Schools and Standardized Uniforms

For years, schools have struggled with this question: should uniforms be mandatory? When considering the decision, it is important to consider the social, mental, and ethical repercussions.

Tiana Cyrelson

More stories from Tiana Cyrelson

We Are Free
May 25, 2021
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Tiana Cyrelson/Canva.com

Students should have the freedom to express themselves how they wish, which would allow for important social and mental development.

   Nearly every girl knows the rules.

   Two fingers wide, must reach the ends of your fingertips, no stomach can be shown, and it must not be too tight. Since elementary school, young girls have been very restricted when it comes to the clothes they pick for themselves. If they do not abide by these guidelines, they are sent to the nurse’s office to change into clothes from the lost and found pile. 

   Some schools choose to avoid this hassle altogether, implementing a mandatory uniform policy. This decision is usually met with heavy backlash, leaving schools in a difficult position. 

   For years, schools have struggled with this question: should uniforms be mandatory? When considering the decision, it is important to consider the social, mental, and ethical repercussions.

   General opinion on the social effects of uniforms is split between good and bad. “Fast fashion” is a common plight among less fortunate students, as they are often unable to keep up with the ever-changing trends. If a skirt is in-style one season, but out the next, they may not have the money to replace their entire wardrobe each year. 

   Furthermore, name-brand clothing is a large indicator of status, and eliminating this would alleviate a stressor on students. On the other hand, students use clothing to express themselves. 

   First appearances are one of the most important pieces of deciding who to be friends with. Those who have more interest in sports will typically gravitate towards people who dress in t-shirts and shorts, while people more interested in the liberal arts may seek out people with more alternative fashion sense. By eliminating this important indicator, it may be more difficult for students to branch outside of their friend groups.

   Mentally, the opinions on uniforms are overwhelmingly negative. Throughout the twelve years of school that all students have to endure, there is very little autonomy. 

   According to a study discussed in a thesis by Jennifer Rodriguez, a student at Rowan University, “for self perception, students in schools without uniforms reported significantly higher self perception than did students in schools with uniforms.” 

   Students have a tendency to rely on their clothing to express themselves, so cutting off that outlet could be detrimental to mental health. As young teens, we often struggle with our own identity, and forcing uniformity can delay that important development. Allowing students to dress themselves would encourage exploration of their individuality, an important factor in decision-making for their future.

   Whether uniforms are beneficial or detrimental in the mental and social aspects is a nearly worthless argument compared to the ethical consequences. The truth of the matter is that two percent of all high school students identify as transgender, according to the CDC. While this may seem like a small number, it’s nearly 300,000 individuals.

   There is a large amount of resistance from the transgender and non-binary community when it comes to gendered uniforms. For trans individuals, it would not only force them to come out, but they would also likely have to fight their school to wear the uniform of their preferred gender. Additionally, for less progressive schools, transgender students may be forced to wear the uniform of their assigned gender, which may cause strong dysphoria.

   For non-binary students, gendered uniforms can also cause a struggle, as they may not be allowed to wear the uniform they prefer, which can cause many negative effects in self-identity. For this reason alone, mandatory gendered uniforms should be banned. 

   When the social and mental aspects are added into the equation, the answer is clear: high schools should not have the power to institute a mandatory uniform policy. Students should have the freedom to express themselves how they wish, which would allow for important social and mental development. Looking out onto a sea of students, one should be able to see the vibrant colors of personality, not limited by monotonous mandatory uniforms.