I just registered our daughter for Kindergarten at a school that has amazing ratings online - Great Schools ranks it at a 10/10 (for whatever that's actually worth, I'm not really sure). So I'm super excited that she'll apparently be in an excellent learning environment.

My concern is the dress code. Details aren't necessary but suffice it to say it's entirely boring (limited solid color, no-design polos, etc.). I value education, but I also equally value individuality.

Can someone help me understand the benefits of discouraging 5-year-olds from wearing their favorite princess or super hero shirts at school? I'm aware of what's attempted to be achieved (distracting from competing in dress, focusing on academics, etc.), but are there any real data to support the claim that such policies actually produce the expected benefits? Or even better, any real-world experiences that directly benefited from such a policy?


14 Answers 14


I wore a school uniform (very similar to what you describe) from ages 10 - 17. There were some benefits to it such as not having to waste time figuring out what to wear and not feeling "judged" by my choice of outfit.

You seem concerned your 5 yro won't be able to express their individuality. I'd like to argue that uniforms could do the opposite.

Uniforms encourage you to express your individuality beyond your physical appearance. Since everyone looks the "same" you have to stand out some other way. You learn to be more expressive with your personality and what you say than with your t-shirt. Accessories became important as well. There is still the desire to look different so bold earrings, headbands, jewelry, shoes, etc. are great.

I am no parent but just a thought, is it easier getting younger children dressed when you only have a few simple options to choose from?

Edit: @Tracey Cramer made the comment below, "How you wear the uniform (sloppy, neat), how you accessorize the uniform, how you perform in class is how you express your uniqueness". I really liked this statement and felt it deserved more recognition than just a comment.

  • 19
    The stated purpose of uniforms is to suppress individuality, to generate uniformity. There may be ways around it but your claim that uniforms “do the opposite”, and “improve” expression of individuality has no leg to stand on. Jul 25, 2017 at 13:08
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    @KonradRudolph He asked for anecdotal answers. Wearing a uniform encouraged me to be more expressive in other ways. May not be the general norm, but was true in my experience.
    – cheshire
    Jul 25, 2017 at 15:31
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    @KonradRudolph Stating that it's the opposite is a logical fallacy as well. There's no ill intent with uniforms and saying it suppresses individuality is not necessarily true, it simply reduces a single monetary means of bullying by look. Similar to how there's two sides of the coin in this case, there's more than that to how school affects behaviours for different people, as they are exactly that: different. Saying that it has all of these harmful effects is no more than hyperbolistic at best, and is downright partisan at worst.
    – Anoplexian
    Jul 25, 2017 at 20:16
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    @KonradRudolph I fear that you're taking it for granted that "suppressing individuality" is their purpose. I've yet to see a justification for that assertion.
    – owjburnham
    Jul 26, 2017 at 11:32
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    Uniformity of dress is the only thing being enforced though, and that means that actual individuality has a chance to shine. Kids need that, as they can be quite superficial. Uniforms help teach kids to look past immediate appearances and focus on things that matter.
    – Jasmine
    Jul 26, 2017 at 18:18

Lots of reasons.

  • Keeps kids on level ground, economically. Uniforms are generally pretty cheap and no one gets ridiculed for their choice of clothes.
  • Keeps kids safe. Have you ever tried to herd a mob of tiny people? It's much easier when they're all wearing the same thing.
  • Has been shown to improve attendance and achievement, reduce violence and gang presence, improve self-esteem, and have other benefits in dozens of scientific studies.
  • There are other ways for your daughter to express individuality. Accessories, hairstyle, etc.

As a side note, you should reconsider your priorities when it comes to individuality and education. Individuality fosters critical thinking and it's extremely important, but education is more important. These two should not be valued equally. I'm sure if you think that one through to conclusion you will agree.

  • 20
    Your link says "Results were not significant showing that school uniforms did not have an effect on self esteem."
    – Hatshepsut
    Jul 25, 2017 at 5:24
  • 17
    Please link to these “dozens of scientific studies” that you claim exist. The one you link to shows nothing. Jul 25, 2017 at 13:04
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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Any discussion comments posted here will be deleted - use the chat.
    – Rory Alsop
    Jul 25, 2017 at 16:13
  • "I'm sure if you think that one through to conclusion you will agree." I find this statement confusing. Would you be able to update the answer with an expansion on this statement, even if it is supposed to be one of those "obvious, exercise left to the reader" situations?
    – corsiKa
    Jul 25, 2017 at 16:33
  • Comments cleaned again. please use the chat.
    – Acire
    Jul 26, 2017 at 15:05
  1. School uniforms eliminate any questions of what is or is not appropriate. There is no subjective component to a teachers objection to being out of uniform, versus the news hype raised over t shirts with logos or various styles of dress.
  2. In some neighborhoods, kids were getting beaten and robbed of their designer clothes. It was a safety decision for those schools.
  3. They encourage a more professional atmosphere at the school. I didn't believe it until I saw it at my daughter's school, but it really does foster a more professional atmosphere and relationship, even between the kids. (Edit: added #4)
  4. Younger and special needs children benefit from a routine. Even some home schoolers have gone to "school uniforms" to create a routine to reinforce expectations during school hours.
  • 8
    Point (1) is oh so true. I've seen headlines about a kid being suspended from school for wearing a t-shirt with a gun on it. Now whether you think guns on t-shirts should or shouldn't be allowed, I hope you will agree that the dress habits of students (and suspensions resulting therefrom) making news headlines is a distraction from the actual function of schools in educating youth!
    – Wildcard
    Jul 25, 2017 at 2:23
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    I'd not want kindergarten to be a learning factory... But that's just me.
    – jwenting
    Jul 25, 2017 at 8:36
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    "Schoo uniforms eliminate any questions of what is or is not appropriate. " - no, they really don't. They reduce to various degree some questions of appropriateness, but create several others.
    – Nij
    Jul 25, 2017 at 10:58
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    @jwenting Yes, and that is exactly what I am thinking of. My daughter went from an "arts" oriented charter school that was very permissive, to a "classical" charter school that was very rigid. The more rigid school actually allowed more opportunity for fun, because the teachers spent far less time on class management and more time interacting individually with the kids.
    – pojo-guy
    Jul 25, 2017 at 12:18
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    @jwenting too many staff meetings is, to me, a sign of possible lack of professionalism in the school's administrative functions. Professionalism is all about making processes work smoothly, and too many meetings says that things are not running smoothly. When the core is running smoothly, people have time and energy for play.
    – pojo-guy
    Jul 25, 2017 at 14:59

There are many upsides and downsides to school uniforms. A lot of them can be "opinion based" so bear with me a bit as I relate what is usually talked about with people around me.


  • Equality - In theory, everyone is wearing the same uniform so there isn't that "I need $300 shoes to be socially accepted" thing going on. In truth be just standardized the clothes so that now everyone has the right "shoes". This is tricky, because the schools with lax uniform policies might actually make this worse. If the shoes are the only thing you can "swap out" then they become more important. That said, the general idea is that no one gets picked on for fashion choices.
  • Gang Issues - Gangs are a problem at every level of school including younger ages. They might not exactly understand what they are doing but if they see mom always wearing red, they want to wear red too. This gets around this issue.
  • Policy - It's easy to say everyone must wear uniform 1774B. It's harder to say that you can wear what ever so long as it doesn't violate these rules you may or may not agree with. A great example is my wife and I. I dislike when she wears "short shorts" out. Being southern, she likes wearing short shorts. The problem isn't the shorts, it's the length. We started talking about it back when we were dating, and her definition of to short was based off of "finger length" while my definition was based on "distance from knees". So even the definition of "too short shorts" is different between two people. In the end we both kind of realized this was a non-issue. The places we like to go wouldn't really like shorts of any kind. School uniforms are the same kind of resolution. Skip the definitions, just wear uniform 1774B.
  • Cost - Ideally uniforms are cheaper then "normal clothes". I have seen a really large mixed bag with these. Sometimes that's true, but the cost is totally offset by the fact that you now have to buy 4 sets of clothes (per day or what ever) instead of 2-3. For example, with out uniforms, 1. school clothes, 2. play/dirty clothes (depends on age and what not but you don't wear your best clothes to play in the mud), 3. night clothes (for sleeping in) With a uniform you don't need school clothes, but you still need uniforms, and you need to add nice clothes for going out to eat for example. In addition to that uniforms are not always cheaper. Specially ones that are only available through the school or select stores. They are often used to set a kind of "economic policy" that would otherwise be considered discrimination.
  • Proper priorities - When you buy your daughter (gonna pick on you for a moment) the princess dress, your teaching her to identify with a brand. She may not realize it, but your saying "the best way to express your self is with brand loyalty". But worse then that your teaching that it's not the quality that counts but the picture. Brand loyalty due to cost, quality, other factors is a good thing. Brand quality to a picture is a bad thing. Honestly, I think this is an important thing to consider, but I also think it's a bit "overbearing". Kids buy things they recognize, so they want the spider-man cup and the sponge bob plates, and the frozen hair shampoo. It's hard to get a 2nd grader to understand that Mr. Bubbles is just as good as HULK bubble bath. School uniforms are supposed to create a clear break from that, and help to create an environment where it's not about what "brand" your touting, but what you know/learn. Unfortunately, the real reality is that that "brand touting" starts coming out in pencils, markers, lunch boxes, etc. etc.
  • Safety - Again in theory it's safer to heard cats if they all look the same. This is pretty much true. The down side is more about relying on only this method.
  • No Sexy - More for middle school and high school students. Around here there was a big problem. Girls, mostly, would wear clothes that were not appropriate for school. Pants with words on the bottom, like "Juicy", shorts that were short enough to show butt checks through, shirts low enough to make a sailor blush, etc. Depending on the parents to police that didn't work. I thought it was kinda funny to see a counselor call in a parent because their daughters shirt was not modest enough only to have the mom come in with obvious "augmentations" in a shirt that looked like something was going to pop out, and sporting the slogan "meet the twins" on it. Where do you start to explain that the teens modest by comparison shirt choice is not acceptable.


The negatives I normally hear are pretty straight forward.

  • Conformity factory - With uniforms comes a lack of freedom of expression. This is 100% true, except expression can and does still take place. But yes kids don't have the freedom to choose what color shirts to wear.
  • Cost - As mentioned above, some schools use uniforms in the $300-$400 range as a kind of "economic filter" that would otherwise be illegal discrimination. There are laws to prevent this, but, those laws are not perfect, to say the least.
  • Availability - This is a big one around here. Kids are allowed to buy 3 uniforms to start with. Well for me that sucks, I don't want to do laundry that often. I would rather by 7-10 uniforms and do laundry weekly, and have some "overlap". But, at the start of the year almost every outlet for school uniforms has a limit of "3 per student" or some such. At the same time kids don't just grow in the summer, and a lot of places around here only have uniforms available at the start of the school year or around the big breaks. Finally, if you have a large or tiny kid you may be out of luck. Uniforms can be really hard to find in Large or tiny sizes. Have a kid that has a late growth spurt or an early one, and you could really be in for some trouble. A 12 year old girl that looks 21. It happens and for her parents, on top of the other nightmares, now there going to have a hard time finding her a uniform.
  • Indoctrination - If everyone looks alike it's harder to have a different idea. This is true, unfortunately. This means that kids pick on different ideas more then different clothes. It becomes much hard to do the whole "It's only your clothes, you can change those, but be proud of who you are" when the thing that got the kid singled out was the idea/belief and not the clothes. You see this a lot in religion and the corporate world. It does happen.
  • Shift of "uniqueness" - Everyone has to wear the same shirt, pants and shoes. Guess what, that means that this week princess socks are the fad. Next week it will be "unicorn bow ties". After that comes "transformer lunch boxes". The main criticism here is that it doesn't actually improve the "everyone is the same" goals, it just shifts the "differences" to something else.
  • Cultural competency - What do Muslims wear? What about other religions that require special clothes. Are the uniforms accounting for other cultural needs? It may seem silly, because now everyone is the "same". But that isn't cultural competency, that's overriding someone else's culture. I know this sounds a bit "hippie", it does to me too. But if someone identifies with a specific culture, and that culture says that bright colors and light clothes are the norm, then you end up displacing that culture, with "heavy, drab student coverings" We create as a society a situation of "your culture is fine so long as you don't do it around me".

In short, at least around here, uniforms are a "hot topic". There are some very legitimate good reasons to choose school uniforms, and some very legitimate reasons to avoid them. Unfortunately, depending on how your school system works, you may have to "just deal with it". That's not my normal way of doing things. I am usually the loud annoying one that wants decisions explained to me, but in this case, there is no clear answer. You have chosen to put more emphasis on "education" then "fashion freedom", and only time will tell if that was a good thing or not.

If your daughter really wants to wear her Frozen shirt there is nothing stopping here from wearing it outside of school. You should take the time to emphasize that, if that choice is important to you. Unfortunately this is one of those things that will take several decades to play out. You just have to do your best, focus on the positives, and try to supplement the schools ideals with your own.

  • I'd disagree about gang issues. My school's uniform policy didn't stop a group of students forming a gang. Admitedly it was a pretty laughable gang because the students involved weren't exactly criminal masterminds. Also I disagree with the 'conformity' and 'indoctrination'. Yes all students are dressed pretty much the same, but it doesn't force all students to have the same views or to stop expressing themselves. If you need clothing to express yourself you might want to rethink your outlook on the world. Cost and Availability vary between country and location.
    – Pharap
    Jul 25, 2017 at 18:11
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    I didn't say any of it worked, just that these are the opinions most often expressed around me. As for conformity and indoctrination, those are actually real ones. They are hotly debated today with issues like the French "burka" ban, and historic use of clothing to oppress and indoctrinate like accounts of POWs (i.e. "American POWs in Korea: Sixteen Personal Accounts") Clothing is very much a cultural and personal expression, just because your mainstream doesn't mean everyone is. Imagine being told that you can't ware pants because it's against the uniform, here put on a Roman Tunic.
    – coteyr
    Jul 25, 2017 at 18:19
  • There's a world of difference between a ban on burkas and wearing a school uniform, and school is not some Korean POW camp or a Nazi death-camp, it's a learning establishment. POW camps mess with people in ways much deeper than making them wear a uniform. As for being made to wear a Roman Tunic, if that was the standard uniform and everyone was made to wear it, I for one would be fine with it if I were allowed to still wear underwear. If I'm at school, I'm there to learn and talk to my friends, not for a fashion parade. I'm not mainstream, but I don't express my individuality through clothing.
    – Pharap
    Jul 25, 2017 at 18:31
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    @Pharap It’s actually an apt comparison. There was a fairly big case a few years back in the UK because girls weren’t allowed to wear trousers. The issue at the time was that it was unfair because it was cold in winter (and a particular girl didn’t want to wear tights) but the much bigger issue would be that it’s ultimately sexist. I don’t know what the current status is but, regardless, this is a real issue that is created by mandating uniform. Jul 25, 2017 at 19:04
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    @Mazura: here in the UK, at least, that principle is rather undermined by each school having a different uniform. Usually they go out of their way to ensure nearby schools have different-colour uniforms, so you can easily tell what school the kids are from. If gang members take away from this that wearing the wrong colour in the wrong place is a disciplinary issue, one can hardly blame them. But gang colours aren't anything like such a serious problem here as they are in some parts of Chicago, so maybe our schools consider it's not so harmful to teach that lesson. Jul 26, 2017 at 14:49

I wore a uniform my entire school career, except for one school which had a dress code. The uniforms were usually black or blue slacks or khakis and a polo shirt with the school logo. The pants were buyable off the rack and as they were dark colored they did not show wear much. The polos (golf shirts) you can likewise buy anywhere and iron on the logo, which the school sold.

Moderately more expensive than a T shirt I guess? but only an economic problem if you were so poor you'd need additional help anyway. As has been mentioned before, Princess outfits from Disney aren't that cheap as you get older.

The dress code for the one school without a formal uniform was black, blue, or brown slacks, a solid color button down shirt, and a tie in the winter months.

I have been clearly warped by the experience. :-)

The justifications for uniforms have all been given, and one can argue about studies for ever. The justification always given in Catholic schools has always been the same - economics. It is harder - not impossible, but harder - to pick our the rich kid when all are wearing $10 polos and $25 pants from Kohl's. Or the girl wearing the princess dress. These become more expensive as she gets older of course.

I don't understand the controversy or the energy in this debate. The point of school is to learn and grow mentally and physically. There are ways to express your individuality and to learn and to grow other than superficially through your choice of clothes.

  • Clothing is not a superficial choice. It can be a very cultural one. Specially if your in an area with high immigration. I live in FL and there is a huge difference between "Caribbean style" clothing and the traditional school uniforms.
    – coteyr
    Jul 25, 2017 at 15:37
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    @coteyr I went to a school with white people, black people, indians, pakistanis, chinese etc. Everyone wore a school uniform and nobody complained "oh no, it's surpressing my culture". Everyone knew the situation - everyone had to wear the uniform regardless of creed, colour or culture, i.e. everyone was in the same boat, bound by the rules. It wasn't any less of a change to the non-immigrants than it was to immigrants because they were still wearing the kind of clothing they would not willingly choose to wear outside of school.
    – Pharap
    Jul 25, 2017 at 18:23
  • "The point of school is to learn and grow mentally and physically." You forgot to add emotionally, socially, and creatively in there too. Those are just as important, if not more important. Being smart is only useful if you have the social skills to get a job, or the creativity to do something useful with your smarts.
    – corsiKa
    Jul 25, 2017 at 19:55
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    @corsiKa Pretty sure "mentally" was used as a blanket term for all of those things. This is rather evident as it is immediately balanced and contrasted by "physically". You seem to have thought he said "intellectually", which he didn't. You might as well rail against him for not specifying that students also experience growth in height, width, hair, acne, etc. Jul 26, 2017 at 10:23
  • @zibadawatimmy I couldn't disagree more. You might possibly consider emotional growth to be part of mental growth, and if you seriously stretched the boundaries you could consider creativity to be a mental attribute (although most would disagree with you.) Most definitely social growth is not under the umbrella of mental growth.
    – corsiKa
    Jul 26, 2017 at 14:42

I actually liked my school's uniform.

Sure, it was Brazil, and like almost everything else out there, Brazil did its thing in a weird way. My school was a even more special case, as the damn best public schools on the state - and one of the best in the country.

It was somewhat like this:

All the kids, except those on the Senior Year, were forced to wear the uniform. However:

  • The School's shirt came in a rainbow of different colors, from the official jet black to blood red to golden yellow and lime green. Name a color, there was a shirt on that color. Those shirts came in four designs - regular, polo, sleeveless and crop top (yes. A crop top.) - all of them with the school's shield on the chest.
  • For the bottom part, one could pick the school's trouser or shorts, for both males and females. Females also had the option for yoga-like pants and shorts. Those were always jet black.
  • There was also a unisex school jacket and a unisex school coat, both again in the official school color - Jet black, with white trimmings and the school shield on the chest.

Schools on Brazil are separated by different Parties - which are groupings of students are kept together. This is an official arrangement - you were in all the classes with the same colleagues during the entire year. This created a family-like bonding between the students, which made the Senior Year all more special.

On the senior year, you party could design and order a special, custom made uniform that could be used to replace the regular uniform. The jacket of those custom uniforms had the party number and the name of the student on the back. The shirts and the trousers had special trimmings all around, that made clear you were a senior student. Girls also got a matching gym set with sports bra and leggings on the same design and colors.

This made the uniform something special. Using it, on our school, wasn't oppressive - it was a reason for pride. Unpacking your Senior Uniform for the first time was a incredible experience.

At least for us, the uniform helped a lot. Yeah, it suppresses a bit the "individuality". But to hell with it - we looked at each other as family, as equals. It helped us to bond and to focus the what matters the most in other people - who they were, and not what they were dressing.

That's why every single student of that school that finished High School got a free pass to the university.

Did the uniform help on that? I'm not sure. From what I could experience, yes, it did.

But again, Brazil is weird.

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    Brazil makes me smile sometimes. You look at a word like 'uniform' and come up with a thing that wouldn't fit my definition but clearly did the job well.
    – user26011
    Jul 26, 2017 at 19:18

When selecting the type of learning environment you want for your child(ren) there are often times many options out there. In the US in many places now they have something called "School of choice". We have that in my area. It means I can select a school (assuming there is room for enrollment) anywhere in my county that I prefer. Within that there are a number of options that are non tuition. If I am able to & willing to pay tuition, I have additional options. Some of these schools are uniform based, some are not, there are even places like Waldorf schools where they require an entirely different sort of dress criteria (like all natural fibers, etc).

If your desire at 5 is less structure & more self expression, you may then seek out something more Montessori styled. I am sure it would more than likely suit your interest in her being able to dance to the beat of her own drum.

And the best news of all in parenting & school choices is you do not have to stick with the same thing you start with. If you opt to keep this one & she does well, great. If for any reason you decide it's a bad fit for her or for you, you can change. There are no absolutes until they are graduated & until then you can explore new options & try other approaches if the current one isn't suiting what you need.

I think that you would be hard pressed to find much data that supports uniforms strongly in 5 year olds. Most of what I have found seems to focus on older children, but I would think it makes sense to start the uniforms from day one rather than arbitrarily say that once a child hits 4th or 5th grade we will switch to uniforms.

  • Note that some Montessori programs have dress codes. The Montessori School of Raleigh, for example.
    – bishop
    Jul 25, 2017 at 12:09
  • +1 for choice. Benefits of uniforms are highly debatable, just as most choices decisions schools take, but those are things to be debated before choosing an school, not after you registered. Who values individuality over uniforms, should choose another school. Deciding on online ratings is risky - for example, all positive ratings may come from people who enrolled the school because they like uniforms.
    – Pere
    Jul 25, 2017 at 15:18
  • @bishop I believe all schools almost will have dress code. I am not sure I've seen one that doesn't have something written on it. But for example, when my son was 4 & we looked at schools, we were told in order to attend one of the private schools I really liked, he would need short hair, off his collar. By contrast, no other school we looked at had any such rules regarding the length of a boy's hair. Typically all schools will have rules on the clothing. I haven't seen a Montessori that does uniforms. That is all I meant.
    – threetimes
    Jul 25, 2017 at 19:22
  • Come on! How can you even offer "either uniforms or montessori"? It's like "either wear suit or become homeless". Dressing style should have nothing to do with the possibilities to get an education.
    – Džuris
    Jul 25, 2017 at 20:14
  • I am not sure how you can equate Montessori as a poor education that leads to homelessness Dzuris. I am not sure if it was an attempt at humor? I didn't say wear a uniform or go to Montessori. I said there were many options out there, some require uniforms (even for public education) many do not. If you were seriously thinking Montessori is a poor education, maybe you need to read more on it. ami-global.org/sites/default/files/RathundeComparison.pdf
    – threetimes
    Jul 25, 2017 at 22:14

It is also at least an attempt to get children to take pride in their appearance. If you have a school uniform you are usually expected to keep your shirt tucked into your pants, in winter you are expected to wear a tie. Your clothes need to be clean and well ironed. This does a lot for self-respect and the respect of others, you respect yourself and those around you by not looking like a hooligan. Also, there are many workplaces that require a dress code, it does prepare you for the real world as well

  • Females are not normally expected to wear ties ... in the UK at least. Maybe it's different where you come from ... Jul 25, 2017 at 13:17
  • I was talking more out of a boys perspective, never had to wear a girls school uniform myself, would not know what that is lyke ☺
    – Neil Meyer
    Jul 25, 2017 at 13:25
  • @DavidPostill It depends on the school. I've seen a few schools where female students had to wear ties too.
    – Pharap
    Jul 25, 2017 at 18:24
  • Sorry, but this sounds disgusting. Should the school really teach that people with ties and shirt tucked in are somehow better or preferable? The respect to others is in your clothes being tidy. Wearing a tie and believing you are better than without it is disrespect to whoever doesn't wear one.
    – Džuris
    Jul 25, 2017 at 20:45
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    @Džuris Be careful in how you read the answer. He did not say to think you are better than another, just that you have pride in your own appearance.
    – user24631
    Jul 25, 2017 at 21:59

For very small children (i.e. kindergarten/nursery age), it gives the teachers a bit of breathing space, rather than them worrying that a child is going to spill paint on their 'very best' princess costume.

If the uniforms are relatively cheap, easily washable and not something the parent really 'cares' about, then the teacher doesn't have to worry if the kids go home some days wet/messy/torn.

  • My daughters' teachers send a note home saying "make sure to not wear good clothes on Tuesday as we're going to be painting." - If I had to spend money on a school uniform and my kid spilled paint on it, I'd be rather upset at them. Allowing paint to be spilled on the uniform is against every principle the uniforms are supposed to encourage.
    – corsiKa
    Jul 25, 2017 at 19:53

Uniforms are actually kind of expensive.

I wore a uniform in elementary school (it was like a sailor uniform with a flap thing on the shirt and a ribbon tie and a cardigan with choice of pants skirts or shorts!) and had a fairly preppy dress code in high school..well it was a prep school haha.

I found the uniform easy and simple and because my parents were frugal as heck, I didn't have to feel as bad on competing with fashion. Same thing in high school. This is a place where 16 year olds drove range rovers and used designer bags to carry books. It was one less thing to feel different about.

But I always stretched the limit of the dress code and loosely interpreted it. I would often argue with my teachers over vague points in the dress code and I'm pretty sure they kept having to add rules because of me! When yoga pants came out all hell broke loose!

I think your child can still wear whatever they want outside of school. Add individuality within the dress code. Maybe a sticker or card in the lunch box with the princess, colored laces, a headband or bracelet? The boy I nanny has his favorite cartoon underpants and he is very proud of them.

I think this also teaches them that there is a time and a place for certain dress. I'd love to wear pj's to work but... I can't.

If doctors didn't wear white coats they'd just be people walking around a hospital ! =p I hope this helps!

  • 3
    Uniforms can be expensive. But it depends on the school. In the UK, non-fee-paying schools often have uniforms, but they almost always specify clothes which can be sourced cheaply. And as you say, it then avoids (to a large extent) the issues with fashion. Also issues with expensive designer clothes ruined in the playground.
    – Graham
    Jul 25, 2017 at 11:58
  • This is a great answer in general, but I'm unsure how it applies to 5 year olds who don't (hopefully) compete on fashion, yet
    – user3143
    Jul 25, 2017 at 13:32
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    Of course a 5 year old competes with fashion! If every kid or even a few kids have the latest Disney whatever, why wouldn't the children without feel left out? I just went through this with the boy I take care of. His mom bought him a whole new back-pack, shoes and clothes because he said his friends had that brand/cartoon and he wanted them too, so that he could match. They could afford this... but some people cannot. Even with my uniform in kindergarten, I was still very conscious of my off brand shoes when everyone else had Nikes. "What are those!?" they'd exclaim, pointing at my shoes.
    – Kay
    Jul 25, 2017 at 18:24
  • I remember seeing a documentary on Harrow and thinking to myself two-thousand pounds for a school uniform is a tad much
    – Neil Meyer
    Jul 26, 2017 at 7:17
  • Also when it comes to British schools the uniforms don't change for decades, and few people have issues with 2nd-hand uniform which reduces the cost significantly for those on a budget. Aug 3, 2017 at 17:13

All of the answers so far seem to focus on uniforms in general, but not on your specific case. While there are arguments for dress codes, pro and against, in upper levels I think few, if any, apply to a 5 year old. They aren't at the point where they feel they are competing in clothing, they rarely notice what others wear, nor is there a substantial difference in costs between 'cheap' and 'expensive' clothes for 5 year old. At the same time, since mommy usually still picks her clothes for her, she can't really express individuality. Basically the majority of answers do not apply because children this young are not at the point where they are aware of clothing choices of themselves or others enough to play a significant affect on their development or success in schools.

My honest suspicion for why your school has a dress code is immitation. Many private schools, including some of the more presteigious and expensive, have dress codes for older children, for the reasons addressed in other answers. Since your school is trying to be a prestegious pre-school it's attempting to mimick those tropes associated with such schools. This can give them the feel of these schools, maybe even convince parents their more prestigious because they are 'fancy' enough to require a dress code.

Alternatively depending on what ages this school covers it may have older kids in higher grades where the dress code matters more and simply apply the dress code equally to all grades.

Either case the affect is the same, it's not that 5-year-olds need a dress code, it's that the sort of school they want to be requires older kids to have dress codes, so they apply it from the start.

Personally, I'm opposed to a dress code for such a young child, though I think it ultimately isn't a significant factor. My primary concern is simply logistical, you're forced to buy more clothes to have enough that fit their standards for a week, and have to apply extra logistical effort into making sure that you not only have a clean shirt, but the right type of clean shirt, for your daughter. It's not that difficult, but it's a hassle and expense for you that offers no benefit.

Furthermore, while I feel the affect on individuality is less important at this age then with older children I still encourage kids to express themselves with decisions at young ages, and some choice over clothes is a good low cost decision, a starting step for children to feel they have agency and choice at a young age that leads towards more decision making later, and the dress code is limiting this to a degree.

I'd be more understanding if this school goes all the way up to 5/6 grade, instead of being limited to preschool and/or kindergarten, as instituting a dress code early avoids the need to transition children to the dress code at an older age (when it's more relevant) after they have already gotten use to having more choice.

Ultimately though, the difference is pretty minor. Go to whatever school is best to your daughter and juts go along with the dress code they have if they have one. Your not going to see a significant difference in development or well-being either way so no need to worry about it too much.



My three year old wears a uniform.

Once in a parents-teachers meeting, one teacher was apologetically explaining that a little staining on the clothes was inevitable, as they play with dirt and paint. And that it's perfectly okay for us parents to send them back with all the stains that didn't come off with regular washing - "It's okay, it's an uniform!"

I thought she was being paranoid and stating the obvious - until I looked to my side, and my wife was nodding and smiling with visible relief. It turned out that the stains had been bothering her, she had been anxious about failing to remove them, and that little speech was something she really needed.

So, there's that. I don't know how important "it's okay, it's an uniform" actually is to the speech, but it seemed to help a lot. How would you and your daughter feel if the very favorite princess dress came back with a bad stain? Any feelings that a wise school is better off not inflicting?


This is an answer to the "Why can't" question, which has been overshadowed by the "What's the motivation" question.

Double-check that uniforms are immutably required. If not, then asking "Why can't" is fallacious.

My school district requires students to wear a uniform. This is clearly explained in the parent handbook and on the schools' Websites. What's not explained is the option for a parent to declare a student exempt from the uniform requirement for any reason. Unless you go to the official policy as adopted by the school board you'd never know. I speculate that staff would like to minimize the number of exceptions to keep track of.

  • This answer is no longer relevant; the "Why can't" question's been deleted from the title. Jul 27, 2017 at 5:41

It is the easy way out.

Do you believe people should be judged by the way they look? Should anyone be disrespected because he has "worse" outfit? The western society believes that a person shouldn't suffer because of a lesser outfit.

How can schools make sure that nobody is regarded worse because of the outfit?

  • "Utopia" policy - teach and show everyone that the looks are irrelevant, focus on what matters. In school it's education, so let's focus on that ignoring ones appearance.
  • "Don't care" policy - this is what most schools do (at least here in Latvia). Teachers ignore your looks, you can get education regardless of irrelevant stuff and your performance in tests is what is judged. However, peers can still be nasty.
  • "Gang" policy - these are the uniform schools. You have to wear our colours. You don't? Go away then. Either you come like you one of ours, or you are bad and don't belong here.

As you can already guess, I strongly believe that the last option is wrong. I would never attend or send a child to school that believes appearance matters. And the worst is if they are saying "we do this so children don't get picked on for their looks" while they are picking themselves on whoever haven't got exactly their prescribed looks.

Also, I find the bullying unrelated to wealth. I am 28 but I still remember being 11. The peers are bullied for subtler reasons than outfit. Someone having "poor clothing" or "expensive watch" can be equally good excuses for bullying and peer hate. Even if someone gets hate in the words like "you are poor, you look homeless", another child with equally poor clothing might be in the "cool" group and never get picked on.

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