Are Uniforms Beneficial?

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Sage Thompson, Opinions Editor

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This article almost doesn’t need to be written. After all, we know the general consensus: next to standardized testing, a uniform-style dress code is the most-hated menace of students around the nation. However, the fact of the matter is that, in considering dress code, most people assess it on a scale of popularity and not a scale of effectiveness. So really, the question is this: does dress code actually achieve its desired results?

The main goals of a dress code and uniform are to promote equality, bridge the gap between economically disadvantaged and affluent students, and prevent distractions to the learning environment. All of these are perfectly valid and beneficial goals to have. Every student deserves to feel safe, equal, and undistracted in an educational setting. However, dress code may not be the best way to achieve these goals.

The idea behind students being in the same style of clothing is that they will feel equal to their peers regardless of other differences. Statistically speaking, dress code violations are issued to female students and students of color far more often than they are to other members of the student body. Therefore, the goal of promoting equality has not been entirely met by schools through their dress code. Furthermore, this idea of dress code as a source of equality operates on the premise that looking the same also means being treated the same, which is blatantly untrue.

The goal of bridging the gap between affluent and disadvantaged students would be much better met by allowing them to wear the clothes they already have on hand and not requiring them to go spend an extra measure of possibly-unobtainable money to obtain acceptable clothes. Furthermore, most clothing stores make a majority of their profits from adolescents. These companies, reluctant to lose their primary source of income, find ways of making their uniform and dress code compliant clothing distinguishable from less expensive brands, hence, eliminating the perceived benefit to students living at or under the poverty line.

At times, the dress code can even serve as more of a distraction for students. It takes longer to find an outfit that adheres perfectly to the dress code than to simply choose an appropriate outfit via common sense and decorum. The process of choosing an outfit is distracting, but the process of being punished for dress code violations is entirely disruptive to a student’s day. Also, the implication that male students cannot focus if a female student is wearing an outfit that is form-fitting or shows body parts that are normally acceptable (ex. shoulders, knees) is insulting to both genders. It implies that male students have more of a right to a distraction-free education than female students, and also that male students are incapable of demonstrating the minimal level of focus it takes to look politely away from distractions of any type.

In conclusion, a more fitting solution for the issues described above would be a minimal dress code that establishes baseline modesty standards at an equal level for both genders and allows students to make their own decisions- and their own mistakes – in expressing their creativity. After all, if we can drive, choose our own majors, and earn an income at this point in time, it seems fitting that we could be trusted to pull an appropriate outfit together or face appropriate consequences if we choose not to.