Sometimes portrayed ironically and sometimes literally, the school aesthetic is a constant in fashion and media. In addition to the viral Miu Miu skirt, icons like Blair Waldorf of Gossip Girl, Britney Spears in “Baby One More Time” and more currently, K-pop group IVE are some of the most popular examples of the school uniform permeating mainstream fashion.
Although clothing is not limited by gender, it seems that pop culture has often promoted the representation – and even fetishization – of the stereotypical schoolgirl archetype, prompting pleated skirts, cropped sweaters, stockings trendy highs and bows. But what about the schoolboy look? Representations and influence of what is often referred to as schoolboy-inspired style – think ties, blazers, knee-length shorts and letter shirts – are far less discussed. However, that’s not to say that pop culture hasn’t provided notable examples of the schoolboy look.
In the cinema, for example, Dead Poets Society (1989) – which you’ve probably seen making the rounds as one of the cornerstones of the Dark Academia aesthetic – introduced the classic boarding school wardrobe. In addition to “Tradition, Discipline, Honor and Excellence,” Welton Academy students displayed chic placards that turned into a comprehensive guide to schoolboy style. V-neck sweaters, tailored blazers, Oxford shirts, plus lettered sweatshirts, ties and loafers made Knox Overstreet, Neil Perry and their friends enduring figures still worthy of the homages of the social media today.
The styles of St. Jude School students Nate Archibald, Chuck Bass and Dan Humphrey in The CW’s Seasons 1 and 2 Gossip Girl were equally timeless. Crafted by costume designer Eric Daman, each of the character’s styles featured a different take on Upper East Side school fashion. While outsider Dan opted for a simple, understated look, often paired with shoulder bags and work boots, Golden Boy Nate favored old-silver aesthetics and wrinkled clothing — for an added nonchalant effect. On the other hand, fashionista Chuck Bass demonstrated her talent for dandy statements, adding colorful overcoats and scarves to her outfits. With a particular way of wearing their uniforms, the guys from Gossip Girl have become icons for their respective school tropes.