School Uniforms, Yes or No?

I am a freshman in college, and for my English class, we do a listserve where we debate a single hot topic everyweek. This week’s topic is whether or not school uniforms are good or not. I am the only one who thinks that uniforms aren’t as wonderful as everyone makes them out to be. Am I wrong im my opinion? Do uniforms really prevent violence and reduce discrimination?

Just to say, I figured this should go in the Great Debate forum, but after reading the thorough dismantling of some people’s arguments, I got scared. So I figured I’d try to pose it as a poll on opinion, and if it got moved, so be it.

So, school uniforms, yes or no?

Hey, why not? Though I go to a public school where we don’t wear uniforms, I wouldn’t mind it that much. I’m getting to an age where practicality conquers looking fashionable. I mean, can you imagine how much money you’d save wearing the same thing every day instead of buying back-to-school clothes?

I have 3 kids (15, 18, 19) one is still in school, but all attended the same private catholic high school. The school does not require uniforms. To my shock all 3 of my kids have said at one time or another that they wish they had uniforms, for the same reasons Welfy gave. I thought for sure my fashion conscious daughter would have hated the idea, but I was dead wrong. Although I feel uniforms rob a person of their individualism, I tend not to afford children the same rights and privileges that I do adults. So I give 5 votes (me, my wife, and 3 kids) for yes to uniforms.

I don’t know…can we can uniformed miniskirts and cool Express blouses? Because my problem would be that they’re so unfashionable.

Anyway…if they imposed a uniform, we’d all just rise up and conquer. Of course. :slight_smile:

Being someone that has to wear school uniforms, I have to say that they aren’t really all that they are cracked up to be. If people can’t judge others on their clothes, then they will simply find something else to judge them about. The clothes they make us wear, on top of being ugly, are extremely uncomfortable. I think they get the most scratchy material that they can find on purpose. I know I work better on dress down days when I can just wear jeans. The one good thing I can think of in favor of uniforms is that it gives me more time to sleep in the morning.

Hate to use an example from a correctional setting, but one arguement against school uniforms is that it makes identification difficult:

in a large school, you don’t know everybody, neither do teachers and administrators. So, you have a setting where something happens, and you say “yea, it was the guy wearing the school uniform…” vs. “It was the guy with a yellow porn star t shirt, wide leg khaki’s …” (by the way, the latter is what my son wore on picture day. :rolleyes: -grandpa will be so proud…)

School uniforms- yes, but I don’t really think it can be done in public schools

Do they reduce violence? Only in the most remote way- you probably won't get your expensive sneakers stolen if they're at home. Reduce discrimination? *Maybe* wealth based but only if it's a true uniform ( everybody wears the exact same pants, shirt, shoes, etc), not a restrictive dress code ( every one wears navy pants,but some are obviously expensive and others cheap }and only if it's mandatory.

So why do I say yes? Two reasons- a uniform or even a dress code prevents inappropriate dress and uniforms can be much less expensive than doing the whole back to school wardrobe thing.For example, if I had to buy my daughter a complete uniform it would be - vest $20, skirt $30, gym sweats $30, shorts & tshirt $15 ,5 blouses $35, shoes $20 and $10 each for socks and tights for a total of $170 . That’s somewhat less than the difference between a weekend and afterschool wardrobe and a full wardrobe,but the real saving is in subsequent years, because I don’t need the full uniform every year. I may need only the skirt, or only blouses and socks.


I am very opposed to uniforms.

Mostly I am against the theory. Do we want our children to be conformists or to “think outside of the box”? Innovation and leadership are major American values, and I don’t think that school uniforms promote those. Yes, with free expression you will sometimes get things you don’t like. But, if we want people to think for themselves, that is the risk we take. And considering the limited amounts of self expression that children and teenagers get, I think we can afford to give them this little thing. For some kids, dressing outrageously is a very mild and non-permanent form of rebellion. I would much rather see them express rebellion in clothing instead of action.

That said, there are practical reasons as well. Our bodies are all different, and we choose our clothes to fit our bodies. For example, even with industrial strength anti-presperent, I sweat like mad. So I wear almost exclusivly tank tops that won’t show a big circle of sweat all the time. When I am cold I cover up with a sweater that is think enough not to let sweat soak through. If I had to wear, say, a white button down shirt with sleeves, I would be laughed at to no end because of my sweatiness. And my hips and legs are somewhat out of porportion, so that traditional pants are not comfortable. I remedy that by wearing straight-legged pants. But I dont think they make straight-legged school uniforms. Why should we punish people whoes bodies ar a little different here and there by not letting them choose clothes that work for them individually?

Many of the arguments for school uniforms are flawed.

People say they reduce crime. If you think that clothing causes crime, you are very naive. Crime is caused by a variety of social and economic factors. Clothing may rarely instigate crime, but it doesnt cause crime. And changeing that clothing isnt going to make the crime magically disappear. Even if gang affiliations cant be made by clothing, a way will be found to display gang identity. No one is going to day “I can’t wear my red bandana? I guess I’ll just give up”. In absence of clothing idicators, people will just turn to hair style, way of walking, gang signs and other ways to tell.

People say they reduce the humiliation of being poor. The biggest thing on poor children’s minds isn’t what they are wearing. And schools in most places, except for some cities, have children from the same general economic backgrounds, anyway. That said, there are plenty of ways for kids to know who is rich and who is poor. Rich kids can afford perms, nice shoes, better backpacks, more expensive birthday parties, cars, and other things that we can’t eliminate. Uniforms can’t make the gap between rich and poor go away, and it can’t even hide it effectively! And while uniforms may be cheaper for some people. They are more expensive for the truely poor. The truely poor will have to buy expensive uniforms instead of being able to use hand-me-downs, thrift stores, and discout stores.

People say they are make life easier. Since when is it better to live an easy life through less choices? If you can’t decide what to wear in the morning, what are you going to do when you have to make real decisions in life? And if you really do want a simplified wardrobe, you are perfectly free to have one. If you can’t forgo a fashionable wardrobe to one you prefer without making everyone else do it too, you have a long ways to go.

This sounds good to me, but I also wanted to add that school uniforms only make sense as part of a broader program of evenly-enforced discipline. The uniforms that Catholic schoolkids wear are only a symbol, they aren’t what REALLY makes these schools different.

Oh yeah, the poor don’t own washing machines to wash their school uniform every night. When I was growing up, we didn’t have a washing machine and laundry was an ordeal. We made up for it by owning enough clothes to get us from laundry-time to laundry-time. Imagine how icky a uniform would become if they were only washed when this theoretical poor family can get the time to haul their clothes to the laundrymat, surrender their quarter, wait for them to wash and dry, and then haul the clothes back. it was certainly hard for me growing up to know that my everyone laughed at me because my gym clothes didn’t get washed as often as everyone else’s. I can only imagine how hard that owuld be if it included my regular school clothes, too. The only solution is to buy several sets of uniforms, which turns out being expensive.

School uniforms have no purpose, so far as I can tell.

What, exactly, are they supposed to do?

Just another way to spend tax-payer’s money while pretending to solve problems. IMHO.

previous thread about school uniforms

I’ve been on both sides of this issue. I went to Catholic school for four years, and wore uniforms. It was no big deal, since it was all I knew and all my friends went to private schools since the public schools in the area (Fishtown, Philadelphia late 70’s-early 80’s)were decrepit and dangerous. When my family moved to Maryland, I attended public school from grade 4 on. Frankly I preferred uniforms. It was nice not to have to worry about what to wear.

Now at my job I wear a uniform. It is incredibly dorky, and has a patch on the shirt with my name on it (any Jeff Foxworthy fans out there?), but I’m still glad I don’t have to pick out clothes in the morning.

I’ve got a quick response to those who say that uniforms are cheaper. What do your children wear on the weekends? I’m pretty sure that they don’t go out wearing their school uniforms. What do they wear? Regular clothes that you have to buy also. So uniforms actually end up being more expensive. Don’t they?

hypergirl, that’s exactly what I think.

I went to a fee paying school in Scotland and took the public bus home. We had to wear a navy wool blazer with the school crest on it, a red and blue kilt, navy tights, white shirts,the school tie and a navy jumper. Our uniform was very noticeable and made us a tagret for abuse from the state school kids. Most of the time we were fine, we didn’t make eye contact and were polite as not to antagonise anyone. Some were called names and one girl had a cigarette burnt through her kilt leaving her with scars on her leg. Mind you, when the Scotland rugby matches were on we did become quite popular - school girls in kilts.
But I have to admit it did have its upsides. It was warm, you weren’t so fashion conscious as everyone wore the same - when you got to wear your own clothes, things could turn quite bitchy.
I don’t have to wear a uniform now and I prefer it as I don’t have to carry a change of clothes around if I want to go out after school and I don’t feel so conspicious.

I attended a Catholic high school in Ontario with mandatory uniforms. It might just be coincidence, but I did notice two things:

  1. My school, though a large urban school, did not have NEARLY the level of class distinction I see described by other SDMB posters about their high schools, and saw and heard about in other schools in the city I grew up in. There were obvious groups of friends and some people were more popular than others, but there were no hard or fast cliques, bullying was more or less nonexistent and there was no consistent “elite” of athletes/cheerleaders the way other high schools seem to have.

Overt social outcasting or abuse was rare. The level of social stratification you hear about a la Columbine just did not happen, and I was on both sides of the popularity fence. In fact, the most popular kids were more often the academic stars than the athletic ones. The flat-out geekiest kid in my class - and I mean El Geeko Supremo, folks - would sometimes eat lunch with the prettiest girls. To be rude or abusive to someone because they weren’t in your crowd would have been considered an act of the most astonishing gooberosity, especially after we’d been there a year or two.

  1. The school had “non-uniform” days for various reasons (special events, and twice a month just for the hell of it) and in-class discpline dropped noticably on those days.

As has been pointed out, these phenomena might have more to do with the discipline underlying the Catholic High School Experience than the uniforms. If the football team captain had done to someone at my high school (Regiopolis Notre-Dame - go Panthers!) what I hear about them doing at some of your high schools they would have been a) ratted out by dozens of enthusiastic eyewitnesses, b) punished with swiftness and great severity, and c) instantly earned the ridicule and contempt of their peers. I cannot imagine Scott McMenamin, Enzo Bracciodetta, or any of our other football stars being the sort of Grade-A+ assholes I hear about at other schools. To actually physically strike someone and get away with it was completely inconceivable.

But this isn’t back in the good old days, this is 1985-1990, and “Catholic” schools in Ontario are just a separate public school system; you don’t even have to be Catholic to attend them. The difference between them and public schools isn’t that great, but the uniforms are one major difference. So you never know.

I know there are other guys out there who will agree with me… the traditional Catholic Schoolgirl uniform… pleated skirt… knee-high socks… pigtails… mmmm… yummy… I should get one for my girlfriend for my upcoming birthday :wink:

Someone above mentioned that a restrictive dress code can still underscore class differences, based on the varying quality of superficially similar attire. I have a
1960 edition of the World Book Encyclopedia, and the article on “Office Work” has a photograph that speaks volumes on this. You see two men and one woman seated at what first appears to be a conference table. One man is seated facing
the viewer, and one man is sideways to the viewer. The woman has a steno pad out, and you think here are two executives discussing an important business matter, and the
stenographer is doing the minutes. Then you notice, it’s not a table, it’s the first man’s impressive desk. The second man is sitting at the end (itself an indication of lower status), and you can see that his suit, though at first sight appearing to be of high quality, is poorly tailored. The legs ride almost half-way up his calves as he
sits. The conclusion is that this second man is just another underling, and not an equal or near-equal. He looks to be about 50, and his expression, as far as you can see it, is one of eager cooperativeness. He’s probably a low level office manager or bookkeeper. The first man, on the other hand, has a look of urbane self-assurance and control.

I can’t help wonder if these people are all just models and if the person who composed the photograph these many decades ago intentionally included these details.


Our childrens attend a private Christian school which adopted uniforms this year. They wear black or khaki cotton pants and either grey or black (collared) golf shirts or sweatshirts. We can pick what they wear as long as it fits this description.

It cost us less to get them outfitted for school and picking out clothes for the morning is pretty simple.

They look great and aren’t likely to get picked on as they walk home each day.

I haven’t seen any loss of individuality in our boys. They don’t seem to mind either.