Uniformed student life

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Replica of a Warsaw Polytechnic student’s uniform from the late nineteenth century

Uniforms were standard dress for students at most European universities in the nineteenth century.

At the Tsar Nicolas II Polytechnic Institute, launched in Warsaw in 1896, students were obliged to wear uniforms according to a decree issued in 1885 to all imperial Russian universities. In fact, the Tsar’s edict (ukase) only restored the obligation to wear a uniform, which had been abolished in 1861. The plague of “poorly-dressed” students that was observed after the uniform was abolished was only one concern of the education minister, who insisted on reinstating mandatory uniforms.

The official interpretation stated that students wearing uniforms near street demonstrations could be more easily recognized by police and the army, which meant they could be protected. It was far more likely that improved identification could simply keep students, who are usually active in progressive and revolutionary movements, out of the demonstrations entirely.

The uniforms were unique to each school, having different trimmings and fabric colors. Characteristically, the official uniform guidelines did not mention female students, who were admitted to enter Russian universities as early as 1867. Local Warsaw tailors also addressed their advertising to male students: 'Gentlemen, we offer the polytechnic and university uniforms in all sizes.'

How to cite this page


Slawomir Lotysz, 'Uniformed student life', Inventing Europe, http://www.inventingeurope.eu/knowledge/uniformed-student-life


  1. Kassow, Samuel D. Students, Professors, and the State in Tsarist Russia. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989.
  2. Gazeta Warszawska, May 31, 1885: 4.
  3. Opisaniye formennoy odezhdy studentov imperatorskikh rossiyskikh universitetov, vysochayshe utverzhdennoy 8 maya 1885 goda, № 2927.

About this tour


The Architecture of Expertise

Modern systems of technical education developed in Europe throughout the nineteenth century. Although most universities and institutes training future engineers were national by nature, many copied patterns and models from other countries. Those countries that started later often had the advantage of multiple models and experience to choose from.

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Students in uniform

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