These Vintage Back-To-School Photos Are Just Charming
It's probably safe to say that this year's back-to-school season is unlike any other in history. However, it's worth noting that for those heading back into the classroom, elements of the beginning of the year will stay much the same. These vintage back-to-school photos beautifully capture the fact that although some things may be drastically different, the thrill of freshly sharpened pencils and brand new lunch boxes remains the same.
One of the most striking things you'll probably notice throughout this list is the evolution of school fashion over the years. Crossing guards wearing high heels, teachers in floor-length dresses, kids in oxford loafers and bow-ties, plus knee socks and bellbottoms galore. The retro looks are just glorious.
Whether riding the bus or walking, carrying a heavy backpack or their books tucked safely under one arm, the kids in these vintage back-to-school photos look primed and ready to tackle whatever the school year throws at them. Much like your own kiddos are doing today, they battled first-day jitters, donned their new school clothes, and headed out to greet their new classmates. Take a look below at how much things have changed, but also how much they've stayed the same.
1. All Aboard!
The familiar sight of a kiddo climbing into a school bus and waving goodbye is one that many parents still get a glimpse of on the first day of school. (Albeit with a mask-clad face and character lunchbox.) The adorable little one in this vintage back-to-school photo just looks so thrilled to be heading off to school.
2. Up The Steps
I wish I knew exactly what the kids in this photo are thinking entering their school building on the first day in 1975. I can almost feel their hearts beating faster with every step toward the school doors, anticipating what lies ahead. Also, I wish someone would bring back knee-high socks for kids. They're just so classic and precious.
3. Crossing Safely
I would be willing to bet that modern-day crossing guards look at this photo and are extremely thankful that they don't have to dress in a full skirted suit, heels, hat, and white gloves every day. Specifically the ones who work in warmer climates. But the kids in this vintage photo look safe, happy, and ready to start their school day.
4. BTS Shopping
Today, back-to-school shopping looks vastly different from this vintage back-to-school photo taken in 1972 in Massachusetts. Online shopping means that these magical shopping moments happen after an Amazon package is dropped at the door, but nonetheless, the excitement of buying new school clothes cannot be overstated.
5. Historic Chalkboard
From the way this teacher is dressed to the giant wooden desk complete with a globe, this vintage back-to-school photo from the year 1900 has immense historical value. My favorite part though is the math on the chalkboard. If you look closely, the writing appears to be a word problem, and the equation on the other side works out the problem.
6. Walking With Friends
There is just something empowering about walking up to school with a gaggle of your friends. I bet the kids in this photo from their first day of school in 1975 felt invincible surrounded by their peers. Plus, check out the bellbottoms on the kiddo in the middle of the photo — so groovy.
7. So. Many. Kids.
My kids' classrooms generally have about 20 to 25 children each year. These kids look pretty orderly in this photo from 1909, but I can only imagine how crazy this classroom full of what looks to be almost twice that many kids eventually got. Also, check out the cursive to print alphabet on the chalkboard behind the teacher.
8. A Monumental Moment
This iconic photo shows students in a third grade classroom at Fort Meyer Elementary in Arlington, Virginia on the first day of desegregation in their school system in 1955. These students witnessed such a monumental moment in history and it's incredible to look back and see this incredibly important first day captured on film.
9. First Day Introductions
Did you ever have to stand at the front of your new classroom and introduce yourself to a room full of classmates? That looks like exactly what this kiddo was doing back in 1976. Their name tag is firmly in place so the teacher can remember it, and their hand is poised to wave a big hello.
10. Vintage Photoshoot
I'm not sure if this stellar back-to-school photo backdrop is a product of a creative parent or a super fun school, but either way it is a priceless moment from the 1950s. Also, when are we bringing back bow ties and jackets for school-aged boys? Can we make this dapper look trendy again, please?
11. Waving Goodbye
The little girl in this photo looks so ready for her first day of school, it's not even funny. Her oxford loafers are laced, bobby socks pulled tight, pigtails in place, a stack of books in her arms, and a huge smile on her face tells the world she's excited about the school day.
12. Faces Of The Future
Take a good look at this vintage photo from 1949. Nearly every child in this photo has a different expression. Some look bored to tears, some are confused, some look like they're learning intently. Regardless of how they look while they learn, one thing hasn't changed — kids in a classroom are the faces of the future.
13. The Big Moment
Did you know that when kids start elementary school in Germany, they're given a paper cone full of gifts by their parents to honor the occasion? It's called a Schultüten and the tradition still stands today, according to BBC. The mom in this sweet vintage photo looks so happy to have gifted her child their first day swag in 1975.
14. Name Tags Galore
Things haven't changed all that much since back in 1982 when this student from Seven Hills Primary school had her name tag pinned on by her teacher on the first day of school. I'm not sure what teachers would do without name tags on the first few days of school, even today.
15. Old School Squad
Tell me the girls in this vintage back-to-school photo from France in 1951 don't look like the ultimate girl squad? They're for sure walking to school with a purpose. Their bows are on right, and the two in the front are serving up some fierceness, while one makes a silly face arm-in-arm with their escort.
16. Finishing Touches
We've all been the mom in this photo from 1948 at some point. You arrive at school on the first day only to discover that your little one's hair is a bit out of place. Taking a moment to put a few finishing touches on their first day look is something that never goes out of style.
17. Hang Your Hat
As a short person, I have experienced first-hand the struggle of reaching into a top locker. The girl in this back-to-school photo from a British preparatory school in 1993 looks like she's found a place to hang her hat inside of her locker where hopefully it won't get crushed under a stack of books.
18. First Day Tears
If you've ever seen the dreaded crocodile tears in your child's eyes when they first enter a brand new classroom, you know how heartbroken this little guy's mama must have been leaving him at school back in 1952. But just like with my own kids, I have no doubt that little Howard warmed up to his new surroundings in no time.
19. American Pride
One of the most beautiful traditions that has been carried out school year after school year throughout the country is saying The Pledge of Allegiance each morning to begin the school day. I just love that this vintage school photo from 1951 Vermont showcases that.
20. A Caring Smile
Even from the side, you can clearly see the huge grin on this teacher's face as she interacts with her student in this first day of school photo from 1989. How incredible is it that teachers' love for their students has stood the test of time? Teachers are just the literal best.