Appreciating a Uniform

I discuss the psychological and social benefits of uniforms. | Every week I take a concept or event so I can say good things. Welcome to Appreciating.

Every week I take a concept or event so I can say good things about it. Even negative aspects can be helpful sometimes. Welcome to Appreciating.

I studied for 17 years in two Catholic institutions – 2 years of kindergarten plus 12 years of school at Don Bosco school, Kolkata, and 3 years of undergraduate study at Christ University, Bangalore. In 17 years, I have donned several uniforms. In doing so, I’ve found some great advantages in doing so, and I’ve also found answers to shoot down the issues people have with uniform dress code.

For me personally, the biggest advantage has to be of the psychological advantage you gain over yourself. Clothes maketh the man, right? The way you dress has a direct effect on how you behave, and you begin to associate the behaviour with the clothes. e.g. shorts might instantly bring up thoughts of comfort, relaxation, home etc. Jeans might be associated with going hanging out, leisurely enjoyment etc. This correlation can be used to one’s advantage. By associating a shirt, trousers and a tie with productivity or working hard, you can effectively motivate yourself to work by simply changing your clothes. I have personally found this to be very effective. If this is the first you hear of it, try to identify the associations you have in your head and try to take advantage of them.

On a similar note, there is neatness in uniform. Both the tried and tested design of the uniform, the pleasant aesthetic, and the self-pressure to look good and take care of your uniform help build a satisfying aura of cleanness and wholeness that you would not find in dirty, sullied jeans.

The school uniform of Don Bosco Park Circus
My uniform back in school. I revered it, kept it clean, and prided myself in wearing it.

Side note: The priest in the centre of the image was the Rector (principal) for the entirety of my high school years. He taught us all many things, but a personal conversation I particularly remember with him was when he taught me the importance of walking without making a sound. My shoes do not need to make a noise every time they hit the floor. I value that highly.

The uniform is a responsibility. Whether one takes it as a fear of getting reprimanded by an authority, or as something to take care of and invest effort in, the student learns to appreciate responsibility none the less. In some ways, it is similar to giving a child a pet, you give them something to be responsible for and they learn to appreciate the gravity of such an undertaking.

The uniform is also a responsibility in another sense. A strict, rigid dress code (like the one pictured above) also invokes a sense of unitedness and brotherhood in people. If you don’t believe me, and think that students don’t respect each other whether they wear the same uniform or not, think back to a time when someone from another school would aggravate one of your own. Often, someone, if not most, in the vicinity would band together.

My class uniform, which we only wore on special events.
My class uniform, which we only wore on special events.

Side note: The person with me is my friend Puja. She doesn’t believe people when they tell her she’s pretty.

My college didn’t have a rigid dress code – we didn’t all wear the same thing, so that sense of unity was a little diluted in comparison. Instead we had rules about the type of clothing to wear, subject to department and occasion – shirts, trousers and ties for men, the same plus a selection of ethnic wear for women. Some classes, like my honours class, had a two piece suit for special events.

Finally, uniforms bring about a sense of equality. Race, religion,caste and financial well-being disappear under a uniform. The social parameters of your identity are wiped away, and a new defining element of identity comes through elements of uniform. While I was in uniform, I was not a brown, upper-middle-class Vaishya Hindu with ancestors from Haryana. I was, and am, a Bosconian, a Christite, and an Oracle employee.

Flags, emblems, badges and uniforms are all for that purpose. They wipe away the divisions we create amongst ourselves. They are there to be symbols of unity.

The most common arguments against uniform are that of comfort and of stifled self-expression. I fail to understand this. Cotton trousers are some of the most comfortable leg-wear I’ve ever worn. Shirts help me feel more important. What may be a matter of bad tailoring cannot be blamed on the entire concept of a uniform. And how is self-expression completely blocked by uniform? You are not in uniform all the time. Your expression need not be defined through your fashion. Uniforms give back with interest what they take away from your identity.

There’s any number of things that can be said here, but at this stage, it is better to open it up to discussion, rather than carry on with a monologue. Let’s discuss this in the comments below. 🙂

Hopefully this helps you appreciate the importance of a uniform dress code. If you know of something that needs to be appreciated more, please leave your suggestions for future posts in the comments below.

Keep an eye on this space for more Appreciating same time next week. Next week’s post is about “Obsessive Mothers”.