School uniforms: garments of oppression or liberation? It's a tricky one. What, many will ask, could be more effacing of an individual's character than requiring them to dress in an identical way? Uniforms are for the armed forces, or the police. What business do we have imposing such stifling conformity on children? Some young people agree with this.
And yet many say they find uniforms to be liberating because they prevent a fashion arms race breaking out in schools (a contest, incidentally, that wealthier kids are always going to win).
The pupils of Christ's Hospital, who wear uniforms that have barely changed since Tudor times, know where they stand. The school conducted a poll to gauge support for a change and a remarkable 95 per cent voted to retain their uniform, complete with knee-breeches and yellow socks. Here is 18-year-old Jack Ferrell on the merits of Tudor uniforms: "You can't have a laugh at somebody wearing it if you're wearing it yourself". Perhaps that points to a way forward. If you're going to have a uniform, make it outlandish enough to guarantee both distinctiveness and equality of humiliation. We eagerly await the first academy that will require its students to don a doublet, hose and ruff.