Should students have to wear uniforms to school? Have you ever seen a parade in which cadets belonging to different groups of the armed forces are all marching in unison? The most striking features of such a parade are the uniformity of its members and the evident pride that the cadets convey which comes from being a part of an elite group. This is probably what students from schools where uniforms are enforced feel. School uniforms were first instituted in the mid-17th century in England where uniforms were handed out to students enrolled in charity schools. These students belonged to the poor and under privileged families or were orphans and the practice of handing out the same set of clothing for all students was an equalizer to make the students forget their economic background and instead focus on learning. The first uniform closely resembled a clergy man’s outfit, comprising of a large cloak made of rough fabric and socks. Over time, school uniforms have evolved into many different kinds, yet they all aim to achieve the same goal that was set so many centuries ago, that of making students focus on their learning, rather than their background. Modern day studies have proved this fact beyond doubt. A bulletin published by the National Association of Secondary School Principals stated that "When all students are wearing the same outfit, they are less concerned about how they look and how they fit in with their peers; thus, they can concentrate on their schoolwork."  A 2010 University of Houston study found that elementary school girls' language test scores increased by about three percentile points after uniforms were introduced.  Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, when she was a 2008 US presidential candidate, advocated school uniforms as a way to help students focus on learning: "Take that [clothing choices] off the table and put the focus on school, not on what you're wearing."  Another huge advantage that is offered to students who have to wear uniforms to school is the reduction of peer pressure. The fact that all the students are identically dressed eliminates the stress some poor students might feel in the presence of those who are financially better off than the others. Since everyone is dressed identically, there is no emphasis on the brand names of clothing or accessories. In a 2013 survey by the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and uniform manufacturer Lands' End, 86% of school leaders said uniforms make "a significant, positive impact on peer pressure," and 64% said uniforms reduce bullying.  Arminta Jacobson, Founder and Director of the Center for Parent Education at the University of North Texas, stated that uniforms put "all kids on the same playing field in terms of their appearance. I think it probably gives them a sense of belonging and a feeling of being socially accepted."  Students aren’t the only ones who feel peer pressure and succumb to it at times. Parents also might feel the same pressure and might be forced to spend more money than they can actually afford on providing their children with expensive clothing, just so that their child does not feel ostracized because of his or her cheap clothing. A national 2013 survey of 517 US school leaders found that 94% of those surveyed believe "one of the main benefits to parents is that school uniforms are more cost-effective than regular apparel," and 77% estimated the average annual cost of school uniforms per child to be $150 or less.  Uniform company French Toast states on their
website that the average cost one of their complete school uniforms is $45 and that most children will only require two sets.  Without school uniform policies, parents may feel pressure to compete with other families by purchasing fashionable clothes for their children.  Numerous studies have revealed the benefit of uniforms to attendance in schools. Truancy is reduced significantly as students do not spend precious time procrastinating over what to wear to school each day. A 2010 study by researchers at the University of Houston found that the average absence rate for girls in middle and high school decreased by 7% after the introduction of uniforms. Teachers and administrators have also noticed the improvement in student discipline when wearing uniform During the first semester of a mandatory uniform program at John Adams Middle School in Albuquerque, NM, discipline referrals dropped from 1,565 during the first semester of the year prior to 405.  While this may not be evident to families living in affluent neighborhoods, gangs are quite commonly found on school campuses. According to a 2013 US Department of Justice report, almost 50% of high school students say there are gang members at their schools.  The US Department of Education's Manual on School Uniforms stated that uniform policies can "prevent gang members from wearing gang colors and insignia at school" in order to "encourage a safe environment."  Osceola County, FL School Board member Jay Wheeler reported that the county's schools had a 46% drop in gang activity after their first full school year with a mandatory K-12 uniform policy (2008-2009). Wheeler stated that "clothing is integral to gang culture... Imagine a U.S. Armed Forces recruiter out of uniform trying to recruit new soldiers; the success rate goes down. The same applies to gang recruitment."  Times have changed drastically; social media has encroached upon our lives in such a way that nothing goes unnoticed. It makes more sense now than ever before to reduce as many stresses on our students as possible so that they can focus on their education. In my opinion, instituting school uniforms is a simple and effective way to enhance a student’s learning experience and reduce distractions and stresses that are so detrimental to learning!
References:  Peter Caruso, "Individuality vs. Conformity: The Issue behind School Uniforms," NASSP (National Association of Secondary School Principals) Bulletin, Sep. 1996  Elisabetta Gentile and Scott A. Imberman, "Dressed for Success? The Effect of School Uniforms on Student Achievement and Behavior," utdallas.edu, Jan. 15, 2010  Mike Wilson, "Clinton Raps Teacher Merit Pay," Associated Press, Nov. 19, 2007  National Association of Elementary School Principals, "National Survey of School Leaders Reveals 2013 School Uniform Trends," naesp.org, July 30, 2013  University of North Texas, "School Uniforms Equalize Students, Education Professors Say," news.unt.edu, Aug. 3, 2006  French Toast Official School Wear, "Why School Uniforms?," frenchtoast.com (accessed Aug. 15, 2014)  Worthington Christian Schools, "School Uniforms," worthingtonchristian.com (accessed Aug. 20, 2014)  US Department of Education, "Creating Safe and Drug-Free Schools: An Action Guide: Uniforms," ed.gov, Sep. 1996  US Department of Justice and US Department of Health and Human Services, "Changing Course: Preventing Gang Membership," ncjrs.gov, 2013  Jay Wheeler, "Letters to orlandosentinel.com, Sep. 10, 2009
the Editor: School
 Linda Lumsden and Gabriel Miller, "Dress Codes and Uniforms," Research Roundup: National Association of Elementary School Principals, Summer 2002