History of School Uniforms

When a student dons a school uniform, he/she is ushered in an environment which encourages learning and teaches the value of harmony and equality among every classmate. Many countries have school uniform resembling a military outfit. Debate over issues of making uniform mandatory has sparked controversy in many parts of the world as many countries are banning religious dresses and urging students to follow the code of conduct. In many countries uniforms are used to blend the students irrespective of their caste, color, creed and status. In a way mandatory uniforms are beneficial as children are not condemned for their status nor they face ragging over some petty issues.

Historic Importance of School Uniform

School Uniforms in England

When we talk about the uniform policy the first thing that crops into our mind is rules, punctuality and obedience. These words point to a single country who started this revolution – England. This country who ruled over almost the whole world started this rule where wearing uniform was compulsory in schools. Though the uniform was first worn by orphan children who represented the lower class, the uniform slowly found its way in the rich strata. The idea behind this standardized dress started in Cambridge around 16th century and even though it was met with staunch opposition by the students the uniform gradually acquired a status symbol.

Many elite public and private schools in United States and England started using uniform as a symbol of fineness and superiority. School uniforms were introduced in English schools in order to implement the mass principle which denied self-expression. As the popularity of uniforms increased the trends towards different summer and winter uniforms came into existence. The uniform for boys were pants and blazers and for girls were tunics and blouse.

In 1920s a typical uniform had blazer, shirt, short pants, knee socks, flat heeled shoes and a cap for boys. The boys wore caps which had school emblems decorated on it and dark solid colored blazer were worn by many school students. Also bright colored stripes were used for blazers. The boys also donned plain colored shirts with tie, belts and short pants. The girls on the other hand wore gymslips a form of dress which had skirts embedded with shirts. The colors used for the dress were generally in darker shades. Girls too had to wear knee length socks and flat heeled shoes.

School Uniforms in United States

According to an historian, uniforms have a severe past attached to them. Uniforms were introduced in United States around 1979 to tackle the problems of violence among students who fought for designer clothes. The uniform policy was effectively implemented by President Clinton who wanted to stop the gang war problems. Statistical reports state that only 25% of primary schools and around 10% of secondary schools in United States have strictly implemented the uniform policy.

Though in recent times it has become the most debated topic among parents and educators with many critics stating the fact that wearing uniforms has no impact on the thought process of a student nor does it considerably reduce inequality among the masses. But the idea of uniforms didn’t work with the Americans and so certain code of conduct relating to clothing bearing uniforms came into practice. Parents are instructed to follow certain rules, like for boys, pants, shirts with turtleneck, sweaters and blazers are accepted, while in some schools, shorts are strictly prohibited. Similarly, for girls, skirts with length as advised by the school, shirts, pants, leggings but with skirts and no heels in shoes.

School Uniforms in Other Countries

School uniforms in other countries such as Thailand, Indonesia, India and Pakistan were introduced during the British colonial period. In these countries, girls in senior secondary usually wear ‘Salwar Kamiz’ and boys wear pants and shirts. In preschool though, girls wear skirts and blouses and boys wear short pants and shirts. In other parts like New Zealand and Australia where the British colonial rule was in effect, the uniform system was followed in the public school system. The dressing sense closely resembled with the English students. Though there have been modifications undertaken by schools as to in which type of schools the uniform is essential. Mostly in Catholic, senior secondary and private schools uniforms are mandatory. The purpose of a school uniform is to promote team spirit, discipline and enhance equality among all students.

Though uniforms have intended to wipe out the discrimination meted out to the weaker section, critics have a different story to say. According to them, uniforms have no such great impact on the mindset of students. These standardized dresses have not helped students remove any barriers and are adding costs to the parents. The rudimentary principle behind these uniforms was to inculcate work like environment, discipline and enhance students to concentrate to excel in academics. In many countries, though the impact of wearing uniforms has produced some positive results yet in United States, the implementation requires a lot of efforts before we can achieve full-fledged success.