By Eric Dykes
In today’s society, we are encouraged every day to exercise our freedom of self-expression and to simply be ourselves. For this reason, many do not agree with the idea of forcing kindergarten through twelfth grade students to wear a school mandated uniform. It is generally felt that this high level of conformity is not a good environment for children to develop. In fact, Greg Toppo of USA Today, claims that the rate of schools wearing uniforms rose 60 percent from 2010-2014 even though much of the evidence to back up uniforms has been found to be inconclusive (2014). On the other hand, one could argue that school uniforms foster an environment for learning, reducing the amount of distractions children face during school. Also, school uniforms may put students in a level playing field, making it so nobody feels too different or left out.
Then, you have me, part of the group of people who believe what a student wears does not matter as much as we may think. I have attended both public schools (without uniforms) and private schools (with uniforms), and I can say I hated waking up every morning, having to take extra time to get dressed in the morning or dying of heat stroke in the long-sleeve shirt and tie I had to wear every day. I actually did not want to attend school on some days just because I really did not want to wear the uniform. Students wearing the same clothing did not change much socially either. People still hung out in certain groups that matched their personalities and you could tell their characteristics even though their clothing did not show it.
But please let us disregard the facts, the myths, and even my own experiences with school uniforms. Arguing for one side of this issue is not the goal here. This is because conformist tendencies are all around us, and not just when it comes to school or work. Just look around you when you are walking to class in the morning, and think about what you see. Most likely you will see different brands such as Nike, Vineyard Vines, and much more. Sure, Bryant students do not wear school uniforms, but we do in fact wear uniforms set by corporate America’s influence on our culture. If society determines what is in or out of style and encourages people to wear certain clothing, are we truly carrying out our freedom of self-expression?
The answer is simply no. To understand better, it is important to look at two different aspects. As a society we may think our idea of expressing ourselves is to wear what we deem acceptable. However, the brands that are believed to be accepted are those that are pressed into our minds by mass media channels. According to the media, wearing brands makes you better at what you are trying to accomplish (wearing Puma sneakers will make you run faster) and even adds an exciting flare to their advertisements, so you know you are wearing something that is clearly “better” than other brands. Now think about your walk to class again. What is funny and ironic about this is when I was questioning the topic on my way to the library, which is only a five minute walk, I saw two kids wearing the same exact Nike hoodie as me. I also saw a group a four friends walking and they were each wearing a NorthFace jacket, jeans, and Timberland boots.
The truth is, there is no difference between wearing a school uniform and the clothing this group of friends was wearing. I absolutely agree that school uniforms may be too much with having hundreds or even thousands of students looking exactly the same, and I do believe that it may be too much conformity for anybody to experience. Apparently, the only other option, which is wearing whatever students want, is not much better. Sure, there may be more variety or style, but in the end we are all wearing uniforms determined by society. So next time you are getting ready to go to class or out with friends, remember that your personality may not determine what you are about to wear. If you truly want to express yourself and be unique, put yourself out there and wear what truly makes you happy.