A school uniform is a uniform worn by students primarily for a school or otherwise educational institution. They are common in primary and secondary schools in various countries.
Although often used interchangeably, there is an important distinction between dress codes and school uniforms: according to scholars such as Nathan Joseph, clothing can only be considered a uniform when it “serves as a group emblem, certifies an institution’s legitimacy by revealing individual’s relative positions and suppresses individuality.”
An example of a uniform would be requiring button-down shirts, trousers for boys and blouses, pleated skirts for girls, with both wearing blazers. A uniform can even be as simple as requiring collared shirts, or restricting colour choices and limiting items students are allowed to wear.
A dress code, on the other hand, is much less restrictive, and focuses “on promoting modesty and discouraging anti-social fashion statements”, according to Marian Wilde. Examples of a dress code would be not allowing ripped clothing, no logos or limiting the amount of skin that can be shown.
It is difficult to trace the origins of the uniform as there is no comprehensive written history, but rather a variety of known influences. School uniforms are believed to be a practice which dates to the 16th century in the United Kingdom. It is believed that the Christ’s Hospital School in England in 1552 was the first school to use a school uniform. Students were given a uniform that most notably consisted of a long blue coat and yellow, knee-high socks. An almost identical uniform is still worn by students attending the school today. The earliest documented proof of institutionalised use of a standard academic dress dates back to 1222 when the then Archbishop of Canterbury ordered the wearing of the cappa clausa.
This monastic and academic practice evolved into collegiate uniforms in England, particularly in charity schools where uniform dress was often provided for poor children. Universities, primary schools and secondary schools used uniforms as a marker of class and status. Although school uniforms can often be considered conservative and old-fashioned, uniforms in recent years have changed as societal dress codes have changed