can see the uniform really very well. Often in their videos the uniforms are very stylised, but in this video the uniforms are very typical of a private high school. Notice the grey plaid skirts and pay attention to the socks – we will talk about them later !! ! Also notice some girls have bows and some wear ties. It is common for schools to allow both.
AKB48 – Sakura No Hanabiratachi 2008
There are actually very few videos of groups wearing sailor suits, I think this because they do not look so good in dance routines. I had some problems finding a nice one but the Head Master (Mr P) recommended this one. It is by nano.RIPE. The track is called Hana no iro and it means the colour of flowers. At around 2 minutes into the video you see some girls in blue sailor suites.
nano.RIPE – Hana no Iro
Lesson Two – Personalising Your Uniform
Of course girls will want to personalise their uniforms. And the first thing that a girl will want to do is shorten her skirt. The way that girls do this is to fold the skirt around the waist band, usually you can shorten your skirt by at least
an inch for each fold and so with three folds you can make your skirt a respectable length ! ! ! Of course if you are unlucky
enough to go to a mixed school then you face the problem of boys walking behind you when you climb , stairs to try and see your panties. This is why you need a large bag, not a back pack type but shoulder strap bag. You just hold this across your butt as you go up and no boys (who you do not want to) will see your panties – easy ! ! !
Socks are a problem. Basically you either wear baggy socks and do not worry about keeping them up, or you wear tight socks and then you have to keep them up. These days baggy socks are out of fashion and considered slutty, so of course girls now need to face the problem of keeping their socks up and looking good. The secret is a special dermatologically safe glue called Sock Touch. You just apply it to your leg and then put your socks on. It comes in a variety of strengths depending on the amount of physical activity you think you might have during the day.
Lesson 3 – Do Not Mess With the Sukuban ! ! !
As the good girls were making their skirts shorter and shorter the bad girls went in the oposite direction ! ! ! Yanki is the word we have in Japanese for delinquent and the tough Yanki girls modified their uniforms by lengthening their skirts until they became ankel length. They would also shorten the tunic of their sailor suits so that when they moved you could see an alluring glimpse of belly button. On graduation the girls would embroider their tunic with personal and gang designs. The long skirt sailor suit is the uniform of the Yanki girl ! ! ! The leader of a Yanki girl gang is called Sukuban and this is the name of this style. Of course for most girls it is just a fashion, but some girl Yanki gangs are extremely violent and dangerous and involved in drugs, prostitution, violence and theft, so it really is not a good idea to mess with them ! ! ! Here is a short clip from the drama Maijisuka Gaken. In it you can see both the standard sailor suit and the Yanki style with the design sewn with sequins.
Lesson 4 – How to be a schoolgirl
In the west individualism is seen as being important and a good thing. However in Japan being part of a group is seen as being more important and so we quite like uniforms which show we belong to a group or company or association. The years
girls spend in high school are seen as a special time. The girls are really young women and sexually mature, but they are still free from the obligations of adult life. It is seen as time to enjoy friendships, have your first boyfriend and explore your personality. Girls like to wear their uniforms because it is shows they belong to this special group. Of course school has its own pressures and adolescent problems really do seem to be huge when you have them, but for the vast majority of girls High School is a time they always remember with great fondness and the friendships formed there often last a life time. Schoolgirls want to have fun with their friends, be kawaii and grow and experiment in a safe place. The best schools create this environment for the girls, and of course some even study aslo ! ! !
So to finish here is a really nice video from Morning Musume. The uniforms are fake of course, but I like the way they have accessorised them. I love the punkette key chain which gives a street feel to the plaid skirt and I love the beret ! ! ! Every girl should have at least one, they match almost everything and always look super cute ! ! !
Morning Musume – Ai Araba It’s All Right
I hope you have found the post interesting and not too girly ! ! ! I hope you will read part two to see how the schoolgirl and her uniform is used in J-pop.