Sunday August 31, 2003
The evolution of school uniforms

BEFORE uniforms were introduced in 1953, students were free to wear anything to school. But even when schools started introducing uniforms, they were able to maintain their own identity because of their respective distinctive designs which allowed for some comparison among students to see whose school had the most nifty togs.

Box pleated pinafores were used by Convent girls until late 1960s. They and the trousers worn by the boys required a lot of starching and ironing to make them suitably stiff and smooth.

In the early 1970s, the common uniforms we know today were introduced. While some were against the move, others welcomed it. Parents were certainly glad as there was no likelihood of a design change and the same uniform could be handed down to younger children going to different schools.

However, even with the strict dress code, some boys still managed to establish their own sense of style through their trousers. Remember the pipeline, carrot cut and bell-bottoms?

But when the scope for trendy dressing was drastically curtailed, various other fads in terms of school bags, food containers and stationery surfaced, putting pressure on parents to provide their children with the latest peer-pleasing products. And students being students have persisted over the years to push the boundaries of what is allowed. Fashion-conscious boys went to school in Quiff hairdos (the curry-puff) in the 50s and early 60s, emulating icons like James Dean and Elvis Presley. Others had their hair cut Teddy Boy-style short back and sides, and heavy on the Brylcreem.

Since then, schools have enforced more rules on uniforms, barring girls from appearing in sexy skirts with hemlines way above the knee or boys from wearing torn pants to imitate rock band idols. Despite efforts by students to express their individuality through the years, uniforms appear to have been a factor in bringing about a sense of equality and oneness.