Having made an exchange year in Hong Kong I had the pleasure of experiencing 364 tremendously enjoyable mornings, in which I felt as free of care as I already knew, I would never ever again in my whole life. As my alarm clock got off for school, I would get up, stretch myself luxuriously, and then slip directly into my uniform. No thought slumbering in my head questioning if my mascara is already smeared all over my face, due to the air humidity of 90%. Not a single thought like ,,Do my shoes match my outfit?’’. After a quick breakfast – preferably cup noodles – I was ready to start the day. When it comes to time management, the advantages a school uniform offers are countless. Especially for women who – let’s be honest – usually spend way too much time on getting dressed in the morning wearing a school uniform can be a whole new experience. I am aware that Gottfried Keller’s famous book from the 19th century claimed in its title ,,Clothes make the man’’. But wasn’t the moral of the story exactly the opposite? People should not be judged by how they look. As strict as the rules in my secondary school in Hong Kong might have seem at first – school uniforms, no makeup, no jewellery whatsoever, long hair pulled back into a ponytail, no dyed hair – in the end there was a sense of belonging among the students, which I’dat least partly account to the fact that nobody would be excluded because of the way the dress or look. I am not saying that we should all dress the same and prevent any individuality expressed through clothing. But in the end we do it in Switzerland, too: Nobody wants to be the underdog, so I can observe groups or cliques, in which the members dress in a similar style. Even at the HSG, there might be a ,,silent dresscode’’. So why shouldn’t we, at least until the early stage of adolescence, promote a more equal way of clothing to raise a sense of belonging among children and support equality by implementing school uniforms?
Having made an exchange year in Taiwan I, too, had to wear a school uniform. School uniforms are definitely a more common phenomenon in Asia than they are in Western Europe. For me this was therefore quite exciting in the beginning and I was actually looking forward to not having to think about what I should wear every morning, which, to be honest, did save me a lot of time. Of course, I do see that school uniforms have advantages, but there were many moments during my exchange year, in which I wished I didn’t have to wear one. Imagine how it feels when you have just had PE outside where the humidity is up to 90 percent, the hot sun burns down on you remorselessly and you can neither take a shower nor change. Well, I think I don’t have to say out loud that you feel disgusting. There was no way for us to change into a new set of school uniform because we just didn’t have that many sets, so we usually ended up sitting in the classroom for the rest of the day, completely covered in sweat without the slightest chance of becoming dry again before the school day ended. Not to mention that we had to put on the same stinky uniform again the next morning. But not only this experience shaped my opinion about school uniforms. Besides the fact that the school uniforms of my school were of quite bad quality – the fabric would scratch on your skin the whole day and it was way too thick in summer and much too thin in Winter – there is also the point of not feeling good in those clothes because they don’t look good on everyone. My classmates constantly asked me if I was sick because the color of the uniform made me look pale. What I also noticed was, that one argument that is always used to promote the concept of school uniforms, which is that children won’t be teased because of the look of their clothes, cannot be applied in reality since instead of judging the clothes they would just start teasing the person because of even more personal things, e.g. the shape of the eyes of one classmate who had aboriginal and not Han-Chinese roots. Not the best precondition for teenagers to build up some much-needed self-esteem. Nevertheless, I am still not a complete opponent of school uniforms because I am aware that my experience with it might not be representative for all schools with school uniforms. However, I don’t feel as if it’s necessary to implement this concept in Switzerland.