This fall, my daughter will be starting fifth grade in a brand-new school. With this change comes a lot of new things — new neighborhood, new friends, new teachers…and a school uniform. Oh yes, every morning before school Isabella will put on the same navy blue two-buttoned collared shirt and the same plaid, pleated polyester kilt.
And I have a confession to make: I cannot wait.
My excitement is not just because I have visions of Rory Gilmore dancing in my head, or because I’m already planning on borrowing her kilt for a sweet Purim costume next year. No, there are many other benefits to my daughter wearing a school uniform every day, like these:
1. School uniforms are economical (and better for the environment!). After I have purchased a handful of school shirts and skirts, we’ll be set for the year. Gone are the days when we will need drawers bursting with t-shirts and skirts and pants and jeans and shirts. I will gladly accept hand-me-downs, and I will certainly pass Isabella’s outgrown uniforms down to a smaller student. We are reducing, reusing, and recycling here, folks.
2. They help eliminate the morning hassle. Mornings in our house begin precisely the same way every day:
“No, you can’t wear leggings as pants.”
“No, you can’t wear those sweatpants, again, for the fifth day in a row.”
“No, pyjamas are not clothing!”
It’s an endless loop of whine-no-whine-no-whine-no. And, at the end of each morning, there’s always a mound of unworn, rejected clothing that was tried on and tossed. Uniforms take the whines and the NOs out of my mornings. Navy shirt? Yes. Plaid kilt? Yes. The end.
Simpler mornings where we only argue about lunches will be a welcome change. Also, extra sleep for everyone!
3. School uniforms allow kids to define themselves by their personalities, instead of by how they dress. I have heard the argument that uniforms stifle a sense of sense, and take away a student’s individuality, but I actually think the opposite is true. When you take the superficial clothing choices out of the equation, and put kids on a level playing field, there’s so much room to stand out in ways that are truly important. Let’s allow kids to stand out with their great and unique personalities! Let’s see what hidden talents these kids have: Are they actors, artists, athletes, comedians, musicians, scientists, or mathematicians? With the focus on them, we can find out.
4. They create a more studious and serious learning environment. Remember when Will Smith was a rapper and mocked his mum in “Parents Just Don’t Understand,” with the line: “You go to school to learn not for a fashion show!” It’s true. There’s plenty of time for my children to dress how they want to dress. Weekends, for example, when they are playing, relaxing, and feeling stress-free.
5. School uniforms are, well, uniform. It’s interesting what happens when everyone around you is dressed the same — and smartly, cleanly, and tucked in to boot. My girls go to dance each week and they wear a uniform of sorts (black pants and black tops). My son plays baseball and football each week and he wears a uniform. There’s a reason for this. When I go to work, I take off my yoga pants and runners and put on a dress, makeup, and heels.
When you are clean and neat and tidy, you take things more seriously. You are able to focus on the task at hand. For the girls, it’s their dancing. For my son, it’s his sports game. At the office, it’s my work. And at school, it’s their learning.
A school uniform may not be super trendy, and it may not be what my daughter would choose to wear every day. But I like knowing that this fall I will be saving both money and my sanity, and more importantly, I will be setting her up for a more successful school year.