The School Uniforms

free essaySchool uniforms are strongly advocated by both local and private schools; thus, more and more educational institutions in the United States adopt the practice today. On the one hand, supporters prove that school uniforms ensure a better safety, create equal conditions that mitigate socioeconomic differences and enhance children’s concentration on learning rather than on outfits. On the other hand, opponents claim that school uniforms infringe the students’ right to expressing their individuality and personal preferences. In 2014, the National Center for Education Studies released the figures, which demonstrated that the number of schools establishing mandatory uniforms increased from 13% in 2003-2004 to 19% in 2011-2012 (Chen). It was also stated that 20% of public elementary schools administered a uniform system, 30% of mixed schools, and 12% of secondary schools demanded a dress code (Brunsma). It was also proved that school uniforms were mainly supported by the schools situated in cities rather than in those located in villages, towns, and suburban areas (Chen). The highest rate of the school uniforms utilization is reported in the schools of New Orleans, Philadelphia, Chicago, Miami, Boston, and Cleveland (Chen). School uniforms should become mandatory in all schools as they manage students’ obsession with fashion and clothing style, enhance concentration on the learning process, and lay the foundation for equality among students in the school environment.

The United Kingdom was the first country to introduce school uniforms during the reign of King Henry VIII (1509 – 1547) (Ladson-Billings 106). The contemporary uniforms were blue because it was believed that wearing such a color would accustom children to modesty. Moreover, the blue fabric was the cheapest one (Ladson-Billings 106). At the times, uniforms for students included not only clothes but also shoes and even socks. Each school had its unique clothes pattern and color scheme. The uniform was kept in school and issued to all students free of charge. In 1834, a law approving a general system of civilian uniforms for all students was adopted (Ladson-Billings 106). Civilian uniforms were divided into student and gymnasium types. They were meant mainly for males because female education was not common in those days. These uniforms were to be worn by students not only during teaching and learning activities but also after school. In 1896, with the opening of the first school for girls, school uniforms for females appeared (Wilde). Students of the female educational institutions had to wear dresses of a certain color depending on the age. In such a manner, girls of six-nine years old had a brown (coffee), nine-twelve years old – blue, twelve-fifteen years old – gray, and fifteen-eighteen years old – white dresses (Wilde).

Why Should Schools Establish Mandatory School Uniforms?

First, universal clothes keep students concentrated on the learning process rather than fashion trends and the way others are dressed. School uniforms help students focus on their main goal – learning. In schools where uniforms are not required, students spend much of their time on making decisions about what to wear, carefully following and tracking what others wear. However, in schools with a mandatory dress code, students wear the same clothes with a few differences. Therefore, they feel no need to worry about what to wear and what their classmates wear. In addition, it eliminates a class discussion on the current trends of fashion and provides students more time and energy to focus on education, which is the main reason they stay in school (Gay and Airasian). In 2008, being a presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton enforced school uniforms considering it to be the best option to help students concentrate on learning (Wharton). As the Principal of Woodland Middle School, Chris Hammons noted, school uniforms “provide for less distraction, less drama, and more of a focus on learning” (Huss 33).

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Second, school uniforms may minimize crime and improve the security of children. The mandatory school uniform policy established in Long Beach California reduced the reports of attacks by 34%, the attacks with a dangerous weapon by 50%, violent occurrences by 51%, sexual abuses by 74%, vandalism by 18 %, and burglary incidents by 65% (Wharton). Moreover, uniforms discourage students from concealing weapons under loose clothes, allow the teachers to observe their students on trips, and make trespassers at school, college, or university more noticeable. Wydick, Glewwe, and Rutledge admit that having all the students dressed identically makes them safer as anyone trying to intrude into the community will be easily recognized and caught (412). Therefore, schools, which have mandatory uniforms, are highly respected and supported because the safety of the students is above all.

Next, school uniforms provide equal conditions for all students, and, therefore, reduce bullying and peer pressure. With the help of uniforms, students can be in, more or less, similar positions in the school environment. First, it makes students equal in terms of economic prosperity. Identical outfits make it almost impossible to distinguish which students come from wealthy families, and which come from poorer ones. Moreover, it eliminates the cases of jealousy on more stylish clothes. When there is nothing to compete about, there is no competition at all. Accordingly, if all students are dressed alike, the rivalry in terms of clothes is minimized. Moreover, those students, whose parents cannot afford expensive apparel, experience no inequality while studying at school. Except the beneficial social effect, it causes a positive influence on students’ psychological perception of themselves and, thus, increases productivity and delight in the learning process. As a result, students feel socially accepted and respected. A survey conducted by the National Association of Elementary School Principals in 2013 demonstrated that the majority of students agreed that school uniforms had a notably positive effect in terms of managing the peer pressure in class (”National Survey of School Leaders Reveals 2013 School Uniform Trends”). Approximately 64% admitted that the introduction of uniforms had significantly reduced bullying (”National Survey of School Leaders Reveals 2013 School Uniform Trends”).

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Furthermore, wearing school uniforms promotes a school’s pride, harmony, and team spirit. Such apparel allow the group to become a complete team. In Europe, all educational institutions have different uniforms, which are a part of their tradition (Chen). Children rarely have any reservations about wearing them. Notwithstanding, they are proud of it, as well as of belonging to a particular institution. The study conducted in the United Kingdom proved that uniforms immediately contributed to a sense of school gratification and pride (Clark). A study of over one thousand of Texas students ascertained that the students, who were wearing school uniforms “reported significantly more positive perceptions of belonging in their school community” than those students who belonged to commonly dressed groups (Huss 36). School uniforms increase the level of pride, community, care, trust, and respect. Students feel important and entitled to wear a uniform indicating their belonging to a particular school community.

Additionally, it is believed that school uniforms can reduce students’ absenteeism and improve discipline. The research conducted in 2010 at the University of Houston reported that the introduction of mandatory school uniforms had reduced the level of girls’ non-attendance by 7% (Wilde). Moreover, it was proved that the behavioral problems of the youth had changed into less serious violations (Wilde). Wydick, Glewwe, and Rutledge mentioned that school uniforms “reduced absenteeism by 39 percent and by 64 percent for poorer students” (399). The responsibility imposed on students by school uniforms is one of the possible explanations of the above-mentioned figures. On the other hand, outside the school, children become more distinguishable while wearing school uniforms instead of casual clothes; therefore, it prevents them from missing classes and makes them behave properly.

Moreover, unlike a standard dress code, school uniform policies are enforced more effortlessly; therefore, they save the precious class time. Constant arguments concerning too short skirts and shorts, too sheer blouses and T-shirts, flagging jeans and pants used to consume a substantial time that could have been spent on more pleasant and beneficial activities (Brunsma). Therefore, the main part of uniforms supporters consists of teachers and school administrations that are responsible for children while they are at school. Moreover, any noncompliance with the dress code rules always provokes conflicts between tutors and students. As a result, solving the issues takes the time meant for teaching and learning.

Furthermore, wearing a school uniform prevents a person from displaying any gang colors or emblems; therefore, such practice encourages a safe environment. Many learners are members of particular gang groups and followers of some subcultures. All these social units differ considerably as they usually follow opposing principles and support dissimilar and even contrasting ideas. Therefore, it is not a surprise that when a gang member comes across a member of a different gang, the conflict is unavoidable. In line, a school uniform conceals one’s belonging to a particular social group; therefore, it contributes to a safer and friendlier environment. The tutors of Long Beach Unified School District noted that the impetuous diminution of crime that was the result of the uniforms introduction was directly connected with the abolition of the gang groups’ disagreements (Gay and Airasian).

Equally important, from students’ perspective, school uniforms have a considerable advantage while they make getting ready for school faster and easier. Therefore, wearing school uniforms improves punctuality and eliminates what-to-wear difficulties. Getting up with a clear understanding that the uniform is ready, and one should not search for clothes, match them, try them on, and choose accessories makes the mornings less stressful and more pleasant. While some students prefer spending hours in front of their mirrors trying to find what fits them best, others prefer a disciplined and before-planned choice of outfit. Therefore, school uniforms help the learners avoid the morning hustles and difficulties caused by the what-to-wear uncertainty. The national survey conducted in 2013 stated that over 90% of school leaders admitted that the school dress code eliminates the closet struggle, makes it easier and faster to get ready in the morning, and saves a lot of time (”National Survey of School Leaders Reveals 2013 School Uniform Trends”).

Moreover, school uniforms save an enormous amount of money spent by parents on casual apparel for their children. Instead of buying a whole bunch of clothes, they can purchase one outfit for their offsprings to wear to school every day. In schools, where all learners are dressed in casual clothes, families constantly compete with one another trying to buy their children more fashionable and expensive goods. In schools where all learners follow the dress code, learners make friends with each other without considering one’s wealth and financial or social status but focusing on the personality and individuality.


Finally, it is considered that fellow students and tutors treat those students who wear school uniforms better. The researchers point out that those students wearing uniforms were regarded by peers and teachers like the ones possessing more academic proficiency (Bodine 68). Moreover, students in uniforms were expected to have higher academic prospects and better manners and behavior (Bodine 68). On the other hand, the uniform can reduce unequal treatment based on teachers’ assumptions. The research shows that teachers often impose higher expectations on students who are better dressed. This undesirable attention may include granting better opportunities for well-dressed students. With the help of the uniforms, teachers will make judgments taking into account students’ abilities instead of their appearance.

The debates concerning the school uniform arise every year before the beginning of a new school year. The majority of students acutely oppose the introduction of school uniforms while all teachers and school administration stridently advocate for it. School uniforms, as well as sports and work forms, are designed to create a mood for a particular activity. It means that it should be suitable for this type of activity. The cancellation of mandatory school uniform aggravated the social imbalance. Some parents can afford expensive clothes for their child while others cannot. Consequently, children fail to engage in the learning process as they are busy discussing new articles of their clothes and their compliance with the latest fashion trends.

However, children from not particularly wealthy parents face more severe problems. Not being able to take part in the discussions concerning new products and trends, they remain on the sidelines, being labeled by their classmates as the “backward” and “low grades” (Bodine 69). As a result, they experience humiliation, discouragement, and resentment (Bodine 69). It proves that the division of social classes starts at school. One can be absolutely sure of one thing: school uniform should be pleasant looking and elegant to accustom children to the good taste. The choice of form for the whole class will form a “corporate” culture in the team.

In the United States, children begin wearing uniforms in kindergartens that offer comfortable and appealing outfits. Moreover, for any school event happening out of school, they are also required to wear a uniform (excursions, trips). It is very convenient for teachers because it facilitates the supervision over children. Furthermore, uniforms are used for the general safety, especially when children are small and might be easily lost. In addition, no one considers that learners sacrifice their individuality as they only learn how to be disciplined. Children prove their uniqueness with their success, their behavior with peers and older people, and many other good deeds they do, for example, participation in charity events (Clark).

In Japan, a school uniform suddenly has become a teen fashion standard (Clark). Nowadays, girls outside the school wear something resembling a familiar form of Japanese schoolgirls (white blouse, dark blue pleated mini skirt, high-knee stockings, and light leather shoes that harmonize with them). After a period when the school uniform was considered a symbol of uniformity and suppression of personality, it has become a must for Japanese girls. Some schoolgirls wear uniform despite the fact that their school does not have a rule of its mandatory wearing. Today, the school uniform is no longer a symbol of restriction of freedom. On the contrary, it is a demonstration of the right of teenage girl’s free choice. The limitless freedom that girls enjoy has transformed the school uniform into a symbol of desire.

Why Should the School Uniform not Be Universally Introduced?

Nevertheless, there are plenty of arguments that support the idea of mandatory school uniforms. The main argument against its universal introduction is the assumption that school uniforms prevent students from expressing their individuality and preferences. Supporting their point of view with the Amendment to the USA Constitution, which guarantees the right to express oneself freely, opponents of the practice claim that the school uniform establishment limits the children’s freedom of expression and promotes compliance with the rules by suppressing the uniqueness (Dashiell). According to the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, clothes are a decisive method to express one’s personality (“Four Reasons Public Schools Should Think Twice Before Instituting School Uniform Policies.”). Moreover, it was stated that the permission to choose what to wear is a warranting message sent by the educational institution that aims at assuring that a student is a conscious individual that is provided with the fundamental independence (“Four Reasons Public Schools Should Think Twice Before Instituting School Uniform Policies.”). George Carlin, a satirist. wondered, “Don’t these schools do enough damage, making all these children think alike? Now they’re gonna get them look alike, too?” (Dashiell). Additionally, opponents suggest that wearing uniforms does not influence the students’ attendance and success. Meanwhile, spending more time being dressed in the same clothes “in the same bad school, with the same bad teachers” (Ladson-Billings 109) does not make any difference for the improvement of the learning process. These people strongly believe that students have no other way to express their personality at school except via clothes. Therefore, the issue of introducing a strict dress code seems to be a great problem for them.

The concept of identity is strongly associated with the concept of individuality, originality, and dissimilarity of one person from another (Dashiell). Individuality is an opportunity to act and make decisions while following the own program and logics. In this sense, individuality is shaped very early, already in the first month of human life. Nevertheless, in many situations, people are subjected to social requirements, public actions, or expectation of another person. Resistance to such compulsions is a manifestation of the personality. However, a child masters an art of an independent action much later. The early individuality manifested in actions of a toddler presupposes the first disobedience, stubbornness, and the rebellious assertion, “I will do it myself” (Dashiell). With the flow of time, humans develop the ability to interact with others and understand ambiguous actions, as well as resist patterns, rules, and stereotypes. “I will do it myself!” is considered an expression of a child that is trying to interact with people and the world, and develop certain relationships with them. Accordingly, primarily, the individuality is the ability to evaluate one’s potential to analyze a specific situation on the basis of own skills, especially the ability to set goals and achieve them (Dashiell).

However, the reason is not strong enough while the students’ right to the free expression remains untouched even with the introduction of obligatory school uniforms. For instance, young individuals can express their preferences and individuality by wearing school with some accessories and by offering alternative school outfits. In contrast to the popular opinion that school uniforms suppress students’ individualities, they do not prevent children from being themselves. Amelia Jiminez, a junior high school student, noted, “Uniforms do not silence voices” (Brunsma). Students are free to wear any expressive accessories, including jewelry or buttons. Moreover, nowadays, the Internet provides a great variety of tips that help students add individuality to their school uniforms (for example, the hairstyle, nail polish, colorful socks, and scarves). In his School Uniforms: Conformity vs. Creativity, Andrea Dashiell (2013) mentioned that the review conducted in 2012 proved that 54% of eight-grade students admitted that school uniforms did not stop them from expressing their individuality. Figure 1 describes the paradox of the modern society – students oppose the introduction of obligatory uniforms as they will make them look alike. Nevertheless, they do not notice that today’s fashion trends, social media, and tabloids propagandize the sameness in the everyday life, and a few people oppose the introduction of this sameness.

Conclusion

Among students, parents, and teachers, there exists no commonly agreed point of view on whether or not schools should require students to wear uniforms. The two sides have their arguments, and both points of view have advantages and disadvantages. Nevertheless, having taken into account the arguments provided by supporters and opponents, the paper proved that schools should require their students to wear school uniforms so that they could focus on learning instead of fashion trends and clothing style. Moreover, the introduction of the school uniforms lays the foundation for equality among students in the school setting.

The same clothes for students blur the line of social differences. In these clothes, students from less affluent families will not be subjected to the ridicule and mockery on the basis of their appearance that, otherwise, will impact their success and self-esteem considerably. Also, school uniforms will allow students not to be distracted by discussions of other’s appearance and financial support. Teachers believe that the school uniform is required in order to ensure that the young ones feel comfortable with classmates. First, the clothes do not distract from classes, unlike bright casual clothes that attract attention do. The uniform teaches to be serious, responsible, and disciplined.

It is evident that the debates concerning advantages and disadvantages of mandatory school uniforms put at stake the future of the practice. Nevertheless, it should be remembered that not only the future of the uniforms is considered but also the future of all potential students whose success, respect, or humiliation may directly depend on the clothes that he or she wears. The modern society has created appropriate conditions in order to make people think alike, dress alike, and act alike. Such actions rarely have any positive effects and almost never have good intentions. School uniforms are proved to influence the in-class discipline, students’ security, pride, performance, and achievements positively. The introduction of school uniforms at schools has numerous practicable and advantageous purposes that leave no other unerring choice but to approve it.