SHE SAID WHAT?!
Posted By Wendy
Recently, I purchased four pairs of Oshkosh overalls, four patches, and five custom insignia-stamped T-shirts for my son’s pre-school uniforms. It cost me more than $100, and it requires that I now do Lucas’ laundry at least twice a week (laundry on weeknights = giant asspain).
Lucas just turned 2 years old.
Why uniforms at a pre-school daycare? That’s a good question. It can’t be to even the playing field, allowing families with less money to have their kids fit in.The daycare is by no means cheap. It’s the best (and most expensive) daycare in the Monterey Bay area. Anyone who can afford what is essentially a private school cost is not at a disadvantage for cute clothes. Plus, when’s the last time you saw a 2-year-old wrinkle his nose at his friend’s jeans because they’re Old Navy instead of Janie & Jack? (Okay, so Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s baby has yet to be born, but still…)
Another oft-sited reason for uniforms is to avoid trouble with gangs. So, again, that’s not really an issue with toddlers. I see no Crips or Bloods affiliations at daycare. But let’s expand beyond my current situation.
Say my child goes to a public middle school where uniforms are required, and no gang colors are allowed. Kids find a way around that. For example, skipping the third or fourth hold of your shoe laces can signify gang membership. What next, only velcro sneakers allowed?
Finally, one of my biggest pet peeves against school uniforms is that it blunts self-expression. As a pre-teen and teenager, a major part of my identity was wrapped up in what I wore. I spent hours digging through my parents’ closet looking for discarded 70s gear I gladly repurposed. I paired combat boots and crushed-velvet dresses. I came up with some strange-ass combinations (it was the 90s, after all). Some people teased me. Others said I had great style. I didn’t care. I wasn’t that concerned if my clothes were “label” (I seriously had never heard of Louis Vitton until I went to college in NYC). I just wanted to make a statement. It makes me sad that many of today’s private and public school kids won’t have that opportunity.
Now, if the best public school happens to have uniforms, I’ll still send my son there. After all, his education is more important to me than his sense of style. But I’ll be sad that I can’t stare at his outfit some day and say, “You are NOT leaving the house in that!”
SHE SAID WHAT?!
Posted By Lulu
You bring up some valid points, Wendy, but I like school uniforms. I have vivid memories of my own school uniform from grade school through high school, and I know my girls remember their uniform from when they attended their Catholic school in Chicago. The girls are only a year apart, and they wore the same size blouse, so it was easy to wash and iron 10 blouses over the weekend and have them ready for the week. The warm weather uniform included a plaid skirt (or a jumper for K-4) and the cold weather uniform consisted of warm wool pants. And dozens of royal blue knee socks. Getting the girls ready in the morning was a breeze.
School uniforms instill a sense of community and school pride. After school when I had to take my girls to their appointments, people identified them as students of their school because of the uniform. On field trips or outings, they represented their school while wearing their uniforms, so they were more likely to be on their best behavior. The girls weren’t allowed to wear makeup or flashy jewelry in school, only tiny stud earrings. It was part of the discipline of the uniform culture.
Their uniform reminded me of the one I wore when I was in school. Like I said, uniforms promote discipline, and at my school on the south side of Chicago, we needed lots of discipline. Sister Lorraine was our strictest disciplinarian. Mean, mean, mean like nun other. She used to perform a uniform check on the girls. She would have us kneel along the wall, looking straight ahead with our arms down. Then she would walk across inspecting our skirts to make sure they touched the floor. If they didn’t, she would whack us across our bare knees with her ruler. The eighth grade girls were bad. If you looked real close, you could detect the faintest baby blue eyeshadow. Not only that, but they would roll their waistband over and over to hike up their hemline. Then they would roll it back down for uniform check.
When I recall my grammar school days, the scratchy pleated uniform skirt and the little cross-over tie is a big part of the picture. There were other forms of self-expression. We all had our little quirks, talents, and mannerisms. The uniform allowed these other, more important, attributes to be the focal point, not the clothing.