The Dark Side of School Uniform
School uniform is something I have worn my whole schooling career. However, there is a dark side to it that is not often discussed. Find out more here.
Throughout my whole schooling career, I have had to wear a school uniform. Before I highlight the things that worry me, I think school uniform has benefited me greatly.
One of the first is having a sense of belonging. Putting on my school uniform every day made me feel like I was accepted. It was a good school and most children from other schools would speak about it.
I remember waiting for my bus and seeing a mother dropping her child at the bus stop. It was his first day of secondary school, and he looked as nervous as she did.
Once we made eye contact, I told her not to worry because my friends and I would look after him. She looked thankful, and I spoke with him all the way to school and watched him go through all the years.
He is now at university, and we still talk from time to time. Without having a school uniform, I would have never felt the need to reach out to the new student. After all, he could be some random person on the street.
All the students in my school felt like they belonged. We all looked out for eachother and sometimes got in trouble to keep eachother safe. An example of this was when we got into a massive fight with a rival school to protect a young girl from our school.
But, it was not just a sense of belonging. I also felt smart every time I put on my blazer and tie. I would not say I looked amazing, but having the opportunity to wear a suit every day made me feel intelligent. I know for some people, school uniform reduces their confidence and self-esteem. For me, I felt it gave me a chance to look sophisticated.
Even so, there are some problems I have with school uniforms that are rarely talked about. Many students experience these thoughts but never voice them. Although everyone looks happy in their school pictures, there is a dark side.
It Encourages Intolerance to Different Cultures
I read a report highlighting the problems ethnic minorities face with school uniforms. A school had banned braids as a hairstyle because it was not in line with the hairstyles seen as professional.
My aunt, who works in law, has first-hand experience of this. Everyone she works with is white and has beautiful permed and well-kept long hair.
Unfortunately for her, her hair grows outwards and up as a black individual. Not for any fault of her own, she can not make her hair look like theirs.
Nevertheless, the law firm she was working in demanded that she would need to tie it up in a bun. She complied for the first couple of months but then left because she felt uncomfortable and not accepted. And I do not blame her for having those feelings at all.
Black students who experienced discrimination for their braids in their hair will struggle too. It is part of our culture and is a wonderful way to express colour and authenticity through our hair. But school uniform rules tried to limit this, leading to intolerance to different cultures. Thankfully, the schools doing this lost the case.
The beauty standards are different everywhere you go across the world. And how one set of individuals expresses professionalism may not be the same as another. School uniforms, whether intentionally or not, make the standard one size fits all.
That is not to say that there should be no standards in what school children should wear. However, it can cause an intolerance to different cultures as school uniform restricts the view of expression. And as you can see can make people feel left out or not apart.
As a student, I would always get in trouble for my school uniform. It was not until 16 years of age that I valued looking smart and took pride in wearing a suit every day. But even then, some of my friends who wanted to experiment with their suiting styles were frowned upon.
Lucky for me, I fell in love with a simple plain suit, a good pair of shoes and a tie. And that was identical to my school uniform. However, they wanted to experiment with patterned suits, different types of shoes and funky ties.
I could not understand why. But as I got older, I realised it was a way of trying to express individualism. Even I realised I was doing it with having a briefcase as a school bag rather than a standard rucksack.
School uniform makes everyone look the same. If you are in the army, that would be a good thing as you can spot your team quickly. But as young teenagers still trying to find themselves, it may have negative effects.
It took me a while to find the clothing style and colours I like. Developing a fashion sense is a core part of your individuality and finding yourself. It is the way we differentiate ourselves from others and express our uniqueness.
School uniforms can hinder personal growth in this sense, as part of growing up is finding yourself and making decisions for what you like. I remember going through a lot of stress over the school holiday’s when trying to fit in with my peers. We all wanted to wear the same things and have the same trainers. Part of this was because we were so used to looking the same.
People would be mocked for not having a specific style. It is only, as we age, we learned that people should wear whatever they want. It is an expression of their own identity and who they are or who they want to be.
School uniforms can make it harder for young people to find their own identity away from school and the uniform they wear.
As I have already highlighted, I do not believe school uniform is inherently a bad thing. I enjoyed putting it on, and there are benefits. However, some limitations can hurt individuals and limit a person’s progress.
The question is, how do we combat those problems? My school used to hold culture days and non-uniform days to allow for people to express themselves. Non-uniform days were never successful because everyone was peer pressured into looking the same.
Although I must say, cultural days were good. However, some students were still left out as students believed that these days were only for ethnic minorities. So white British students would not do anything to take part as they felt they had no culture.
These problems are essential to combat as they are related to an individual’s identity. We want a world full of different cultures, views, and opinions because good ideas are produced from it. It would be great to hear some of the solutions you have and if you think having no uniform would be a better solution.
I am a Visionary and Writer who seeks to enrich society by challenging how we do business today to lead to a world of better leaders and opportunities tomorrow.