School Uniform

School uniforms are common in elementary and secondary schools in many nations. They are the most widely known form of student uniform, other types of which include uniforms worn by students participating in higher vocational training, such as in health related occupations.

Traditionally, school uniforms have been subdued and professional. Boys' uniforms often consist of dark pants and light-colored shirt, tie plus a jacket in cold weather. A girl's might consist of a tie, a skirt and blouse. The gender-specific uniforms have been a point of contention, and some schools permit female students to choose either skirt or trousers. The use of a blazer or suit-like jacket has come into favor in some areas. Management of the school uniform program is an important task.

In continental Europe, uniforms have not been required in public (state-sponsored) schools. Private schools, though, often have a school uniform or a strict dress code. This is different in the United Kingdom & Ireland however, where the majority of state schools adopt a uniform for a more formal look.

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School Dress Code vs. School Uniform

School dress codes generally dictate what can't be worn by any student, such as sheer or midriff-baring blouses, clothing with ads for tobacco or alcohol, or low-rider jeans. A school uniform policy generally dictates what must be worn by all students, such as solid color polo shirts in school colors in American public elementary schools with a uniform policy.

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Most public schools in the United States do not require uniforms, though many have dress codes regulating student attire. Dress codes usually include limits on skirt length and skin exposure. They generally include prohibitions on clothing with tears or holes, exposure of undergarments, and anything that is obscene, gang-related, or unsafe. Some school dress codes specify the types of tops (e.g. collared) and bottoms (e.g. khaki) that are allowed, as well as specific colors (often the school colors). In recent years there has been a significant increase in school uniforms (see below) for all levels of schooling. According to the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), the fraction of American public schools requiring school uniforms rose from three percent in 1997 to one in five (21%) in 2000.

School uniforms are fairly common for private schools in the United States, especially for Catholic schools. Although many private school uniforms are similar to the ones described below for public schools, a few still require more formal British-style school uniforms, such as blazers and ties. Culottes are also sometimes substituted for a skirt, especially at Episcopalian or non-parochial private schools.

In 1994, the Long Beach Unified School District, in Southern California, required school uniforms in all elementary and middle schools. This began a trend for uniforms in American elementary public schools, especially in urban school districts. President Clinton mentioned LBUSD's efforts in his 1996 State of the Union Address. The adoption of school or district-wide uniform policies (or, alternatively, "standardized dress codes" – which are not as rigid as school uniform requirements, but allow some leeway within set parameters) has been motivated by a need to counter "gang clothing" (or, in the alternative, the pressure for families to purchase upscale-label clothing to avoid their children being ignored by "fashion cliques"), as well as improve morale and school discipline.

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