Rebel With A Cause…Or At Least Some Thigh-High Socks

15 comments

I went to an English girls private school.

Just the sort you’d expect me to go to, in fact.

Rather like Hogwart’s without the magic.

We stood up when teacher came into the room, sat down after she did. At the end of class, we left the room when she told us we could.

We didn’t mess about.

There were no freshman, juniors, seniors or sophomores.

In fact, I had to look up those terms in the dictionary.

There were, however, upper and lower sixth forms.

Once you reached those seniority heights, it felt awesome.

Because this was England, we had a school uniform.

It was blue and white.

We had regulation shoes called ‘pork pies’ because the top of them resembled that Great British unhealth food, the pork pie. A blue tie that I did up every single day.

A leather satchel.

I remember a time when we were called to walk across the stage but not to take a bow. The teachers walked the floor with their rulers as they measured the height of our heels and the length of our skirts.

Any rule flouters had to fix the problem toot suite.

We were representing the school and rules have to be followed.

A rebel was not to be tolerated.

But we found ways to bypass the code.

I wore thick thigh-high navy socks that might well have been stockings. I kept them up with elastic bands. The threat of varicose veins never bothered me.

And I’m glad to report the fear was unfounded.

There was a straw boater tilted at just the right angle of cool. Ties were short and fat. Then long and skinny.

Trends in school bags came and went.

Yes, we found the point where freedom of expression bisected school uniform policy.

A lesson not taught in math.

Recently I went back to my high school with a friend for the first time in nearly thirty years. Our first stop was the picture gallery where photos of the school population were hung every year.

We went straight to 1982, the year of our leaving and found ourselves and our friends. We found them again in 1984, 86, and 87.

But how could that be?

We had left.

Then we realized that hundreds of girls in school uniform all look the same.

I have mixed feelings about the lack of school uniform we have here in the US.

I understand the arguments against uniform that are made about cost and conformity. I can also see the arguments for uniforms promoting a sense of school identity and avoiding the problem of designer clothing and status symbols.

It’s an emotive subject on which I don’t have a clear position. So true to my upbringing,

I do as I’m told and follow the lead of those around me.

But when I see children walking to school in their uniform, I feel pangs of nostalgia. I remember the thrill of getting new, extra-long navy socks. The feeling that I was rebelling in my own little way.

Standing up for my rights, my identity.

Varicose veins and elastic bands notwithstanding.

What is your position on school uniforms? Would you like to see them in your school? Or do you think they are stifling to the young identity? Let me know in the comments!

I am participating in a Blog Every Day For 30 Days Challenge advocated by Chris Brogan. I am doing this with the lovely Mary Ulrich who writes for Parents and Caregivers of Adults with Disabilities at Climbing Every Mountain. Check her out!

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Jenn Sebben-Russo October 12, 2010 at 9:42 am

My Daughter wore a uniform to a Private School for one year of Kindergarten and her older, Brother always dressed the way he wanted to for Public School. From my Children’s point of view- they did not like the uniform: they felt it made her and the classmates stand-out, the girls were limited in what they could do in skirts & jumpers, uniforms were graded by appearence ( had to look clean & bright- needed to be ironed everyday!) My Daughter is sensitive to material and the uniform always made her warm and itchy.
I, on the other hand, did not care for them either. I could barely afford 2 outfits for her ( and they wanted her to wear the socks, shoes, & head-band). Only one company carried her uniform and they rarely had sales! I felt that the material was cheap- and it didn’t wear well for what it cost me. The Students all looked the same- and helping-out on yard duty was hard to tell who was who! The Students had no indenity of their own; not even the upper grades! I could’t wait to get back to Public School- not for the Fashion- but rather- she can be herself and wear what she wants to. Anyways- she gets most of her clothes past down to her from her Niece……..

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Alison Golden October 12, 2010 at 10:12 am

Hey Jenn!
That’s a very good point about not being able to tell the kids apart on the playground. I’ve heard many of the arguments about the uniform told in the UK. Same problem with cost and not well made. Captive market, I guess. And it must have been hard for your daughter to wear the uniform when your son didn’t have to especially when she didn’t want to wear it.

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Mary E. Ulrich
Twitter:
October 12, 2010 at 11:13 am

Reminds me of my school days and the little way we rebelled while wearing our uniforms.

Seems like a lifetime ago.

Love the comment about, “like Hogwarts, except for the magic.”
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Alison Golden October 12, 2010 at 9:40 pm

Sounds like the attitude to wearing uniform is universal.

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Melody Granger
Twitter:
October 13, 2010 at 3:03 am

Hi Allison,

Down here in Louisiana, my girls where uniforms to school. We live in Grand Lake, a less populated area, where the kids from pre-school age to seniors all go to the same school. There are two buildings that separate those up to 4th grade from the rest of the clan.

They all wear uniforms, but it is so laid back. No rulers are pulled out. lol

You are right about the ways that children still use accessories to define their personalities and to stand out amongst a sea of look-a-likes. I especially notice this with the girls. Shoes, mis-matched socks, ribbons, and undershirts are the name of the game.

On the plus side, there is less chaos in the mornings because choices of what to where are dwindled to very few. As an organizer, I can appreciate the lesson of less choices, easier decision making.

Sure, there is still the choice of long pants, shorts, or capris and navy, khaki, or white colored shirt, but that’s a minor infraction on time. Oh, and of course, which style mismatched socks to wear!

Really enjoyed your post!

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Alison Golden October 13, 2010 at 8:50 am

Hi Melody!

It’s interesting, isn’t it, how we find a way to stamp our own identity on even uniform things? I think you are lucky that everyone goes to the same school and then they all wear the uniform. It must be difficult to live in an area where your school is the only one that wears it. I can see I would have a lot of trouble with my kids if that were the case. I find here it is so non-uniform, I even have a massive amount of trouble getting my boys in their Boy Scout uniforms.

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Alison Golden October 13, 2010 at 8:59 am

I love your avatar btw, maybe I should have a photo of me in a straw boater ’tilted at just the right angle of cool.’ 😉

Thanks for reading!

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CathyP
Twitter:
October 13, 2010 at 3:24 am

Maybe I’m too used to school uniforms but I’m all in favour 😉

I’d even go as far as to say that non-uniform or ‘dressing up’ days should be banned. OK the teachers might think it’s a bit of fun but it is far too stressful for children who don’t know what to wear, don’t know whether they will be cool – or not – whether they will have the ‘right’ clothes. Just can’t be doing with it in the mornings!

And of course it saves on washing ‘cos you can string out a shirt for a full week…
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Alison Golden October 13, 2010 at 8:54 am

Cathy,
I hear you! I think you must suffer a lot on those dressing up days because they are so rare and therefore special to the kids. At 10, my kids just throw on a tshirt and shorts and away they go. Perhaps it’s different for girls but we haven’t yet got an age when what they dress in matters to them. I am not a clothes horse at all and found it very stressful as I got older to work out what I should wear, what would make me look cool, what would make me look dorky. And that was just outside of school. If I’d had to do that all the time, I would have found it very difficult.

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Green Bean
Twitter:
October 13, 2010 at 10:44 pm

I went to a private school for three years and wore a uniform. I loved those uniforms. I did the same as you – wore short socks, polo shirts when they were allowed (starting in 6th grade) to put my own stamp on the uniform but it was nice to have the underlying uniformity of belonging.
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Alison Golden October 14, 2010 at 9:39 am

Green Bean:
Someone replied to me on Twitter that uniforms build an ethic that employers favor later in life, ie. conformity, subservience. I’ve been pondering whether that is the case or whether the rebels will find their way and the followers will find theirs regardless of uniform. I wonder how powerful uniforms are in this regard.

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Hannah Marcotti October 14, 2010 at 9:05 am

Alison, found you through the RHH comments. Love the work you are doing and your site. Glad to have connected!
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Alison Golden October 14, 2010 at 9:32 am

Good morning, Hannah! Thanks for the feedback and stopping by.

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Allie
Twitter:
September 7, 2011 at 11:39 am

Alison,

I went to Catholic school from 5-17 years old, basically all my frickin’ childhood. Not because my parents were Catholic but because I was in the Los Angeles school district so my parents wanted none of that for their kids. I am very thankful for their decisions. I went to great schools.

So needless to say, I wore a uniform. Plaid with white blouse and sailor tie when I was in grade school. Then simple solid colors in high school. We were allowed our own shirts with strict guidelines, of course.

Looking back it was just the norm for me to wear a uniform, I did it all my childhood. My mom loved it because she didn’t have shop for clothes but once a year. Just bring down hems if I grew.

I was never able to really be an individual. I could never express who I was in my taste of clothing. Actually, it doesn’t really bother me. But I do see kids who LOVE to express themselves. The fashionistas, the artists. I feel bad for them if they wear uniforms.

I see it on both sides (as I always do, lol). Uniforms keep kids exactly that- uniform. There are less ways to pick on a kid for being who they are. (We all know kids can be very cruel if you don’t fit in.) Less distraction so kids can learn and not worry about who wears what. (I said “less” it still exists.)

But it also creates this pseudo hard core socialist society where everyone MUST be the same. We are not all the same. We are all different and should embrace it.

I don’t know. I am a conservative dresser so my kids are. But, WOW, I see some girls! Let’s just say they would look just fine walking the streets at midnight. Uniforms won’t necessarily take away “slutiness” but it would be easier to control.

I don’t care if we have uniforms. I guess if it makes the kids angry, do it. LOL.

~Allie
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Alison Golden September 7, 2011 at 12:35 pm

You sound like me, back and forth, back and forth. For me there’s nostalgia in there too. 🙂

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