Early September always makes me remember the first day of school. My sister Virginia and I attended St. Rita’s Catholic School in Brooklyn during the 1960s and early 1970s. Going to a Catholic school meant that we had to wear a school uniform every day. For my sister and me, this consisted of a gray-and-blue plaid wool dress (called a “jumper) over a white shirt and a tie. The boys wore pants in the same school blue with a white shirt and tie.
Other than wearing a sweater or blazer — and these, too, were part of the official uniform, not just anything that matched — we were not allowed to make any variations to our outfits. Mom and Dad had to purchase the exact clothes that the school required us to wear.
In the late summer, Mom would buy two or three sets of the school uniform and we were set for the year. Some years, she could skip buying a new uniform because she could lower the jumper’s hem as we grew taller. Even the shirt size didn’t vary too much from year to year; we sometimes wore the same shirts for two years in a row.
There is something appealing about the easiness of a uniform. Since we knew exactly what we had to wear to school, we had no worries or arguments about our outfits, which sure made the morning easier. It was also more economical because our parents didn’t have to buy us a lot of new outfits for the school year. And older siblings could pass along their outgrown uniforms to younger siblings.
Everyone wearing the same outfit helped foster sense of community among the students; we weren’t competing to wear the coolest clothes or embarrassed because our family couldn’t afford the latest styles. We were all in the same boat; we didn’t know who had money and who didn’t. And, although we didn’t think about it at the time, buying fewer new clothes each year reduced our environmental impact.
I think that they should bring back school uniforms — even in public schools. School uniforms could save parents money, lower kids’ stress over what to wear each day, and reduce the consumption of fast fashion and its environmental impact.
Once again, what is good for the planet is good (and easier) for us!