school uniforms

Columnist Natalie Terranova argues school uniforms take away a student's sense of individualism.

From kindergarten to my freshman year of high school, I woke up every morning and put on a polo shirt and plaid skirt. The exact same outfit every single day.

I hated wearing uniforms for as long as I can remember. I wanted to wear clothes I actually got to pick out, but that wasn’t an option. The one clothing item I got to choose was my socks, and guess what? I now have an enormous sock collection that I am weirdly protective of.

The only positive thing I have to say about uniforms is that if I woke up late or was feeling lazy, it was easy to throw on. Supporters of uniforms argue that uniforms increase attendance and a sense of community, which is supposed to lead to less bullying and fighting.

Let me tell you, from firsthand experience, this is not true. 

I have never been in a more toxic environment than during my years in a uniform. According to a 2022 nationwide study from the Early Childhood Research Quarterly, the argued benefits of uniforms did not hold up. 

The study had teachers rate students in three categories: internalizing behavior (anxiety, social withdrawal), externalizing problems (aggression, fighting, destruction of property) and social skills. The teachers also provided attendance records.

According to the study, school uniforms did not have a positive impact in any of the categories and lowered the sense of belonging among students, with few exceptions. How are you supposed to feel like you belong when a basic aspect of individualism, such as fashion, is taken away?

Uniforms can also affect self-image and body type perceptions. When all the students are wearing the same thing, it’s not hard to start comparing yourself to your peers. There are tons of unique body types, and uniforms take away the right to wear what makes you feel confident in your own skin.

Uniforms also rely on serious gender stereotyping. Girls wear skirts, and boys wear pants.

At such a young age, this stereotype could be detrimental to those in the LGBTQ+ community. Children and teenagers who are questioning their gender identity are forced into these gender stereotypes through uniforms. 

Individualism and independence are core values in America. Uniforms create conformity — quite literally the opposite of individualism. Differences should always be valued, and uniforms send a clear message that it’s better to be the same.