There is much debate regarding school uniforms, including whether students need them, how strict the rules should be, and what design should be used. Some think having a form takes away children’s individuality and limits their ability to express themselves. Others believe that making students wear uniforms in school promotes discipline and helps to even out social inequalities. A single form suggests the identity of students’ outward appearances, visually equating to the school’s team members. It can be challenging to balance a child’s right to self-expression with the expectations placed on schoolchildren. Cultural anxieties are deeply impacted by dress code policies due to being overly sexualized by society. Any female uniform, including those worn by the military, the police is fetishized.
History of School Uniform
It is believed that Great Britain is where school uniforms first became popular. It was blue because the fabric was the least expensive, and it was thought that wearing such a color would teach children humility. In the United Kingdom, wearing school uniforms is considered a tradition that dates back to the 16th century. It is believed that the first school to wear a uniform was Christ’s Hospital School in England in 1552 (Underwood, 2018). Boys studying there, mostly orphans, were given a form that was made to look like a church dress. It included knee-length breeches, stockings, and an ankle-length blue blouse with long, wide sleeves and a church-style collar buttoned to the waist. The least expensive dye on hand led to the selection of blue. The children from this orphanage also had distinctive clothing, including loose, collarless shirts. The school gave students from low-income families blue and yellow uniforms. (Seigel, 2019). By the way, this school has continued to wear this style of uniform to this day.
School Uniforms in Modern American Society
Since each state in the US has its policy on this matter, there is no national regulation governing the requirement for a school uniform. Most American schools also do not mandate students wear school uniforms; instead, they follow a uniform dress code tailored to each institution’s specific requirements. School uniforms can enhance safety and behavior in a school, as measured by gang presence, violence, and bullying, as well as by attendance rates, reported infractions, and bullying (Jones et al., 2020). A required school uniform has been implemented in most private and specialty schools.
There have also been instances in the United States’ modern history of school uniforms where administrators went beyond their authority regarding each student’s appearance and dress code, infringing on their rights. For instance, there are numerous court cases where education applicants defend their right to self-expression on the American Civil Liberties Society website. It’s challenging to tell where a student’s right to self-expression starts and where it is violated. The American Civil Liberties Union has therefore offered guidance on what public schools can and cannot do by enforcing a dress code to respect students’ rights.
Advantages and Disadvantages of School Uniform
Like any other complicated social issue, school uniforms have benefits and drawbacks. The school uniform, like any form of discipline, fosters cohesion and helps students develop a sense of community, collectivism, a common cause, and the presence of common goals. Additionally, the uniform forbids or, at the very least, restricts the possibility of clothing competition and removes the visual distinction between students from families with different levels of material wealth. When students wear their school uniform, they focus on their studies rather than their clothing. Children approach the question of what to wear to school positively, and a calm state stimulates their desire to learn (Nathan et al., 2021). Thanks to the school uniform, the child can feel the involvement in this particular school and as a student.
Arguments against it include that every child has the right to show their individuality in any preferred manner, according to the convention on the child’s rights. The requirement to wear a uniform is by itself a form of violence against a person; the provision of strict observance of a uniform can, if desired, be interpreted arbitrarily by school staff and used for pointless prosecution of objectionable students. For low-income families, uniforms might be out of their price range, and for some families, the form suggested based on affordability might not be suitable. Additionally, the issue of the fetishization of women’s uniforms, which have been sexualized, is being discussed more and more.
Methods for Addressing the Issue of the Sexualization of School Uniforms
Considering the gender differences among students when designing a school uniform is one of the conceptual challenges. Of course, gender impacts the variety of items that make up a schoolchild’s wardrobe, and the different types of clothing and other aspects of appearance significantly affect adolescents’ behavior models. Initially, the school dress code was based in part on gender differences. Sometimes dress codes are purposefully unisex and stipulate the same standards for men’s and women’s suits.
Most students view strong sexuality as a sign of low self-esteem, and school uniforms should reflect the respectability and reputation of the institution. On the other hand, the female form is more contentious because of its fetishization. It sends a message that girls’ bodies are inherently sexual and provocative when schools ask them to cover up or dress more modestly (Why do school dress codes, 2018). Dress codes should not be discriminatory to address the issue of the sexualization of school uniforms. In other words, there shouldn’t be a difference in clothing requirements based on gender or race. The Constitution and federal laws prohibiting educational discrimination forbid schools from enforcing dress codes based on gender stereotypes.
Schools cannot discriminate against students based on gender expression, gender identity, or sexual orientation. Therefore, students should be allowed to wear clothing and hairstyles appropriate to their gender identity, even if a school has a gender dress code policy. Dress codes should not be applied unequally to different groups of students to avoid breaking the law against racial and gender discrimination (Corby, 2022). Girls who wear clothing deemed distracting for boys in class are frequently subjected to unequal dress codes.
In conclusion, the origins of school uniforms can be traced back to the urge to distinguish students as a social class. The requirement of a school uniform in the modern world has its benefits, including the equivalence of the material status of all students, the prevention of schoolchildren from becoming distracted by clothing decisions, discipline, and the ability to distinguish between students from different schools. Schools should adopt a unique uniform style that does not fit societal stereotypes to address the issue of the sexualization of school uniforms, which should not be ignored. Additionally, the uniform should come in a variety of looks so that students have a choice; for instance, skirts should not be a requirement due to gender bias. Decisions about the introduction of school uniforms must first be discussed in society, and the views of parents and students should be considered.
Corby, G. (2022). Is your school uniform sending out sexist messages? Tes Magazine. Web.
Jones, A. B., Richardson, M. J., Jensen, B. T., & Whiting, E. F. (2020). Perceptions of School Uniforms in Relation to Socioeconomic Statuses. RMLE Online, 43(6), 1-13. doi.org/10.1080/19404476.2020.1759298
Nathan, N., McCarthy, N., Hope, K., Sutherland, R., Lecathelinais, C., Hall, A., Lane, C., Trost, S., Yoong, S. L., & Wolfenden, L. (2021). The impact of school uniforms on primary school student’s physical activity at school: Outcomes of a cluster randomized controlled trial. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 18(1). Web.
Seigel, R. (2019). School Uniforms. Macmillan Publishers.
Underwood, J. (2018). Under the Law: School uniforms, dress codes, and free expression: What’s the balance? Phi Delta Kappan, 99(6), 74-75. Web.