Picking Up the Slacks: Gender-Neutral School Uniform Options Increasing in JapanGender and Sex Education Society
Kankō Gakuseifuku, a major school uniform manufacturer, has announced that, as of the 2023 academic year, 3,041 schools have adopted girls’ slacks as part of their school uniform.
The manufacturer began producing and selling girls’ slacks from around 1996. Initially, they were only used on rare occasions to stay warm in regions like Hokkaidō and Nagano or as suitable attire for commuting to school by bicycle. Over the next two decades, only a few dozen schools newly adopted girls’ slacks each year as part of their uniform. However, from the 2019 academic year, the number rose above 100 for the first time and has been increasing ever since. In 2022, it stood at 799 and in 2023 there were 832 schools adding slacks to girls’ uniform options (641 junior high schools, 173 high schools and 18 other academic institutions).
It used to be standard in schools that boys wore jackets with stand-up collars and girls wore sailor suits, both influenced by old European military uniforms. Now though, due to a shift toward genderless clothing and in consideration of sexual minorities, more and more schools are adopting blazers that have a gender-free design. There has also been a rapid increase in recent years in the number of schools that allow students to have more freedom of choice in uniform, such as to wear skirts, slacks, ribbons, or ties, in order to eliminate gender stereotypes.
Students wear the same uniform every day, so it has to be made from sturdy fabric, with advanced sewing techniques used to avoid fraying. Prior to the new academic year, there are just a few months in which to take measurements and adjust sizes, and skilled workers are needed to meet the tight delivery times, along with large-scale manufacturing facilities and subcontractors, so schools have to rely on domestic production, despite the high costs. It is due to these circumstances that Okayama Prefecture, a long-established production area for school uniforms, very much holds the dominant share in the Japan market.
Shipment Value and Market Share for School Uniforms Produced in Okayama Prefecture
|Uniform Category||Manufacturing Value of Shipments (¥ billion)||Market Share|
|Blazers and overcoats||2.64||37.4%|
|Skirts and slacks||2.54||45.4%|
|Uniform category||Manufacturing Value of Shipments (¥ billion)||Market Share）|
|Blazers and overcoats||22.71||67.5%|
Created by Nippon.com based on data from a 2015 Census of Manufacture by the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry.
(Translated from Japanese. Banner photo © Pixta.)