Having grown up watching Lizzie McGuire and That’s so Raven back in the mid-2000s, I always used to wonder why uniform was compulsory at my school but not theirs. Was it a punishment? Were american schools more laid back? Or was it down to reasons I did not understand? In this blog, we will dive into the psychology, benefits and arguments of school uniform.
Mark Zuckerberg is one of the wealthiest people on the planet yet is often seen wearing the same plain clothes. This is not by accident or lack of taste, but merely lack of interest. Mark and many other successful people quite openly state that their wardrobes are full of the same plain outfits, purely because it is one less decision that they must make in their hectic days, and because they are not interested in impressing people with their expensive attire. Cast your minds back to own clothes day at your school, you most likely laid out your outfit the night before or spent the morning rushing to try on 9 different T-shirts before reverting to the 3rd option. It is this unnecessary and time-consuming decision, which is outright eliminated by using school uniform. By making the choice for pupils, we prevent raising their stress levels and starting the day off with doubt, indecision, and pressure.
Speaking of pressure, we all know what it can be like to pick an outfit for certain social events. The thoughts start creeping in as you look in the mirror, ‘I had a photo in this top 2 months ago’, ‘My arms look too muscular’, ‘My feet will hurt in these shoes, but they look nice’. Now repeat the process 5 days a week for around 40 weeks a year, because school is very much a social event in the mind of students. The pressure that uniforms relieve by taking roughly 200 decisions out of students hands each year, is unquantifiable. With mental health at the fore front of our thinking these days, the last thing our next generations need are to be second guessing menial decisions or experiencing teasing or bullying over something avoidable.
Uniforms not only provide a sense of belonging, organisation, and togetherness, they create equality. If everybody is wearing the same uniform, there are no stressful mornings, no time-consuming decisions, and no unwanted attention. Underprivileged children or families may not have 40 tops and 10 pairs of shoes that they can rotate but maintaining and rotating a few sets of uniform is far less of a strain. Especially if the initial purchase of school uniform is aided by Government funding. For younger or more active children, the uniform can also be a bit of a safety net! They know any Ketchup or Mud stains will magically vanish overnight, allowing their creativity and adventure to flourish.
Example: Schools like Christopher Columbus High School in Miami, Florida, implemented a uniform policy that led to reduced socio-economic pressures and increased inclusivity among students.
Increased focus on learning
Given that students attend school to learn, this is quite a big one! The use of uniform means that, aside from social interactions between lessons, students can fully focus on the tasks and activities in front of them. By removing the aforementioned stress and decisions, students in uniform are more relaxed and likely to engage during lessons, rather than adjusting their jewellery or sleeves.
Example: A study conducted by the University of Houston found that schools with uniform policies reported fewer disciplinary issues and improved academic performance in comparison to schools without uniforms.
Now, let’s look a couple of the negative factors that uniform policies bring to the table.
Limiting Individual Expression
You could argue that school uniforms limit students’ ability to express themselves and explore their personal style. By mandating specific attire, schools may inadvertently curb their students’ creativity and discourage self-expression.
Increased Conformity and Suppression of Diversity
It has also been suggested that uniforms promote conformity among students and suppress diversity, as individuality is less celebrated. Consequently, this can hinder the development of critical thinking and discourage students from challenging norms.
Pushing the Boundaries
There will be a number of students who do not see themselves settling down in to office jobs or wearing shirts and ties every day. This can lead to some students trying to ‘add their own twist’ to their uniform, like wearing their tie shorter or untucking their shirt. So while everyone may be wearing the same uniform, you are likely to have a small number of students dislike or even rebel against it.
Overall and speaking from personal experience (contrary to my teenage self’s mindset), I think uniforms do more good than bad, particularly when you consider the mental and emotional aspects we have discussed. Do you agree?