School Uniforms

I like school uniforms.

I really do. They make you look neat. They look respectable. They make you look like you belong to a collective (the school, particularly on excursions). And most importantly, they mean you don’t need to think about what you’re going to wear to school the next day. There’s no competition, there’s no need to flaunt the latest style. Well, except on mufti days, but those were usually for some charitable reason it meant people would dress up say in jeans for Jeans for Genes day anyway.

I look at various books or TV shows detailing the American schooling system sometimes - the kind of importance that these kids place on what they wear to school and how they look. Think Mean Girls, and I’m glad we don’t need to put up with that. Thus, I have to agree with what the advocates say about uniforms on at least two points:

  • Contributes to a sense of community and belonging
  • Less competition and peer pressure concerning fashion items

Of course, I knew people at school who often tried to push the boundaries of the rules at school as much as possible, such as wearing their socks as high as they could for as long as they could without getting caught, rather than neatly folding them over. Or those who rolled the top of their socks down, rather than folding. As well as those that wore ankle socks. As well as those that wore their skirts high on their waist to make them shorter, despite not being high waisted skirts.

Rules can lead people to want to rebel, especially teenagers and even as a generally very disciplined school, we were no different. I guess this kind of supports the opponents’ points that it can be a source of discontentment and rebellious behaviour. This is possibly why Year 12 ‘muck up week’ was so fun - we couldn’t actually mess up the school in any way, but instead we messed up our uniform such as borrowing and wearing the uniforms of boys’ schools, or wearing the junior school uniform when we were seniors.

Generally I was happy to follow the school’s dress rules - save one. I liked wearing my school’s PE/Gym shorts under my skirt, as it both allowed me to carry one less article of clothing on days we had Sport or PE and it meant that if there was any particularly strong wind or I wanted to sit crosslegged on the floor I was safe from flashing my underwear to the world.

While I do think that school uniforms can cost too much, and admit to have bought some ‘bootleg’ school uniform items from a Chinese outlet before, as well as taking hand-me-down school uniform pieces from family friends, this really is an issue with schools and how this stuff is made and priced, not with the concept of uniforms themselves. In regards to the final point of hypocrisy from teachers though, as teachers do exactly what they want students not to do - this is the teacher’s right, in my point of view. They’ve been there, and done that - sat through the rigamorale of school rules, detentions and learned. They are the authority figure here, and it’s our turn to be disciplined.

But I do agree that schools can’t be too overzealous with their policies. If students have certain forms of dress required by their religion, beliefs or for health reasons and not just because it’s arbitrarily what they want to wear, this should be exempted. My friend in high school’s family was Muslim, and while she didn’t wear the headscarf, her limbs were always covered which meant she wore a long sleeved shirt under the normal school uniform shirt in summer and wore opaque black stockings all year long.

It’s a fine case of balance. Students shouldn’t expect the freedom to do what they want and develop a sense of entitlement, but on the other hand students should be able to expect a certain degree of consideration when it comes to dress for beliefs and conditions. That’s not to say that the moment this becomes established it won’t be abused though.

Let’s not even get into Japanese school uniforms…

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