|Topics in Japan #63:
Some questions about high school girls' uniforms
People who visit Japan for the first time will surely wonder about many things and ask many questions as they explore the country. Those questions vary, but there seem to be certain ones that many foreigners ask in common: "Why do high school students wear such mini skirts even in winter?" and "Why do they wear uniforms even on weekends?"
Before we get to the answer, let's look back at the history of school uniforms in Japan. People began to wear Western clothes after Japan opened ports to foreign countries in the 1850s. In 1879, an educational institute, Gakushuin, introduced a navy-style school uniform for male students for the first time. Female students continued to wear kimono and hakama as school uniforms, until a girls' college, Heian Jogakuin, adopted a sailor-style school uniform in 1920.
In the 1980s, when people were enjoying the bubble economy and fascinated by designer-brand clothes, some schools began to remodel their uniforms to more fashion-conscious designs. Those uniforms were still basically either navy or black, but they tried to show originality with the tie, scarf, lines, etc. Then by the 1990s, some schoolgirls had become so fashion-conscious that they tried to make their uniforms look cool by tucking the skirt up to a very short length, and matching it with long and loose socks.
The loose-socks trend is over now, but high school girls have continued to favor short skirts. They also like to "dress up" by choosing bags or vests that make a good combination with their uniforms. So, if you were to answer the two questions above, you could probably give a single answer: "Because school uniforms with short skirts are considered fashionable among high school girls." However, there's no doubt that wearing a mini skirt in winter feels very cold. So, recently, some schools have been considering adopting long trousers as uniform for female students as well.