School uniform - squishing kids into conformity, or egalitarian levelling mechanism?

(14 Posts)
KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 30-Aug-12 14:12:16

This week we've been enduring the special hell that is buying a new terms' worth of school uniforms, and cursing our short-sightedness in not snapping them up in July, when they first hit the shops. How we laughed then, as a whole summer stretched balmily before us. How we cry now, as we bicker over skirt-length with a sulky pre-teen who's spent summer in denim cutoffs and a Jessie J t-shirt, and simultaneously lever a beanstalk twelve-year-old into ten-year-old trousers (the only size left on the rails).

Afterwards, this article by Suzanne Moore got us thinking. Why do we do this to our children (and ourselves)? Do school uniforms, as Suzanne argues, exist only to turn our children into faceless conformists? Or are they an important social leveller, allowing poorer children to opt out of the pressure to consume, and protecting them from bullying?

So our blog-prompt this week is all about uniforms. A quick poll at Bloggers HQ reveals one super-conformist who loved her Clarks' t-bars, and two defiant gals who hitched up school skirts till they were, effectively, belts. What did you think of yours as a child? Have your opinions changed since then - or do you still rail against the tyranny of uniform? Do they serve a useful social function, or do they really belong in the past?

Over to you - do let us know if you blog on this subject here on the thread, and we'll tweet them far and wide. Or if time's against you - perhaps you are busy ironing on name-tags wink - let us know what you think here on the thread.

OP’s posts: |
poppyseeds99 Thu 30-Aug-12 16:02:54

Earrings made of chard - ha! I dread to think what the exacting Guardian dress code demands of its journalists...
We wore a navy uniform which was hardly exciting and my kids wear the same. I don't see a problem with it - it does make them look smarter. If my school skirt could speak it would say 'aren't your legs feeling chilly, given how short I am?' wink

MissAnneThrope Thu 30-Aug-12 16:15:21

Child 2 (another super-conformist) insists on buying black school shoes and grey socks - even though her school doesn't have a uniform. I've tried to terrify her into non-conformism by banging on about the yeeeears of black school shoes ahead at secondary school, but to her, this is thrilling news.

Personally I think uniforms suck; I don't buy the 'social leveller' argument. At my school, it was very clear whose family came from which income bracket by the shoes/bags/jewellery they wore - though interestingly, the really posh tended towards scruffiness. They can afford to I guess, with nothing to be gained by 'keeping up appearances'?

MissAnneThrope Thu 30-Aug-12 16:16:57

And grin at the speaking skirt, poppyseeds99.

Grace29 Thu 30-Aug-12 16:20:15

I like uniform. My kids (at primary and secondary London state schools) wear it. The fabric is never great, the style and colours could be better. But it's fine. And to be honest, my daughter spends an awful lot of time worrying about her wardrobe at the weekend. It keeps things less complicated in the week.

We weren't required to wear a uniform at my 'liberal' secondary school. Most people felt under pressure to look good everyday. The majority of us were privileged kids, and had parents who could afford to buy us expensive clothes. I didn't want to wear any old jeans. I wanted Levis, and not just for the weekend.

I think uniform is a bit of a leveller. It allows children to express their individuality in other ways, not just sartorially. Yes, girls and boys might customise their uniforms so they're not strictly 'uniform' but at least the basic items have to the same. Image is always going to be important to young people, but let's not sweat the small stuff. Uniform is a good way of keeping things simple for pupils and their parents.

mydsisaminecraftaddict Thu 30-Aug-12 16:21:23

I think that some parents think that strict school uniform = good school. It baffles me.

exoticfruits Thu 30-Aug-12 16:37:20

If you had had my mother you would be very pleased to have a uniform! It is all very well if you are allowed to wear what everyone else wears, but a nightmare if your mother has different ideas. Not having a uniform doesn't allow individuality, they all wear the same anyway and they can tell who has spent the most on it. It is just another pressure without a uniform and one they can do without.

Myliferocks Thu 30-Aug-12 16:43:23

When my DC's schools have a non uniform day they just switch from one uniform to another. They all come out dressed the same except soe have named brands while others are wearing the primary equivalent.
My DD used to go to a school with blazer and tie and they still managed to be individuals.

exoticfruits Thu 30-Aug-12 16:46:39

A non uniform day says it all - they all look alike.

Superdooperal Thu 30-Aug-12 21:23:59

School uniform is a schools way of controlling the parents as well as the children. I don't mind uniform but it should be about practicality, economy and comfort, not an excuse to badge every item of clothing and "outlaw" non-badged items which is the way it is going at the school my girls go to. And what happened to the second hand uniform sales that were a regular feature at my secondary school - some of those wouldn't go amiss!

exoticfruits Thu 30-Aug-12 21:43:29

Start a second hand uniform sale- it is quite easy to manage.

twynkle Fri 31-Aug-12 15:55:14

I've blogged about school uniform, and why I chose a school without one -

KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 31-Aug-12 16:16:13

Haha twynkle. I know the bleedin' feeling - last time there were only brown shoes left and I had to 'dye' them black with that roll-on polish and a biro...
We'll tweet your post now.

OP’s posts: |
Nanniejo Mon 03-Sep-12 14:50:33

Generally, children like to look the same. Peer pressure insists that they are "in" if they have the "right" kind of clothing and shoes. School uniform just carries this along, except they don't stipulate the dress code, the adults do. That said, my two eldest who went to school in Germany, didn't seem at any disadvantage without uniform. Kids will always find something else to pick on if they are looking.

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