School Uniforms

Pointless whole number alert:this is my 300th published blog entry! Let the fizzy booze flow!

So, down to business. I’m a sucker for giving away the plot of the blog in the title, and it looks like I’ve done it again.

As you may have guessed, I am about to talk about Sweden and the strange resistance to the idea of school uniforms. Very few schools over here, if any, have uniforms, and the topic always gets a heated reaction when it is brought up.

Now I had a school uniform from the age of 12 and it did me the world of good. Put hair on my chest, food on my plate and built my character, so it did. Yes indeed.

But, to understand the issue a bit better, I here present the main arguments in favour of uniforms:

1 – You reduce bullying somewhat by having everybody dress the same.

2 – You allow the kids to see each other as people, and not just as the clothes and styles that they have.

3 – You reduce stress on the kids by giving them no choice about what to wear to school every day.

4 – You make it less obvious who is poor, rich, trendy or nerdy.

5 – You make it easier to spot kids skiving off around town when they should be in school.

6 – You hopefully put less financial pressure on the parents to always have to get the latest trendy clothes for their offspring.

And then the arguments against:

1 – The kids will lose their individuality.

To which I say: oh please… Swedish kids are already almost indentical in the way they dress, speak, look and think; can a uniform make them any more similar than they already are?

And so with nobody able to come up with a good reason why there are no uniforms, we can only put it down to inertia and a general fear of making the kidz do anything against their will. Which gives you, obviously, a generation of very bratty children who think that everything that doesn’t go their own way is unfair.

So then, am I a grumpy old man yet..? How about now?

/ paddy


28 thoughts on “School Uniforms

  1. “Swedish kids are already almost indentical in the way they dress, speak, look and think; can a uniform make them any more similar than they already are?”

    Maybe that last bit of similarity will tip the balance somehow and they will turn into a legion of clones. It’s best not to risk it.

  2. Hey. Fine, boys get to wear pants. But the girls. Skirts. All year round. In Sweden?

    Hello pneumonia. Other than that, I stand silent. Forming an opinion is hard work right now.

  3. You have this uncanny knack for making me side with you against Sweden every single time you bring up an issue like this. Are you a spy sent to turn me traitor to my own country? Will I be singing Amhrán na bhFiann come June 6th?

  4. Maybe my school was special, but I actually witnessed neither of those problems you voiced in my school time (mid-90s); at least not due to their clothing.
    We were either respected or bullied because of who are what we were, who belonged to our circle of friends, social standing of the family, etc, but not what clothes we wore. I didn’t go to any “special” school either, so i think I had a fairly good view on the average kid around here.

    I might not be a good person to base judgements on due to my rather tenuous relation link to the social life of my classmates, but i never witnessed any of these issues in regards to what rugs we threw over our bodies.

  5. I wore a uniform from when I was eleven until I was sixteen. I think they’re a stupid idea.

    I used to ride a bike to school. In the frost. Wearing shorts. I don’t think I was in any danger of getting hairs on my chest at the age of twelve (not much danger at the age of twenty-eight, to be quite honest) so all it probably gave me was a cold. I didn’t grow up in a particularly priveledged area, so the uniforms probably cost more than the clothes we would otherwise have worn. And then they got torn at lunchtimes, because like all school uniforms they were a stupid impractical design. Or we grew out of them.

    My very favourite piece of uniform-related hypocracy is schools that make students wear uniforms, then complain about students being seen wearing them, after school, hanging out in town smoking… duh! If you don’t want your students identified, don’t pin labels on them.

    How am I doing on the grumpy stakes? Catching up to you yet?

  6. Everybody: I don’t think it’s necessary, or even right, to force girls to wear those skirts. Many modern uniforms allow pants for both sexes, which is good.

    And shorts sounds like a dumb idea. Uniforms should be practical.

    And I am very grateful that I learned how to fix a tie. A gentleman needs to possess such skills.

    And it’s strange that Sweden, long a bastion of socialism and putting the state before the individual, does not already have uniforms. Unless you count H+M as a uniform, which it practically is.

  7. My wife is utterly incredulous that I had to wear shorts (in Scotland) until the age of 11. She’s convinced that my being forced to leave the house in winter in anything less than full thermal ski-pants or a jumpsuit is some sort of evil child abuse which must have left me scarred for life.

    All I can say is that I really wish wearing shorts _had_ been the worst part of school.

  8. My school was pretty calm, worst thing that happened involved gangs coming from other schools to pick on some gangstakid in ours. At the other schools, I’m sure they’d be firing rockets down the halls, stealing and bullying people anyways. I don’t think uniforms are a totally -bad- idea, I just don’t think it’ll solve enough of the problems to be worth using.

  9. School uniform – bah humbug, I say! And yes – you are a grumpy old man!

    The word ‘uniform’ says it all… School is all about making people uniform, and in Swedish society people are already fairly lagom and uniform. So, in with individual styles – let kids at least be free from all of society’s uniformity as long as they can!

    Pat: And yes – I think all schools allow boy and girls to wear pants these days — trousers too if you’re lucky!

    Aphra Ben: Why would girls and boys want to learn how to wear suits and ties? Hopefully, dress codes will be a lot better by the time they go out to work…

  10. FiFi: Individual styles are all fine, except it’s not at all “individual” – its based on what the shops have, and what you are “expected” to wear. I don’t see why “trendy” clothes are any better than uniforms.

    I am glad I had a uniform, because I know I would have had a much worse time in school due to my bad taste in nerdy 70s clothes. It does remove one element of stress from school life.

    And everyone needs to learn to wear a suit and tie! Only when you know the rules can you truly break or disregard them.

  11. We don’t have uniforms in public schools in the U.S. and I wish we did for all the reasons you stated. Privately owned schools often have uniforms.

    I’m doing my damnedest to find a uniform I can wear every day now so I don’t have to think about clothes.

    I can see how many teens would hate wearing them (and the shorts & skirts thing is stupid) because they ‘can’t be themselves’. You know what, kids, most of your adult life is going to be about nit being yourself, so welcome to the real world. You want to get along, you have to fit in to some degree.

  12. From a mum’s perspective, I much prefer uniforms. The ironic thing is that kids hate them yet, out of school, they follow trends and end up looking the same anyway.

    I wear a uniform for work too and I much prefer this than having to worry about what I’m going to wear each day. And when I’m not working I feel more dressed up.

  13. Well, you never know when you’re going to be hauled up before the judge or have to go to a funeral, now do you? Or a wedding. Sudden and unexpected weddings are always a hazard.

    It is important to be able to be smart, because only then can you choose not to be smart. If you don’t know how to be smart, then you’ve got no choice in the matter. Education should surely be about opening up choices.


  14. Alex: Indeed.

    earthpal: I concur.

    Aphra Behn: Exactly! Weddings can strike at the oddest moments. And stupid is a lifestyle choice. I’m glad somebody is paying attention…

  15. Bah – thats fucked man.
    People get bullied(?) everywhere with or without uniform, and for much worse reasons than clothing. Uniforms won’t change that. Fss people get bullied in the army even.
    The idea of uniforms is to remove individuality and enforce hegemonic identity onto a mass of people and thereby making them easier to control. And comeon – you can´t really claim that swedish kids are as uniformly dressed today, and if they where – is that really a good argument for making things even worse?

  16. paddyK: “Everybody: I don’t think it’s necessary, or even right, to force girls to wear those skirts. Many modern uniforms allow pants for both sexes, which is good.”

    I’m probably waaaaaaay late in this conversation but… Bah! Are any of you really Irish?? I mean really? Ach! Back in the ol’ days, EVERYONE wore skirts and, sure, maybe some nambypambies got colds and died but it’s called survival of the fittest. Bring the kilts back for everyone, I say, both girls and boys! If ya don’t like it, take some lozenges for the cough and suck it up. Grumble, grumble, grumble… ;P

  17. Strangely enough, in a hot country like Malaysia, we’re forced to wear long pants instead of shorts. A reversal of roles, perhaps?

    I’m surprised that the perception of uniform is always on the shorts. I thought shorts was (optional to long pants) what the children were to wear until they were 12.

    In Malaysia we differentiate who is in the primary and secondary years by the color of their pants. Primary schoolers wear dark blue while Secondary schoolers (13-17) wear dark green.

    The girls always wear either pinafore, or white blouse with dark blue skirts, or the long white Baju Kurung.

    The principle of wearing a uniform instills discipline, which is what controls the children from being too pampered with freedom.

    When I was in school where everyone wore uniforms, we all treated each other the same; we didn’t know who was rich or poor. The showoffs kept down, the underdogs stood up. There was no stigma; only our personality and behaviour determined our social category. It was all fun and peaceful without much stress and worry.

    Then College struck, and now I see obsession with fashion, trends, peer pressure, smoking, waste of money, hanging out at the mall, skipping classes, social stigma, sidelining of people, outcasts, outspokenness, lack of respect, impression, spending of too much money….

    That can be considered life, and teaching the kids how life really is instead of the shell that uniforms keep them in. However, I do not feel that it is right to expose children at such an early age. It might drive them suicidal. Or it could also make them used to the situation, so that they won’t be suicidal when they reach adolescence.

    It’s still an open debate, really. But what I can say now is that college is hell. It was good at first when we had a taste of freedom, but now I sometimes wish to go back to the days when we wore uniforms in our childhood. The way people behave and dress is incredibly intolerable for me.

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