Why School Uniforms?

French Toast, as well as many educators, administrators, parents and public minded citizens, is aware that some of our public school systems are in a dispirited and discouraged state. Violence, poor attendance, disruptive behavior and disheartening attitudes stand in the way of today's education.

Sweeping changes are needed to return our educational standards to worldwide competitive levels. Our schools should once again become the safe havens and community centers for the education and the development of our students that they once were. Our children need the self-esteem, purpose, hope and security associated with growing up in a healthy learning environment.

Implementation of a school uniform program can help meet these needs. The reasons, clear and diverse, are summarized below for your review.

Uniforms take the competition out of dress

In the past decade there has been a dramatic increase in the flamboyance of the everyday outfitting of school age kids. Price tags are in. In some neighborhoods, it's the "thing" to wear the price tag on the garment. What you pay for something is the status symbol. There is heavy competition for dressing "right" and the peer pressure to perform and conform is incredible.
Many students take after-school jobs to maintain their own style. Often these paychecks go right onto their backs and are not used for saving for the future or some other primary goal. A part time job is not the issue here. The reason behind the job is our concern.
As a school turns to mandated uniforms, all of the above becomes moot. All of the students look the same, at a base level. Concentration returns to who you are, rather than what you are wearing, or what you can afford. Students are less immersed in keeping up with today's trends.
It's time to eliminate from schools the status and respect many students give to clothing labels and price tags. Student attention needs to return to learning in the classroom, rather than how they look when they are in that classroom. Mandated uniforms can serve to shift the emphasis from competition back to academic performance and personal achievement.

School Uniforms keep the focus on learning, not clothing

Uniforms have a helpful leveling effect in school systems where there is economic diversity. It can be quite expensive to dress our children. $300.00 per child is not an unreasonable amount spent on each child for back-to-school wear. But that total is for September, only. Most parents continue to purchase new outfits throughout the entire school year as the weather and fashion perceptions change. That's a lot of money that can be well spent elsewhere in most households.

The average expenditure for a complete French Toast uniform (pant/jumper, shirt/blouse, sweater, tie) is $45.00. Most children will require two sets of them. That's $90.00 total, period, for the year. Our goal at French Toast is to bring the level of dress to an even standard. Those without means should not be penalized at this very basic level. And those with means can now redress the exaggerated importance of outward appearance.

Uniforms are cost effective. They are less expensive. Uniforms create a feeling of oneness and belonging. Everyone can be on the same team. As on athletic teams, uniforms are worn for immediate identification and to inspire a feeling of "oneness." Put on your team uniform and you suddenly belong. A sense of loyalty emerges from inside, as does an extra effort to perform at the student's best.

This result has been noted in schools throughout the country who have made the transition to School Uniforms. They are reported over and again by school administrators, teachers, and parents who, first hand, have experienced these changes.

Many of our children have limited chances to feel a close part of their schools and communities. If this program can offer unity for our children, then it should be granted. Our schools should inspire our kids to excel in learning and be community spirited.

With School Uniforms everyone fits in with their school

Uniforms encourage students to develop their personal flair in methods other than dress.
These may seem exaggerated cases to those of you who have not experienced these changes in our students and children. Our response is, "Ask parents and teachers who have seen these changes occur, essentially by initiating a uniform program."

It is human nature to express our personalities and creative talents. However, many students use their clothing as their sole creative outlet. These children are misguided. Today's youth need to learn that when channeled correctly, their individual flair can bloom within.

Whether it's music, art, sports, or academics, uniforms allow students to express and define themselves beyond their labels and fashion styles. A unique individual is developed not from appearance, but rather, intellect, personality and skills.

At this point it may be necessary to address the old cry issued from the ACLU whenever the prospects of dress codes arise. These civil libertarians assert that students' freedoms of expression are being suppressed by requiring uniform dress. We believe that this has not been the case. These are old assumptions based on intangible fears. We propose that dress codes offer us, instead, different avenues for our expressive freedom.

In the two most famous and precedent-setting legal cases involving dress codes, the courts have struck down the ACLU's arguments on restrictive constitutional freedoms. Our courts have maintained that when a child's safety is at issue, the freedom of expression becomes a secondary consideration. It is the primary responsibility of our schools to protect and keep safe their students. Unfortunately, today's schools, especially those in the inner cities, are far from the safe havens they are intended to be for our children. Uniform dress codes do help our administrators address this basic responsibility.

Uniforms do not suppress individuality, they enhance it

Uniforms add measures of safety in identical dress. Gang identification is obscured. Group violence and theft are dissipated.

The Long Beach Unified School District in California voted to mandate uniform wear in order to reduce gang identification. It had become dangerous and violent to attend school there. This program seems to have effectively decreased gang violence in the district. Children are no longer identified by their "colors." Uniform dress alleviated the feelings of imminent danger for students who were afraid they might inadvertently dress in gang colors.

Today, School Uniform programs can be found in communities all over the country. Some areas include New York, Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, Miami, Charlotte, Long Beach, San Antonio, and Las Cruces, NM.

School Uniforms bring safety back to the school halls

In today's schools, adolescents are killing each other over designer jackets and expensive sneakers. With school uniforms, incidents of theft and assault are down. Uniforms help eliminate violent crimes.

Uniforms have resulted in declining truancy and increased attendance

Another positive effect of uniform dress codes has been reported upgrades of overall attendance records.

One major reason is given: The student who felt uncomfortable going to school because others made fun of the way he looked and dressed feels more at ease. Children from lower economic brackets may no longer feel inferior and may be more eager to attend school when they feel more equal to everyone else.

Self-esteem is a major issue for all school-age children. Uniforms aid in fostering self-esteem by eliminating external differences that may once have led to students being teased. The line between the haves and have-nots is obscured and many pressures are removed when uniforms are instituted.

Another reason why attendance has improved is that if children are not in school when they are supposed to be, they are more easily identified. This is not fool proof, not many things are. However, a case study has shown that uniform wear does act as a deterrent to truancy.

School Uniforms can allay some of the pressures that keep students from wanting to attend school

Uniforms raise both student and teacher expectations. In research studies done on early childhood development, a direct link was found between a student's appearance and the expectations and opinions about that student. It's asserted that when a teacher is presented with two students, one who is neat and clean, and the other unkempt, the teacher will generally give attention and positive expectations of performance capability to the neater student. Unfortunately, the teacher will usually view the unkempt student with lower expectations and possible neglect. This may not be fair. It may not make us happy. It certainly is not just. However, evidence says this is a fairly common occurrence.

Uniforms also raise students' expectations of themselves. When dressed neatly and seriously, students tend to behave seriously. Often teachers find calmer, more polite, more attentive students. Students seem to feel more confident in the way they look, and so they have more confidence in themselves.

School Uniforms bring an image of success to students and teachers

Many school districts across the country have implemented School Uniform Policies and have seen positive results!

In 1994, the Long Beach Unified School District in California was the first public school district to mandate a district-wide School Uniform Policy. Within one year officials stated that the number of suspensions, incidents of violence and vandalism, weapons and fights had dropped dramatically. Many school districts since have followed suit, also noting that the positives strongly outweigh any negatives.

In 1987, Cherry Hill Elementary School, in Baltimore, Maryland was the pilot school in Maryland for uniform usage. Parents, tired of school theft and competition over clothes, overwhelmingly voted (90%) in favor of changing to a dress code. Not surprisingly, theft was suddenly down. Children no longer had to worry that they might not return from school that day with everything they left with that morning. At the same time, ridicule for an outfit that wasn't quite "right" was no longer heard in the classroom.

In 1993, the city of Baltimore took notice of the positive changes that occurred at Cherry Hill. The city's entire school system has since enacted a School Uniform Policy. Also, starting in the Fall of 1994, suburbs of Chicago, Atlanta and New Haven, Connecticut went the same route. In 1995, Charleston, South Carolina and Cleveland, Ohio established voluntary dress codes.

School Uniform Policies were enacted in 1996 in such cities as Birmingham, Alabama; Seattle, Washington; Orange, New Jersey; Pasadena, Texas; Houston, Texas; and Polk County, Florida. During the first half of 1997 Dade County, Florida; Waterbury, Connecticut; and many others have established a School Uniform Policy. New York City has adopted a mandatory school uniform policy in the Fall of 1999 for all K-8 and middle schools. Across the United States there is an increasing amount of support in favor of School Uniforms. Why? Because it is a solution that is effective, easily established, economically sound. School Uniforms really do work! We at French Toast are also parents and concerned community members who have explored this option for our school systems across the country and have come to one resounding conclusion. IT'S WORKING!!!

We strongly believe that School Uniforms improve the climate of a school, which is vital to its success and an important factor in America's future.

As the country's leader in School Uniforms, French Toast is determined to continue to investigate, research and make readily available the impact School Uniforms have on improving our country's educational climate. Although at the present time the only documented research is based on Long Beach California's system-wide requirement for School Uniforms (uniform programs are still relatively new), we keep in touch with all other schools with uniform programs, listening to their feedback and findings. We also have a library of all the articles written about School Uniforms.

French Toast was instrumental in assisting the Long Beach Unified School District in implementing their program and is available to assist other schools and districts in doing the same. We have three purposes:

  • producing quality garments at an affordable price,
  • informing and educating our schools and legislators about the benefits of School Uniforms,
  • and bringing the retailer, parent and school system together so that improving the educational climate really is a community effort.

If you or your school district is discussing a School Uniform Policy, French Toast is readily available to assist you. We have the most comprehensive set of tools for parents, teachers, and administrators. If you would like additional information please contact us.

By email at: partnership4ed@frenchtoast.com, or by phone at: 1-800-636-3401.