I always hated wearing a school uniform.
No, scratch that. I hated wearing it in high school.
My primary school uniform was a cute navy pinafore over a white shirt and I found it comfortable and practical.
But my senior school uniform was something else.
First, a maroon hat that sat on top of our heads like a mushroom, completely at odds with the rule that our hair must be put up (mutually exclusive, my friends! Hats don't fit over ponytails.)
The beige sack in summer wasn't too terrible, but in winter we had a graceless, chunky grey pinafore over a shirt, with scratchy grey stockings. During my time at the school, it changed to a white shirt tucked in (tucked in! It was the 80s. Only nerds tucked shirts in) to a pleated kilt with an elastic waist that didn't even suit the skinny girls.
But I saved most of my loathing for our cumbersome blazer, which is what private schools call a jacket, for some stupid and no doubt snobby reason.
Restrictive and hot, we had to wear it instead of (or over) our jumpers when we left the school grounds.
Well, we were meant to.
But as soon as I rounded the corner, I would shrug it off, pull off my hat, pull out my ponytail and skip off to the train station.
I know there are people who loved wearing school uniform - loved the, well, uniformity it gave to the student body, as well as the simplicity of getting dressed when you have no choice in what you wear.
But I hated the way it felt on my body, and hated the way it made us all the same, and the first chance I got to ditch it (we were allowed the choice in year 12), I did so without any regrets.
Subsequently, I have not been the most enthusiastic mother when it comes to encouraging school uniform-wearing in my children.
Cue detention (not me, this time).
And I've also spent large amounts of time day-dreaming about the perfect school uniform.
If only they would listen to me, everyone would happily wear it because they want to, not because they get punished if they turn up in the wrong socks.
So here are some of my tips to the people in charge:
- Boys (I realise I'm generalising here, and I don't want to assume anyone's gendered behaviour - there will, of course, be variations from the mean) should not ever wear white shirts. I realised this when my eldest started kindergarten. My youngest is in year 8 and I'm still bleaching the grass stains out every day. Perhaps they should instead wear a shirt the colour of mud. Or grass. Or a blend of both. But definitely not white.
- There are great materials these days that have a bit of stretch but still look spiffy. My youngest has a sport uniform jacket made from neoprene that he tries to pass off every day as necessary because his blazer is "in the wash". Maybe just make that the school jacket? It looks nicer anyway.
- In fact, most of the elements of a sport uniform are far preferable to most standard school uniforms, because they are made for comfort and practicality. Is it too much to ask that the every-day uniform is the same?
- School uniform colours are almost universally boring, if not downright putrid. It doesn't have to be this way. Interesting colour combinations - dark red with a pale blue trim, for example, or dark grey with mauve - look smart without being over the top. So much more fun.
- Moreover, checks are not the only pattern on earth. I'm not advocating for spots or florals. But there are other options.
- Every school should have a choice of pants or skirts for girls. I mean, come on.
- Also, school pants should have some stretch in them. And they shouldn't be made of whatever rubbish they are generally made of. I have literally sewn patches onto patches, because for some reason kids in infants and primary school seem to spend lots of time on their knees. Crawling over gravel or something. I don't know. I just have to deal with the result.
- Ties on children are ridiculous.
On weekends, we don't dress children and teenagers up as if they have time-travelled from the 1950s, so why do we insist on school uniforms that haven't kept up?
Principals, I await your calls.