In his hopes to create "an atmosphere in our school that promotes discipline and order and learning," President William Jefferson Clinton stated, "I believe we should give strong support to school districts that decide to require young students to wear school uniforms." He cited several incidents where student's desire for another's fashionable attire has led to extreme forms of violence (Clinton 1996). This exemplifies one of the many implications of a necessity for school uniforms. Many advocates claim that school uniforms curb violence, limit the potential for gang members to wear representative colors, deter theft, and install students with stronger work ethic and school pride, among many other things. Critics, however, argue that school uniforms violate Americans First Amendment right to Freedom of Expression and do nothing to curve violence, theft, or promote school safety (Paliokas and Rist 1996). Furthermore, critics argue school uniforms have no influence on ones academic achievement, behavior, or attitude towards school (Brunsma 2001a). While the arguments for each position are varied and numerous, there are more practical, historical, and unbiased ways to approach school uniforms and their impact on academic achievement.
Fashion and Where We Get It
Most people believe fassion is a concept belonging to the 20th and 21st century; however, many Roman historians note the stress placed on ones clothing and appearance. Many historians describe in detail the different Indian and Chinese- imported linens, silks, and dyes and how each represent different families, social classes, and even occupations. This creative multi- faceted representation, which has transcended sex, centuries, and cultures, has grown to include religious, traditional, occupational, and symbolical representations. Still today, fashion designer contribute in this cyclical process by looking to the designs of clothing from centuries ago and recreate concepts, styles, and lines from those original patterns.
Lastly, fashion is largely influenced by the Haute Couture: designers who fabricate the finest fashions for the elite society of bearers. In the 1950s, Elvis Presley set the stage for slicked back hair, sport coats, and dress pants with highly contrasting leather shoes. During her reign as Princess of Wales, Lady Diana Spencer redefined the aura of elegance, womanliness, and brought forth a new-age feminine fashion and sense of empowerment to the conservative housewife and businesswoman. Today, pop icons such as Jennifer Lopez, Eminem, Nelly, Sean "P" Diddy Combs, among others all influence fashion trends through their own clothing lines. Finally, cultural icons such as Christina Aguilera and Avril Lavigne defy the conformist trends by altering their conservative clothing to represent a sense of individuality and rebellion; thus, no matter one's personal preferences there is always an aesthetic group in which on can relate, conform to, and find acceptance within.
School Uniforms vs. Dress Codes
It is important to make the distinction between the terms school uniforms and dress codes. The terms are often used interchangeably in literature; however, they are drastically and distinctly different. School uniform policies tell students what they must wear while school dress code policies tell students what they are not allowed to wear while abiding by a set of rules regarding creative appearances (Brunsma 2001a, p.31). Most commonly, mandatory school uniforms are observed in private and sometimes public elementary and middle schools while dress codes can be found in public high schools. While dress codes also have their implications and place in academic literature reviews, this paper will focus solely on the affects of school uniforms.
Role of Uniforms
The role of uniforms, that is, distinctive dress worn by specific members of an exclusive group, has taken on many facets. While all uniforms are made to distinguish...