Gakuran : the traditional Japanese uniform for boys


The gakuran is a traditional Japanese uniform that middle and high school students were required to wear beginning in the early 20th century. This strict Japanese dress code is no longer just reserved for Japanese schools. It can be found in many other areas such as pop culture, rock music fashion or Japanese movies.

The Gakuran is the equivalent of the Japanese uniform for women: the sailor fuku. We will start by detailing how to wear this Japanese student costume. Then, we will make a small point of textile history starting from the etymology of the term "gakuran". After revealing amazing tradition, we will explain the major evolutions of this Japanese clothing style

The history of the Gakuran


The first appearance of the Japanese student uniform Gakuran was in 1879 in Tokyo by the Imperial Family School. Six years later, it was adopted by Teikoku University in Tokyo and almost all other educational institutions, colleges and high schools. For its design, the Japanese were inspired by the uniforms of the former Prussian army. 

The translation of the term "gakuran" is very interesting to study. "Gaku" means student while "ran" means "west." This Japanese word therefore translates to "student of the west." It is so called because this navy blue shirt is also inspired by the French military outfits of the time. France is chosen as the model, as its training system was known to be the best in the world.   

How is the Gakuran composed? 

gakuran japanese uniform for sale

The Japanese gakuran uniform wear with:

  • a loose fitting navy blue organic cotton shirt,
  • a long-sleeved suit jacket with a round or stand-up collar that buttons up and down.
  • The buttons are always specific to the school emblem. It is a sign of respect to the institution.
  • a classic black pant with a straight cut and high waist, to which is added a black belt.
  • shoes are not part of the uniform. So the choice is free if you wish to sport a beautiful costume cosplay...

Students in the land of the rising sun sometimes wear loafers, pumps, or even low top sneakers in rare cases. Schools sometimes order students to wear a pin at the collar to indicate their level (freshman, senior...). In the past, a cap to match the outfit was mandatory. 

Bosozoku style and Japanese uniform


Over time, many derivatives of the Gakuran emerged. Students appropriated this strict uniform to repurpose it according to their taste, or as a sign of protest.

In particular, we can talk about the Bosozoku style, which is a Japanese streetwear style. This fashion came about as a result of the virulence of the Bosozoku gang. By definition, a bosozoku is a delinquent (often students), who drove motorcycles at high speeds. Many Japanese rock bands took over this casual style. We can speak for example about a famous band from 1997: KISHIDAN. 

In the Japanese movie crow zero, we follow the adventures of young students who face each other in fist fights.

The tradition of Gakuran second button

gakuran second button meaning

Japanese students have a very special way of declaring their love. To reveal their love, one tradition is to offer the second button of the collared top to the loved one. The second button is offered because it is the one closest to the heart. Symbolically, then, receiving this button is like receiving the person's heart. It is said that this Japanese custom originates from a novel by the great Chinese writer Taijun Takeda in which a similar scene occurs.

Another theory claims that the tradition dates back to the time of World War II. Soldiers would offer the second button of their military uniform to their loved ones. The purpose was to leave them a memento in case they died on the battlefield. 

The gender jumping gakuran

Not to make anyone jealous, the uniform for men has found a feminine form as well. Japanese retail chain Village Vanguard is behind a garment that calls itself Seishun Gakuran One-Piece. This is aimed at girls who want to wear an adapted version of the gakuran. It is identical to the men's version with one detail: it is cut to cover the entire upper body. These chic new trends are suitable for any occasion.

The gakuran for girls: Sailor fuku


The same idea can be found on the girl side with the Japanese schoolgirl Sukeban gang. These dangerous and violent students were modifying their traditional uniform, the classic version of which is called Sailor Fuku.

One of them can be found in Quentin Tarantino's famous film"Kill Bill Volume 1." During a fight scene in a Japanese houseem, Gogo Yubari's character wields a sukeban weapon with a chain and ball.

This style for women combines sexy skirts with elegant and original sailor blouses.

The gakuran uniform in manga and Japanese anime

gakuran manga anime

Japan has many manga that feature high school heroes. In this Japanese art, we can regularly find the gakuran. The most essential works containing the traditional uniform are School Rumble and Kuroko's Basket.

We can also mention Yusuke Urameshi who is the main character of the anime Yu Yu Hakusho. Or Mob Psycho 100 who is a high school student with an immense power of telekinesis.

Often, the productions in question take liberties by showing gakuran possessing different colors from the tradition. In particular, they may be black-and-white, multi-colored, beige, khaki, or possess striped prints. 

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