School uniforms are increasing in popularity. 49% of USq public schools, such as Oak Harbor Elementary School in Oak Harbor, WA, require their students to wear school uniforms while attending class or representing the school during a field trip. Private schools have often required a school uniform. Over the years, the requirements of the uniform may have changed from suits and dresses to polos and slacks, but the purpose of having the uniform remains the same.
The primary benefit of a school uniform is that it promotes equality. Because each student is wearing the same outfit or is following the same outfit guidelines, students can focus on their studies before focusing on their fashion. That creates a more disciplined learning environment that allows students to pursue what they are passionate about instead of worrying about whether or not their clothes will help them fit in with certain social groups.
The disadvantage of a school uniform is the cost. A child’s polo shirt may cost between $5-$20. Slacks are usually $10-$30. Specific shoes may be required for the classroom and different shoes may be necessary for physical education classes. Dresses, if included, may cost between $10-$30, and jumpers are in the price range as well. Even if a parent does laundry twice per week, that’s a potential cost of $150 per child for clothes that must be kept nice for school.
Here are some of the other pros and cons of school uniforms to think about.
List of the Pros of School Uniforms
1. It encourages discipline.
Whether we like to admit it or not, most people wear uniforms throughout their life. You might not be required to wear a proper uniform at work, but there is likely a dress code that must be followed. You must budget your finances accordingly to have a wardrobe that meets the demands of the employer. It is the same process that school uniforms provide, but without the threat of losing a job. A student might get sent home to change out of an improper uniform, but they’ll still be welcomed back into the school.
2. It promotes friendships.
Students will always form cliques, but school uniforms eliminate numerous ways that traditional cliques would form. There is no emphasis on branding or fashion with a school uniform, especially if the regulations prohibit jewelry or adornments. That allows students to form friendships based on their social interactions instead of visual first impressions, which can lead to an environment that is more welcoming.
3. It doesn’t need to be costly.
School uniforms are often handed down from year-to-year, either through families, organizations like the PTA, or local non-profits. In Oak Harbor, WA, for example, an organization called the Garage of Blessings organizes an annual sponsorship drive that provides a free school uniform to any student in need. The initial purchase of a uniform might be costly, but those costs can be distributed over time so that they have a minimal impact for most families.
4. It makes getting ready in the morning much easier for families.
For families attending a school that requires a uniform, the entire morning routine can go from 60 minutes to 30 minutes when compared to a non-uniform policy. Choosing the “right” clothes is simple: grab the uniform. With less stress involved in the morning routine, kids can focus on eating breakfast, pursuing creative ideas, or spending time playing games with one another.
5. Laundry becomes a lot easier.
Although some families might spend more time doing laundry with school uniforms, the actual process of the chore becomes a lot easier to complete. Most school uniforms are designed so that they can be washed together. Even a family with 4 kids, all wearing school uniforms, it only takes a couple of loads per week to get the clothes properly washed and ready for school.
List of the Cons of School Uniforms
1. Kids generally hate wearing school uniforms.
School uniforms are designed to create an environment of conformity, not comfort. That means the garments can be difficult to wear all day, every day. Students who are not comfortable will not be encouraged to retain the information they are being taught. And, since the cost of purchasing a uniform can be high for many households, parents talk to their children about avoiding stains or damage to the clothing, which limits their recess fun.
2. It limits closet space.
Most kids don’t want to wear their school uniforms after they get back home after a long day of learning. That means having “regular” clothes to change into at the end of the day. For the average child in a non-uniform school, there are 7 basic outfits required to have something clean to wear each day of the week. For a student attending a school with a uniform policy, that number can increase to 12. That can limit closet space or force families into having their child wear the school uniform for more than just school.
3. Bullying doesn’t go away with a uniform.
School uniforms are often supported as a way to decrease bullying, but this doesn’t always happen. 36% of schools, according to the National Association of Elementary School Principals, that have implemented a school uniform policy have not seen significant impacts on bullying behavior within the student body.
4. It may teach compliance rather than creativity.
Following the rules is important, but there are also times when it is important to not follow the rules. School uniforms create an environment where individual choices are discouraged. The only real choice, in terms of fashion, is to follow the uniform policy. Students always find a way to individualize themselves, but if the school is going to be strict about their policies and how they are enforcement, a student at such a school may find themselves at a competitive disadvantage in the future.
5. Branding can still be an issue.
Some families might get their uniforms from a formal supplier, such as French Toast. Others might shop the discount racks at Walmart if a casual uniform, like a polo with chinos, is required. Kids are very aware of branding today and understand that certain uniforms come from wealthier families, even if the cut and color of the clothing is the same. That can create social barriers within the school and promote clique formation unless the school requires everyone to purchase uniforms from the same supplier.
The pros and cons of school uniforms might help with social concerns and improve student discipline, but they might be financially hurting some families to achieve those benefits. About 90% of schools with a uniform policy keep things casual, which can limit costs, but there will always be a debate about whether the benefits outweigh the disadvantages of wearing a uniform.