Time for a change in schoolwear?

16th October 2021 / Posted by Impressions

I was always a bit of a rebel when I was younger.  I’d like to think it was because I was clever and keen to challenge the injustices I recognised from an early age.  In reality, it was probably because:

  1. I was clever as a child and therefore I was bullied, so rebellion against authority was my way of ‘transferring’
  2. I was a precocious arse

One of the first things I challenged as a teenager was my Mum’s decision to only buy me Clark’s shoes.  For context – none of the cool kids wore Clark’s shoes. One year she gave in to my countless whines and bought me some ‘fashion shoes’.  They were half the price of the Clark’s shoes but lasted about a tenth as long.  Within about six weeks I had a hole where the sole met the (plastic) upper. They were so uncomfortable, but I was so determined.  That was my first lesson in ‘you get what you pay for, or as my Nan used to say, ‘You buy cheap you buy twice’!!

My Mum also used to knit my school jumper – the horror! So again, I persuaded her that I should have a fashion jumper (a cheap acrylic/viscose mix). She made me wear it all year.  I’d love to say it was worth the ‘shivering daily at the bus stop’ for not being laughed at for a ‘home knitted’ jumper but truly it wasn’t!!

I think it was around this time I started to turn my rebellion on the school.  I couldn’t blame them for the jumper issue, so I tried to get them to let me wear trousers to stop the cold! Then in the summer at our comprehensive school the girls wore gingham (bottle green) summer dresses. I did for the first year then decided the tablecloth look wasn’t for me.  For 4 years my ‘single parent mum’ was ‘making my dress as we couldn’t afford to buy one’.  She had made my dress I the first year, so this was sort of true.  On both topics I quoted the ‘equality issue’, the ‘unfairness of it all’ and more.  I’d like to think it made a difference as not long after I left, they did actually change the policy!

I also rallied against wearing a tie – as this is what boys wore when they left school not girls.  This, however, didn’t change and still hasn’t to this day.  For the life of me I can’t think why? The whole blazer, shirt and tie is a very masculine uniform and yet it is still the preferred option of the majority of schools.  When I went to school (a very long time ago) policewomen and girl guides wore skirts and  nurses wore dresses.  This has changed in almost every sector of uniform, with the exception of schools.

It isn’t the only inconsistency in girls and boys uniform.  There is the huge issue of pockets.  Many boys shirts have a pocket yet many girls blouses don’t.  I have asked the question many times and to many manufacturers, but I have yet to receive a reply!!  More importantly to our girls thougha is the issue of trouser pockets.  Most girl’s trousers either don’t have pockets or if they do they are only big enough to fit a credit card or a tissue (do we actually cry more than boys??). What most girls actually want to put in their pockets are their hands!!

My frustrations were echoed this year in a very well put together report by **Let Clothes be Clothes called ‘Setting girls up to fail’.  The report highlights the fact that the costs of compulsory items of school uniform are often greater for girls than for boys.  More importantly, the number of rules around what girls can and cannot wear and how they must be worn (skirts worn to or below the knee for example) mean they are far more likely to get into trouble for uniform policy breaches than boys.  Then there is the issue of girls being blamed for the way they wear their uniform and the ‘impact’ that this has on the male of the species.  Yes apparently, the blame for what happens to us lies in what or how we wear our clothes – even at school!

I asked a series of questions last weekend of the largest Schoolwear manufacturers in the UK at the Schoolwear Show.  The answers were both varied and interesting.

I’m actually excited to see what response comes from my ‘conversations’ with the suppliers last weekend.  Awareness they say, can lead to change.  Let’s hope so!


Caeryn Collins

CVO Impressions Uniform


** https://www.letclothesbeclothes.co.uk/girls-school-uniform-report-2021