Sunday, 17 April 2016

Sartorial Matters in School

I used to find Boris Johnson mildly amusing in a slightly irritating way, but I'm beginning to quite detest him. His comments about Barack Obama and that Americans wouldn't cede sovereignty are palpably stupid - America was created by formerly independent states ceding sovereignty within a federal context. They even made a fist of having the same currency. The clue is in the expression United States of America.

While talking about scruffy individuals, I was reading some stuff about school uniform the other day. There's no denying that school uniform simply doesn't exist in many European countries, with little adverse effect on the pupils. However, European kids do seem to have a much better sense of dress than ours - or is that more a reflection on their parents and the fact Europeans in general dress better than Brits. 

No.1 Son wore school uniform in lower school, but now he's in 6th form he wears what he likes, which seems to comprise a motley selection of hoodies, T shirts, jeans and trainers. There's great anxiety about being seen wearing the right hoodie, T shirts, jeans or trainers though - great store is put on wearing the most expensive tat, such as SuperDry or VANS, the absence of which puts the pupil in a different in group and ripe for ridicule. This in turn puts pressure on parents to buy said tat (I refuse outright, as No.1 Son has a weekend job and can pay £58 for a SuperDry shirt himself) so the pupil can feel accepted within his or her peer group (note: SuperDry flipflops are £15 - I can get a suit for less than that at the local charity shop!).

Surely kids have enough anxieties about parents, spots, puberty and exams without loading them with yet another set of anxieties about making sure they wear the latest fashion?

One of the arguments against school uniform is that it inhibits self-expression and creativity, yet that self-expression and creativity seems to manifest itself, ironically enough, in all of them dressing in the same culturally approved hoodies, T shirts, jeans and trainers, which makes a nonsense of the argument. It seems to me that so-called self-expression and creativity come from external branding, not from any genuine creativity within, and even if it does show itself it's a once-in-a-generation phenomenon that spawns a copycat industry - flower power, punk, goth, grunge, etc.. There's also the risk of overstepping the bounds of socially acceptable flesh exposure for girls, especially now we have pedophiles behind every bike shed. When all is said and done, the fashion industry - at least at the youth end - is all about conformity.

So, what's wrong with uniforms? At least you can spot the skivers in the local shopping centre during school hours if they're in uniform.

A friend who is a clothes designer was bemoaning the rise of the Sleb designer - a person who has no formal training in design or indeed materials - when highly trained and genuinely creative designers can't get jobs. The choices are that either these Sleb designers are talentless frauds who trade on their celebrity status (and their army of conformist slaves) to sell a lifestyle, or training in design isn't worth a monkey's fart. I tend to lean toward the former.

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