Our public middle school has mandated school uniforms for the upcoming school year, and many students and parents are not happy about it. Recent school group parent conversations about unrelated topics have consistently turned into a discussion about the new uniform requirement. Parents opposed to uniforms seem to express the same concerns, all of which are valid. Yet, I feel there is a broader perspective about uniforms that is so positive many naysayers are missing. Here are the top three complaints I’ve heard from our community on which I hope to shed a positive light.
School uniforms are costly.
The cost of school uniforms averaged over the entire year will most likely save you money. Consider tween/teen girls’ outfits for example — typically they consist of more than one top, one bottom, and shoes. Layering shirts (and bottoms) and accessories rule outfits for girls at this age. Headbands, earrings, belts, bracelets (oh, the bracelets!), necklaces, pins, shoes, etc. are carefully curated. Clothing flair like this can be costly. The simplicity of school uniforms saves money.
While there is a brick-and-mortar store where uniforms can be purchased in person (online, too), our school allows families to purchase items for the uniform from Target, Walmart, Amazon, or anywhere they wish as long as the item meets the outlined requirement. However, purchasing from the uniform store can be beneficial because it is the only place where clothing includes the school logo/emblem, and discount package options are available when buying in-store. The uniform store also provides a Uniform Fund designated to our school that accepts donations (when buying in person) to help families in need who are purchasing uniforms. It’s also worth mentioning if you’re a parent with younger children, uniforms are made with more durable materials, come in unisex options, and make great hand-me-downs for younger siblings — another potential cost savings.
Uniforms stifle a child’s expression of their individuality.
I may be aging myself using the term “flair” describing uniform accessorizing; I digress before I even present my positive perspective on a young person’s expression of individuality.
The good news for these expressive students is that they can still accessorize their uniform with many of the items listed above. Shoes will be restricted to closed-toe, yet it is this Gen Z era that defines the trends and influences the rest of us. Did any of us really wear sneakers with suits or dresses before Gen Z made it cool to do so? Thank you, Gen Z.
It’s impressive that students today are more vocal about their ideologies than we were in our days, but I disagree that wearing a uniform undermines a student’s freedom of expression. I challenge students who want to make a certain statement or impact to do so by getting involved in a club, creating a club (highly encouraged at our school), or extracurricular activity. These avenues provide outlets and guidance for expression way more impactful than an ideology T-shirt.
For the youth who feel fashion trends are part of their identity, I feel that to my core. I wish I knew at that age that fashion does not equal style, and the highest level of style is not a label/logo exploding all over your clothing. The highest level of style worn is self-confidence, and it doesn’t matter if your outfit is from Goodwill or Gucci, a person’s confidence is their biggest asset. Wearing uniforms allow students to focus on other creative outlets of expression like music, arts, and sports, which shapes their identity and builds self-confidence innately, more than any crop top or hoodie.
Uniforms are about control.
On this, I agree.
Uniforms will control the wasted time spent at school dress coding students. Talking with teachers and administrators about dress code violations, I was surprised to learn they are very high at our school. Singling out a student for violating the dress code is a teacher’s least favorite thing to do — they are sensitive to students’ feelings and never want to embarrass them. The procedure also disrupts classroom time, and a parent’s day when they have to bring a change of clothing to school. Dress code violations are an unnecessary expenditure of everyone’s time and not fun for anyone involved.
Uniforms also control the time at home deciding what your child will wear and could decrease stress levels. When a student is less focused on what they are wearing, they can focus more on what they are learning or creating. Uniforms remove “decision fatigue,” a concept many of our most successful leaders understand/understood. Leaders like Steve Jobs, Sheryl Sandberg, Barack Obama, Richard Branson, Carolina Herrara, and Albert Einstein understood that wearing a uniform readies you for the day and mentally enables success.
Uniforms may also control the level of community and safety the student body feels due to the simple fact they’re ALL wearing the same thing. In light of recent years and events, the mental health of students has become a top priority among schools, and uniforms contribute to improved student morale and wellbeing by instilling a sense of community. The uniformed student body is ONE BODY, all of them representing TOGETHER. The feeling of belonging reduces judgment, harassment, and peer pressure within. Camaraderie can flourish in these circumstances and make the collective stronger. Uniforms can also make them safer. If there was an intruder, they would be identified quicker since students and staff are dressed alike.
Ultimately, I hope families appreciate the broader goal of implementing student uniforms at our public middle school. I honestly believe it will enhance school pride, and community spirit, reduce peer pressure that leads to bullying, and increase school safety and unity. And if students wearing school uniforms is the catalyst for an end goal like this, I’m all for it.