Monday, May 4, 2009

Hot topic: uniforms

This from an SF K Files reader:
I'm interested in hearing from folks about uniforms. both their feelings pro/con and also which schools have uniforms.


  1. I love uniforms as a parent. It makes "what to wear to school" a non-issue. Some parents object that uniforms impair creativity and self-expression. At least your kid will have 5 mornings a week where they're neither outrageously mismatched nor dressed in a princess costume. If your kids get so few opportunities for creativity and self-expression that you're afraid a school uniform will stifle them, maybe your kids need some changes in their lives. Some parents object that there's a tendency for the lowest performing schools serving the poorest populations to require uniforms, claiming that uniforms in these cases are either a desperate attempt to imitate their "private school betters" (note the quote marks, I would never say private school families are "better") or required due to an unfounded hope that the superficial act of adopting uniforms will improve academic performance. Maybe it does not occur to those critics that uniform clothes are typically inexpensive, durable, modest and easy to launder, allowing kids to look presentable for school at relatively little expense to parents who don't have a lot of resources to buy clothes, take care of clothes, or argue with their kids about whether what they want to wear to school is appropriate.

  2. I'm in total support of uniforms in all the schools - private & public.

    PROs: 1. less fashion trend issues (less teasing for not wearing trendy clothing. Less need to keep up what others have) 2. less shopping therefore, less headache
    3. easier to spot "intruders" that don't attend the school 4. looks organized 5. economical (hand down to siblings or friends, discounted prices at school yard sale...etc)

    Cons: none!

  3. Personally, I think uniforms are ugly, but I can see the need for them--especially in an urban school environment where there are issues of wanting to curtail competitive behavior between the "haves" and "have-nots." I think having a level of conformity in the class makes it easier to control bad behavior as well.

    As someone with an artistic daughter who expresses herself through her clothing, it's just not our family's cup of tea.

    I speak also as someone who attended a private school which had a strict dress code, which I hated.

  4. I grew up with uniforms and it was very convenient as a child, but as I got older it felt more stifling.

    Even with uniforms people still look for social/status markers, from the type of shoes, how you wear your shirts, the types of jewelry, etc, etc. It's inevitable from middle school onwards.

    If I had been able to wear my own clothes I would have been able to offset skewed perceptions from smaller, irritating cues with greater possibilities to express myself.

    Also, it implies you cannot dress yourself at a certain age and denies a small but important responsibility.

    However, I'm a total advocate for strict dress codes -- tidiness/presenteability is an important value to instill.

    Collared shirts, no rips or tears, no spaghetti straps, cleavage, short skirts, etc.

  5. I think uniforms help to keep the kids focused on school and the commonalities between students, instead of calling attention to the wide socio/economic spectrum that exists in diverse public schools.

    Most of all, I like it because its less work for adults and children. I love that I can ask my first grader to get dressed and count on her getting it right every time. It makes us both proud.

  6. Hate the uniforms, hate them. The white tops get unbelievably filthy fast (at least with a 6 year old boy!), and for some reason, it feels to me like you have buy more clothes: weekend clothes and many, many blue and white polos and blue uniform pants. And then a couple of pairs of blue shorts for the handful of really warm days. Also, the makers of blue and white polos know they're uniforms, so they never, ever go on sale.

    I look forward to Friday (free dress day at my son's school) every week. And I love seeing all of the kids in all of their diversity of outfits: color, finally!

  7. I love them, because it's so much easier to get our girls dressed in the morning.
    They started out liking the skirts and tights but now it's mostly Land's End stretchy yoga pants (navy) and a white polo top everyday.
    Now if we could only institute crew cuts for all children who fight having their hair brushed...

  8. Uniforms are Ok as long as they aren't lame and 1900's looking like the NDV ones.

  9. There's a finite amount of time in the morning and if your school has a 7:50am start time then you have to streamline the morning.

  10. Tips if you go to a uniform school
    Lands End and LL Bean both do uniforms. They are good quality and wear well, but are a little pricey. That said, they're on sale now (as are backpacks and lunch boxes.)
    French Toast is a web site that does uniforms too. I've found their sweaters and tops to not be as high quality as the first two, but their skirts and jumpers are nice.
    And Target does uniforms in late summer at a nice price.
    Also you can get uniform clothes cheaply in the Mission.
    At our school, there's an informal system where families that can afford it buy a few extra tops and bottoms and donate to the school for kids who come to school without uniforms. No big deal, but if you find something at a good price and can afford to do so, picking up a few extras for kids who don't have them is nice.

  11. Thanks for the info, Beth! I love a bargain, so it's good to know about Lands End and LL Bean. AND about perhaps buying something extra.

  12. Hi Beth, since we are going to SK and your kids are there, can you tell us what the dress code is? I don't see anything on the school website. Thanks!

  13. Parents or PTA at schools which require uniforms ought to consider setting up a uniform exchange program. Since kids grow so fast, these programs are a godsend.

    In my experience it's like a communal yard sale where the parents whose young kids have outgrown their uniform (or parts of one) sell them for a nominal price and then buy similiarly nominally priced larger-size pieces from someone whose older/larger child has outgrown theirs. Saves a fortune over buying new.

    Since kids school uniforms are usually very sturdy by design, they're usually in fine shape. The kids just outgrow them long before they wear out the fabric.

  14. Starr King uniforms are navy blue bottoms and white tops with collars. Any color socks or tights are fine.
    It's a good idea to get a nice cotton or poly sweater because in the winter the classrooms can be a tad chilly. The Land's End ones have stood up the best to weekly washings(and they will need it, believe me). French Toast tends to pill up after a month or two, though their skirts do fine.

  15. Oh wise SF K Readers...
    What are the Flynn uniforms? Husband and I both have REALLY CLEAR clashing memories from last year's tour... and its not on the website or the yahoo group.

  16. I like unfiorms. does anyone know how to get a uniform policy at a school without one?

    Is it the principal's call? the PTA? The teachers?

    I find it strange (not the best word) that in SF it seems to be the schools with poorer populations wear uniforms.

    For my son, I dread having to fight about what he can and can't wear to school. If he had it his way, he'd be in Spiderman PJs everyday! That said, i have to constantly watch what he's wearing because he and his buddies will pick someone based on their clothing to be the 'bad guy'... yeah its not encouraged, very discouraged, but they seem to try and do it whenever they get the chance.

    I'm thinking regardless of school, my son's K wardrobe will be very monotone.

  17. Uniforms are great and I'm so happy my daughter's school has them. In some schools gang and gang colors play into the decision to implement uniforms. A bit scary when discussing elementary school, but that is what I had read way back when SF publics in some neighborhoods adopted uniforms.

  18. For MCL

  19. "In some schools gang and gang colors play into the decision to implement uniforms."

    This is just not an issue at the elementary schools. Really.

    As a less privileged kid at a pricey private school I would have LOVED to have had uniforms in grade school. It was awful trying to fit in on my parents' budget.

  20. I'm with SFMom! How can we petition our individual schools for a uniform policy? It would give the kids a real sense of school ownership and as parents, a whole lot less laundry. The uniform can be something as simple as the school logo tee or sweatshirt worn over their regular cloth...what do you think?

  21. For Carl:

    I'm not sure how to go about instituting a school dress code, but I would resist against anything that required wearing any logo every day, even if it's the school logo.

  22. I LOVE uniforms. Easy to wear and wash, and inexpensive. We've bought them at French Toast, Target, Kohls, LL Bean and my favorite: Gymboree. Someone gave me this advice in the beginning and I wish I had done more of it: buy the size your kid wears at the beginning of school, and buy the next size too. By mid-year the kids have grown and uniforms are harder to find. For us this was especially true for the one piece dresses. Now they are way too short to wear as dresses but my kid is loathe to wear pants or shorts under them. She's a fancy-princess-dress-type so it's skirts and tops all the way.
    BTW Flynn is my n'hood school and appears to be white top and black pants. We are in a white/blue school

  23. I think uniforms are great. Takes the focus away from clothes and all the material distractions. School is for learning period.

    Most schools in other countries require uniforms.

    Yes, it may somewhat stifle creativity, but let us all hope that we actually become more creative since can't use clothes to express our creativity. use paper, pencil, crayon, other media instead!

    The white shirts do get a little bit dirty but bleach or oxiclean work fine. At first I was a little freaked by the stains that refused to come out despite multiple washings (because I didn't want other parents to think my kids wore dirty clothes!) but I concluded pretty quickly that people can tell the difference between a shirt that is washed but stained vs a shirt that is not washed.

    Anyway, the whole white shirt business makes me realize how anal I can get over stains... really, what does it matter in the big scheme of things!

    Lastly - I think it would be great to have the option of say white shirt and another color shirt, just for some variation. Don't know if that will cause problems with kids forming groups, but just a thought.

  24. We absolutely hate the white, collared shirts. I don't like using bleach and nothing works to get the stains out anyhow. My son's school has no free-dress day like some others at least do. I know all the arguments for uniforms, but I still really despise them. Maybe if the shirts weren't white or if they didn't have to be collared it wouldn't feel so oppressive. A dress code is understandable, but for our family the uniform thing is a real drag.

  25. 8:53 pm:
    I don't like using bleach, either. The best way to get stains out of white fabric is to place it out in the sun for a few hours on a sunny day. It "bleaches" the stain like magic!

  26. I'm noticing a pattern here:

    more parents of girls seem to like the uniforms than parents of boys. Is this true?

  27. By the way, Rosa Parks has the option of Navy blue tops as well as white. The teachers recommend it as the white shirts (especially for boys) get so stained and awful (I mean really, really stained!) But it does mean a completely Navy outfit most days!

  28. 9:53:

    Our twin girls go to a uniform school and we also hate them.

  29. I think the parents of girls loving uniforms is a trend. My daughter wears one at preschool and will wear black bottom/white top at Fairmount this Fall. Love that! She is *not* a morning person and we already fight over what top goes under the jumper, what tights or leggings etc. Can't imagine if we didn't have the uniform!

  30. 11:25, we're not a morning family in general but have attended an early-start school since 2002 (can't wait for #2 kid to graduate to middle school!).

    Over the years I have developed a routine of doing as much as possible the previous night, including most lunch items packed in their little containers, field trip forms signed, breakfast bowls laid out, backpacks and musical instruments and sports items by the door. One part of this is getting the kids to pick out their clothes the night before and leave them right by the bed. Shoes, too--don't want to be looking for these at 7am.

    This makes the morning routine so much easier--no decisions to be made! We go from full sleep to the bus stop in 40 minutes.

    Also, I have a friend with 3 closely-spaced children who sometimes puts them to bed in their clothes, but I haven't done that except for very early morning plane trips.

  31. We have white top, blue bottoms but avoid most of the stains on the white bec my daughter loves jumpers. Also, though I don't use liquid bleach, I do use a bleach stick occasionally on small stains.

  32. I find a few things funny:
    1. Kids' creativity being stifled by uniforms.
    2. Parents fighting with kids about what to wear.
    3. How strong a community this has become.

  33. I find this comment funny:

    "I'm in total support of uniforms in all the schools - private & public. "

    Why? So that all children will look exactly the same? Sheeeesh, who cares.

  34. Flynn--it's called "white plaid." most places only sell navy, but you'll find this.

    Black bottoms, white tops. Green sweaters. White plaid jumper/skirt.

    I believe Flynn is very loose with their code.

    Best of luck.

  35. Simple...tan khaki skirt/pants/shorts and navy blue or white polo, navy fleece pull over for those chilly foggy mornings and your done! Uniforms that have been outgrown and are in good shape can then be resold or donated (ie Size small $5 fleece pullover) at school fairs for all children to have equal access to.

    Uniforms are a GREAT idea! Great way to establish a sence of community.

  36. Our daughter is starting at Star of the Sea in the fall - we've been told to get white, black or dark blue athletic shoes. Does anyone know how serious they are about the shoes being monochromatic? It's hard to find athletic shoes these days that are all one color...