I work at a school and choose to wear a version of the uniform on a daily basis but there’s a lot I hate about what schools churn out for students to wear.
When I was at school (all those many moons ago) we had a variety of school shirts but the bottoms weren’t restricted like the way a number of schools operate now. We had school colours and as long as your pants/shorts/skirt were respectable and in the right colours you were fine. This was great because my folks couldn’t afford to regularly fork out for school branded or dictated clothing so I would rock up in my Big W or Kmart pants and my official school shirt. Whereas a number of schools these days are very particular about the style and brand of bottoms (especially skirts) to the point where the only place you can purchase them is the school uniform shop.
I also hate the cardboard cut-out approach to uniform policies where every kid looks like the next one and the next one and so on. This used to be the domain of the private system but public schools operate like this too now. It’s because schools are businesses and they get caught up in the marketing of the school and forget about the students’ interests (interests being a key word here).
Where do comics come in?
I was watching this video recently and all I could think about was how I wished schools had the same philosophy. What Kristian Williams says (among other things) is that, for the X-Men, “it’s not just a uniform it’s a symbol of the unification of the group” and they’re designed to “promote cooperation and project a positive public image”. It stems beyond the X-Men too. When you look at costumes in comics you see how the individual personality is reflected despite the need to visually beyond to a group. Don’t think about the Avengers or Justice League here, I’m not talking about heroes who form a group after they are established as individuals but teams like the Fantastic Four who share an origin.
I just wish schools had more options so people could express their individuality, even if that expression is somewhat restricted. At the moment, I love specialist sports and academic programs having their own garb and I also like the idea of house/faction shirts because they allow students to identify as part of the school community without wearing the exact same thing as everyone else – if only these sorts of options were available when choosing their everyday uniform.
When I think about what an ideal school uniform would look like to me, I think about Captain America. Let me explain.
When Steve Rogers kicks around in the classic Cap costume he looks like this:
It’s the epitome of patriotic apparel: stars, stripes, red, white and blue. Rogers’ army background is also evident in the belt.
When Steve ‘died’ his uniform was adopted (and modified) by his one-time sidekick, Bucky. The Winter Soldier has a dark and twisted past as an assassin and this is evident in the darker tones of his costume:
More recently, Steve Rogers caught ‘old-age’ and handed over the reins to Falcon. Sam Wilson’s design is more in line with his fly-boy nature. He keeps the wings of his old moniker but drops the big A that Rogers normally has on his forehead. His ‘look’ appears new, fresh and streamlined without changing much:
There’s also U.S. Agent. John Walker wears a black outfit with all of the same elements, aka the stars and stripes, but with a different design to Rogers’ suit:
Steve Rogers is also coming back to the Cap role in a new costume which is vastly different to all of the others above but is still obviously Captain America:
What am I getting at?
All I’m saying is that school uniform designers could take a leaf out of (the multiple) Caps’ books. It is possible to create a variety of outfits that, while different, demonstrate that those people wearing them belong to a particular ideal.
Belong. It’s a word I chose deliberately. For me, school uniform shouldn’t be about what looks good on the website or on a brochure. Moreover, public schools shouldn’t dress their students in private school regalia. I choose to wear a variation of the uniform for a number of reasons but one of those is pride – I’m proud of what I have achieved at my current school and I’m proud of a number of kids I’ve had the pleasure of working with. What I hope for is that students, from any school, will look back at where they got their education with a sense of nostalgia and pride. What I hope for is that they don’t wait until they leave before feeling this way. Students should WANT to wear the uniform but too many schools provide little to no options of what to wear (or how to accessorise).
Maybe they should flick an email to Marvel or DC and ask for advice.