The case for uniforms

It’s occasionally a topic in the news… the great School Uniform Debate.  Do uniforms stifle kids’ creativity and individualism, or do they reduce bullying and class distractions by making sure everyone is wearing the same thing?  Both? Neither?

While yes, uniforms to reduce students’ ability to showcase their personality through what they wear, wouldn’t it be nice if they could showcase their personality through their actions?  In my opinion, uniforms are a great idea.  You won’t see children ridiculing another child’s hand-me-down clothes or last-season garb.  Everyone in the same skirt/pants, shirt, and shoes means less stress over what to wear in the morning, less comparing to others based on wealth and appearance, less distraction in the classroom.

From a minimalist standpoint, I’ve seen several people describe their pared-down wardrobe as their personal uniform.  As I mentioned before, lots of choices actually means more stress.  Whether it’s getting kids ready for school in the morning or getting dressed for work or the day’s other pursuits, having a limited number of options means more peace of mind about what you’re wearing.

What do you think?

31 thoughts on “The case for uniforms

  1. Samantha says:

    I did go to a school that has a uniform and was strict about it, even down to jewellery and hair colour, we were even told we couldn’t drink a certain well known brand of cola as it clashed with our uniforms. The uniform was the most unflattering design, but it made us all equal. Many of the pupils at my school had far more money than I did, there was no way I could or would have wanted to compete every day on what clothes to wear. I dreaded own clothes day.Because I am small, my uniform lasted from the day I started school until the day I left, it saved my family a lot of money. I don’t think it did stifle any creativity. We all were different, I was the writer, my friend was the artist, other friends were sporty, if anything we noticed more things about people as what they were wearing was simply unimportant. I would not send my children to a school that didn’t have a uniform as the uniform gave me freedom

  2. ashrh01 says:

    I wore a uniform to school from first grade-senior year of high school. Up until high school there was a lot of restriction as to how much jewelry we could wear (one pair of stud earrings, one cross necklace- it was a parochial school, one ring). In high school we were allowed to wear more jewelry and makeup as well but not many people did. I think we liked not having to pick out what to wear to school and not having to worry about accessories.
    Have you ever seen the websites for the Uniform Project, One Dress Protest, or others like it? It’s where various adult women decided to wear only one dress for a lengthy period of time, usually one year but sometimes 6 months or even 1 month. They all have different reasons for doing it, but it does show that you don’t need many clothes.

  3. toemaetoe says:

    I also went to an elementary school that required a uniform, and you definitely still knew who the rich/poor kids were. No matter how strict the rules were about the uniformity of the uniforms, there was still signs of economic hierarchy- the crispness of the pleats, the fading in the plaid, the pilling of the shirts, the brand of jacket worn over the uniform, etc. Also, for what it’s worth, by the time I got to high school, I had no sense of my own personal style (what? a button-down and penny loafers aren’t what the average high-school student wears?) and had a bit of culture shock at an age where you just desperately want to fit in. So, I’m not sure that uniforms solve anything.

    That having been said, I’m definitely one of those adult minimalists with a uniform- black pants/skirt with black shoes and a solid-color top.🙂

    • Caitlin says:

      Thanks for commenting! I’m still not 100% for one way or the other (uniforms or not), and I think the differing experiences from commenters is really interesting. Thank you for sharing your experience. And good on you for having your own personal “uniform” that works for you!🙂

  4. Nickalli says:

    I went to public schools growing up and my son does now as well. I wish in both instances there had been uniforms. I was teased more about what I wore growing up than any other aspect about me – including my weight. My son, is 9 and a boy, so right now he doesn’t really care about clothing and often wears the same thing more than once a week. It will probably be something I’ll need to deal with as he gets older. My husband is in the Air Force and I am often jealous of his ease of getting ready for work.

    • Caitlin says:

      Thank you for sharing your experiences and comments! I personally love having a limited wardrobe and I’ve worn the same pants or dress a couple times in a week and – here’s a big secret no one wants you to know – no one notices!

  5. reachingforserenity says:

    I used to send my daughter to a private Catholic school. As mentioned above, yes, everybody still knew who the “rich” kids were. Kids were still picked on for things like haircut, weight, glasses, the car mom drives, etc. Also, because the uniform was so strict, it cost more money for her uniforms. She could only wear one type of plaid and one skirt or skort was easily 35.00. Sure, they last forever but she was a young kid who outgrew her clothes at an alarming rate. And there were few used plaids because, being a Catholic school, most families hand the plaids down from one kid to the next to the next (because Catholics tend to have large families). So, on top of expensive uniforms, I also had to buy her regular clothes because I was not about to let her play outside in a 35.00 plaid skirt/skort. Also, she could only wear white shirts (seriously…who decided white was a good color for young kids?) which meant I spent a lot of time on stain treating. Needless to say, I fell heavily on the anti-uniform side of the debate.

    I do know that the local public schools have more lax uniform policies. The skirts/pants/skirts can be bought at Wal-Mart or wherever. There is a greater variety of shirt colors allowed. I know several families who love the uniform policy because it saves money on school clothes and wear-and-tear on regular clothes.

    I would say it all depends on your family’s needs as well as the actual uniform policy. But children still get bullied, harassed, and picked on regardless of the dress code.

    • Caitlin says:

      Thank you for your comments! In such a strict setting I can see how uniforms would be less cost-effective, but like you said, more lax uniforms can be affordable. In a perfect world, there would be no bullying… It’s really sad that kids always manage to find something to tease or bully about😦

  6. valerie says:

    I went to – all girls school with uniform, and although I hated it at the time – I love the idea of a pared down mix and match wardrobe with a few lovely things… now.
    Our school was very democratic and allowed sixth form to wear summer dresses made in our choice of fabric,
    as long as it was in our house colours, and Prefects also wore a green satin sash!!!
    Pluses were, without clothes and boys – we concentrated and worked hard….

    • Caitlin says:

      Sounds like you had a reasonable dress code that allowed for some personal style. And it seems like a boy-free zone was good for productivity too!🙂 I agree with you… the idea of a mix-n-match closet with a few items that really work is a wonderful thing. Thank you for commenting!

  7. living lagom says:

    I heart uniforms! Shocking. There are many ways to wear the same uniform. I wore one all through highschool. I then created my own uniform for work: two dresses rotated Monday through Thursday, jeans on Friday. No one really notices and if they do? Who cares…this isn’t highschool anymore!🙂

    • Caitlin says:

      I like your style! No one notices, really? I think people would notice where I work because it’s only a few people… but I don’t really think anyone would care. Interesting to think about. Maybe I will experiment for a week.

      • living lagom says:

        My dresses were gray (one lighter than the other). I wore them with a cardigan, a shirt underneath or a scarf – enough to confuse people. I worked with a lot of people, but in a smaller group. I got compliments on one dress in particular all the time. Maybe people noticed, but most people are in their own worlds. I asked my team once if they noticed (that’s how I roll), they said no. But they didn’t actually care. Why would they?

        Now if you chose a bright yellow dress and a hot pink one, people are going to notice.

        I do notice if people wear the same thing all the time. It’s how my mind works. But then I think, “Oh a kindred spirit!”

        If you wear the same stuff all the time, you can have nicer things!🙂

      • Caitlin says:

        Very true. Quality over quantity!🙂 I have a black dress, a brown polka dot dress, and an orange and black paisley dress. Eventually I will probably move toward a black/grey base coat with colorful accessories or a sweater to mix things up. I love that you only wear two dresses. Love it!

  8. Eric Dobson says:

    In a true spirit of minimalism, I implemented a personal uniform several months ago, and I love it! I only have one shirt (two ‘copies’, one design/color), and one pair of pants. They were specifically chosen to work year-round, in absolutely any climate. I’ve tested it from subzero winter in Montana to tropical heat in the Caribbean. When it’s cold, as needed I add long underwear, windproof fleece pants (under regular pants) and jacket, down (primaloft) vest, and hat/gloves.

    It really has been everything I hoped it would. I can bring all the clothes I own in a small backpack, and they work in any weather. At some point I’ll get around to doing a full blog post/video series about the choice of each item and how they work together, but so far I’ve just been proving the concept and enjoying the simplicity!

    • Caitlin says:

      Wow, I’m really impressed! Good for you paring down so much. I hope you do get around to those posts or videos, I’m interested in learning more about such extremely-minimalist wardrobes.

  9. M Ursula Herrmann (@lothie) says:

    Public schools already do their damnedest to batter out any desire to be “different” that kids might have. Uniforms are just another way they do that. Yeah, sure, the policy probably eliminates some fashion competition, but kids will always find a reason to be mean to other kids, so I don’t really see the benefit there. Trust me, when I was in school, the geekiness or lack thereof of my clothes was the LEAST of my worries. If the kids couldn’t pick on my clothes (which they did do) then they would have picked on how I looked in the uniform, or whatever else they could get their hands on. Kids are monsters if they’re not taught better.

    That said, I’m not necessarily against uniforms, although my own experience with them (as a parent) wasn’t really all that great. I just don’t think they’re teh_awsum.

    • Caitlin says:

      I agree that kids are mean if they aren’t taught better… it’s really sad. There are two sides to everything, pros and cons, and I definitely can see both sides here. As minimalist adults though, it seems that many readers are happy with their own limited-option “uniforms” in their wardrobe, which is great.

  10. Brandi says:

    I’m always on the fence about uniforms. It’s impossible to solve all problems because as it was pointed out, kids are just plain mean. However, I like the idea if they have more options to choose from such as different colored pants and polos. At the same time, I think about how high school is the only time you can dye your hair pink or do crazy things like that which makes me conflicted.

    • Caitlin says:

      I agree, I see both sides too. I did dye my hair purple for a couple years, which was awesome and fun. I never really got teased about clothing though, so my reflections on school uniforms are not exactly anecdotal!

  11. rebekkastarfish says:

    I was pretty annoyed with NOT having a uniform at school (they are not very common in our country). Nowadays they start to hand out school t-shirts, which is a cool start, but the colours and the cut, oh my poor eyes, why yellow, orange and the likes? I would love something inbetween, like a dress code about how much of your body should be covered (many girls around here go to school dolled up like for a night at an adult club) and about the amount of piercings allowed, and maybe some nice polo-shirts with or without a school logo, in two or three different subtle colours to choose from. In our last year of school we traditionally order shirts/sweatshirts for the different homeroom/tutoring groups, so each subgroup of a year’s class has their own chosen “uniform”. My only real fear concerning the possible introduction of a real uniform was the thought of having to wear a skirt to school! If I’ll have kids one day, I would love to be able to put them in a school with a decent kind of uniform with a few choices left.

    • Caitlin says:

      That sounds like a pretty good compromise! It allows some choice but still keeps kids from standing out with “rich” or “poor” clothes. As mentioned before, kids will find something else to tease about besides clothing, but morning preparation times sure would be easier with fewer wardrobe choices.

  12. Charley says:

    When our community started a separate school the parents voted overwhelmingly in favor of uniforms. The “lack” of clothing on the girls in the public schools made it an easy decision.

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