Thursday, 18 October 2012

The school uniform debate

Good evening everyone! Do your kids wear a uniform to go to school?

After lunch, I had to pick up a couple of extra items for my son's school uniform, and I realized that I have not yet written anything about our back to school experience.

For the first time in his life, my son has to wear a school uniform. Last year I read an article in one of Italy's top newpapers about the uniform vs free dressing debate. Not even the most expensive private schools in Milan require an uniform, and teachers complained about the fact that parents often chose fashion over practicality and that kids (especially girls) got into unhealthy dressing competitions. For this reason, teachers missed the practicality of the uniforms that kids used to wear to school (public or private, it did not matter) when I was a kid. On the other hand, parents defended the need for kids to express their individuality through their clothing choices. The article's arguments were fitting to the Italian context, where the attention to style and fashion is embedded in the society's DNA as much for locals as for foreigners, for whom they are often felt as key to fit in. (Gabrielle's experience in France seems to be similar, and it made me smile to read that she has never dressed so fancy as she does now in France compared to when she was living in the US).

I do not have a strong opinion about school uniforms, but my experience so far is that it simplifies tremendously the morning rush. Mute is now every discussion about wearing short sleeves t-shirts when it is -20 degrees Celsius outside just because it is a favourite, of a super-hero, or with a favorite dinosaur depicted on it. My son does not get frustrated to look for what to wear in his closet, and can easily get dressed by himself. During the weekends, it is also easy to plan laundry loads, because I know that at the very least I need to wash 3 pairs of pants and 3 polo shirts. Finally, the uniform has created a nice after school routine, whereby when we come back, we get cleaned and changed already into loungewear or pyjamas, so that my son is ready to go to sleep after dinner and I do not need to chase him to get him ready for bed. (My son felt so grown up to have to go and choose his school uniform that he wanted to go in dressing room all by himself, as you can see in the picture above.) Do your kids have to wear a uniform? Would you like it if they would have to? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

P.S. If the kids' outfits are standardized, there could not be more heterogeneity when it comes to their moms' style choices. I have to confess that I miss a bit the moms who I met regularly standing outside my son school in Italy last year, and from whom I always got some inspiration (such as the color of these shoes). This year, aside from the display of ultra-expensive handbags (did they sell the Hermes saddle bag at Costco or something? everybody seems to have one around here), clothing and, particularly, footwear are incredibly uninspiring, and generally disconnected from the latest trends. More on this in another post...

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