Can we stand alone?
White polo, navy bottom. The combination every sleepy SAS student reaches for as their alarm goes off at 6 am. Every day the halls are filled with a sea of blue and white as we make our way from class to class, or as we eat our lunch in the cafeteria. When the clock strikes three the polo is quickly replaced by individuality, a shirt and bottom of choice or the attire appropriate for our post school endeavors. Any student not sporting milky white or ink blue before the three o’clock bell is quickly ushered to the office as to not stain the color palette filling our halls. Their light blue pullover or a lack of polo under their school approved hoodie is quickly recorded in Power School as a dress code violation. First, you get a warning, then a detention, and if you dare wear your navy sweater with a vineyard vines logo in the upper right corner again, you will be making your way up to school on a Saturday morning for a weekend detention. We all know this, but what we don’t know is… why? What’s the big deal?
Having a uniform comes with both positives and negatives. SAS Junior Jahvon Coney says, “[The uniform] saves me the trouble of having to decide what I want to wear. We live in an affluent society and, with a uniform, you can’t see wealth… [It leaves] more room for acceptance and less for judgment.” While Jahvon makes a great point, the uniform definitely unifies us, Thomas Schultz, SAS High School drama teacher, expresses a need for individuality in our community, “It makes it difficult for students to express themselves, therefore it makes it harder for me to get to know them… If I was made to wear a shirt and tie every day [to work] I wouldn’t like my job as much, honestly.” And he’s right. While teachers obviously have to abide by a certain dress code, they are still able to express themselves within the slight limitations they are given on what they can and cannot wear. If students were given a dress code, but not a uniform, would they be able to find this balance?
Vanessa Spier, who works in the SAS Communications Department and who is in charge
of overseeing the brand elements of the dress code, sat down with me to explain the important role the uniform plays in representing the school, “If you think about 4,000 students wearing our uniform after school, which they do… It’s really 4,000 walking advertisements for the school. [On] free dress days [students] tend to look less sharp in images.” Although this may have many benefits for SAS as a brand, this doesn’t directly benefit students. In fact Mrs. Spier went on to discuss how the uniform may actually inhibit students, “We hear from teachers and counselors — all through pre-school and high school, when they are doing yoga, or meditation and students are wearing uniforms that aren’t quite appropriate — they either can’t do the activity, or shouldn’t because it doesn’t quite cover.” So if our uniform may actually inhibit students from participating in activities, maybe it’s time to make a change. Mrs. Spier encourages students to use their voices to speak about their opinions on the uniform through online surveys sent out by Student Council: (https://www.sas.edu.sg/cf_forms/view.cfm?formID=296).
While I do agree that a uniform makes students look more professional and encourages collaboration, it does seem that our current uniform needs reform. A sweatshirt of blue or white, even with a non-SAS logo, still makes us look professional but also allows for slight individuality among a large student body. Our focus on our attire should not distract from our learning, which should be the primary justification for any major initiative that affects all students. However, when our uniform begins to distract us due to discomfort, or because we are spending our time in the office getting “dresscoded” instead of engaged with our math class, we have to question whether or not it’s such a big deal that we chose to sport our school colors — just in our own way. We would still adhere to the norm: White polo, navy bottom, filling the halls in a sea of blue and white, but with a touch of individuality. A hint of us.