Uniform thinking – not?

As you leaf through the pages of this issue, you’ll find a lot of memories and many questions. Some of the contributing writers have talked about their school days and the discipline engendered (or intended) by the uniform. Others have argued against the idea of standardized school attire, preferring to leave the judgment of suitable attire (or the development of such an aesthetic) to children and parents. Why did we think of putting together an issue on school attire? Because behind the simple idea of a standardized set of clothes to wear to school (or not) lies a whole philosophy of what schools are all about, and how they should go about accomplishing this mission. From that realization a number of ideas radiate; what exactly the thinking behind uniforms is, how they are designed, what kind of fabric they use, whether they are gendered or lead to a sense of gender construction, what do they “allow” or not allow children to do and be… you can see, the spokes are endless. In addition, when we talk about uniforms, we also need to think about the larger issue of dress codes in schools or in educational spaces in general. How do they influence how teachers dress? What are the perceptions associated with a certain kind of clothing style? What does all this say about our ideas about who we are and what we want to be?

Each of us has our own ideas about appropriate clothing. Just like language, where there are registers that work and are understood in some places and not in others, clothes too not only make the (wo)man, but are made by the situations they are carried into or come from. The history of the school uniform may seem simple, but the ways in which that history has touched each one of us is as varied as the number of experiences it has generated.

Thus we include pieces from those who have experienced uniforms in a certain way, and those who have had the opportunity to design or decide them. We have nostalgia and resentment. But above all, we have questions.

Clearly, we do not – and cannot – address all these questions in the limited space of a monthly magazine. But what we hope to do, as always, is to begin the conversation within and among our readers.

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