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Uniforms Vs. Dress Codes

Uniforms Vs. Dress Codes

What is the difference between a school uniform and a dress code? Will wearing a school uniform or adhering to a specific dress code really make a difference in performance and in social issues faced in school? We discuss the issues pertaining to both, here.
Puja Lalwani
We have been through the debate regarding school uniforms several times before. Some say they are good, some say they are bad, while others maintain a neutral stance towards them. Then we have studies that tell us that wearing school uniforms brings about more discipline and has reduced the number of school-related crimes considerably. On the other hand, there is the school dress code that comes close to creating some sort of uniformity among students. What is more effective? Should children don uniforms vs. following a specific dress code? Let's take a closer look into this argument.

School Uniforms and School Dress Codes

In today's day and time, neither school uniforms nor school dress codes are strictly enforced in schools. However, the government does back schools that are trying to enforce these policies. Here, we discuss both sides of the coin and try to understand which one may be a more effective approach to attaining uniformity.

School Uniforms
A school uniform intends to create uniformity among all its students. It intends to break the barriers of class and social status, and have a uniform mode of dressing for students.
  • While implementing a school uniform is a great choice in terms of this thought, not many kids agree on wearing school uniforms. These are children who wish to express their individual style and themselves through their clothes.
  • However, what they fail to understand is that dressing uniformly instills a kind of discipline, a commitment, and a responsibility towards oneself and one's school. Students achieve a sense of belonging, and this sense of belonging is what guides them further in life.
  • In fact, wearing school uniforms will sort of eliminate the need for parents from lower income families to have to buy clothes for kids to 'fit in' with the remaining crowd in school. It will also reduce the tendency of bullying to a certain extent.
  • On the other hand, it is also true that sometimes affording school uniforms is difficult for parents and they would rather buy clothes for their kids that are up on sale at discounted prices.
School Dress Code
A school dress code involves allowing kids to wear what they like within the norms laid out by the school. For instance, clothes should not be very revealing, jeans and pants without too many pockets may be worn, shirts and t-shirts in solid colors may be allowed, and hair may be made in a particular way. A dress code may also not allow students to exhibit piercings or tattoos on their bodies.
  • It is believed that this system gives a little more freedom choosing what one wishes to wear, and allows a student to maintain her/his identity through these clothes.
  • The downside may be the brand-consciousness that accompanies such clothes. Even to fit within a dress code, kids from high-income families may resort to wearing various brands that will bring about a sort of social distinction among them in school.
  • However, enforcing a dress code will definitely allow lower-income families to be able to afford clothing that fits into these limitations.
  • It is suggested that schools should be given a handbook that contains a warning regarding violation of the dress code policy. Simply put, students who violate the dress code will have to face disciplinary action.
Eventually, what needs to be understood is the implication of enforcing either policy. Will it really bring about a change in the socio-economic divide that occurs due to the lack of a strict policy enforcing school uniforms? Will a dress code allow students to remain disciplined in spite of being given a certain amount of freedom in the kind of clothes they wear? Either way, these issues require the involvement of parents and students alike in the process, and only after a mutual consensus is agreed, should a decision be arrived at. Finally, proponents of dress codes and uniforms in schools suggest that enforcing these policies is a way of preparing kids for the future, where they will have to adhere to either in the workplace. In effect, it is important that the real issues regarding the problems in the educational system be addressed rather than solely attributing them to the lack of adherence to a school uniform policy or a school dress code.