Free learning resources from arts, cultural and heritage organisations.

Schoolwear in the 50s and 60s

Innovations in the textile labs weren't limited to adult clothing at M&S. School uniform today has to be tough, comfortable and smart - and it was no different in 1954. 

St Michael News special 'Back to School' issue in July 1954
St Michael News Back to School Special 1954

The special 'Back to School' section of St Michael News told parents about how gaberdine raincoats were being tested for water resistance, the introduction of nylon-reinforced socks to prevent holes and the need for darning, and knickers with removable elastic to make repairs easier! 
Innovations and use of up-to-the-minute technology continued into the 1960s with nylon and Terylene taking centre stage. Bri-nylon nightwear became 'Flare-Free' and M&S worked with suppliers to make this highly flammable fabric safe.
M&S Back to School magazine spread from 1968
M&S Back to School Magazine 1968
A section of the 1968 magazine spread above reads:

'Hardwearing, classic St Michael schoolwear is designed to stand up to the energy and high spirits of the lively school-aged child. Every size in every garment is designed to an individual specification and  a quality check is built into every stage in manufacture. From fabrics to buttons and thread, every component which goes into a St Michael garment must first undergo intensive laboratory tests'.
In 1987 M&S started to stock schoolwear all year round, and machine-washable blazers soon followed. The 1990s saw schoolwear for secondary pupils arrive, and new items such as the 'chunky trainer' for boys.
Magazine article on M&S schoolwear 1992
Magazine Article on M&S Schoolwear 1992


Gaberdine - tough, tightly woven fabric used to make suits, coats, uniforms etc
Flammable - easy to set alight; capable of burning
Darning - a sewing technique for repairing holes or worn areas in fabric or knitting using needle and thread alone
See also Fashion Brands and Synthetic Fabrics for more about early innovations in textile production.