If you grew up in a poppin’ city like Detroit, a city filled with creativity, then you know there was always pressure to stay up on the latest trends and look your best whenever the opportunity was presented.
Most Detroit public schools require students to wear a uniform; however, there are special occasions (free dress day, field day, school dance, etc.) where students are given the opportunity to express themselves through clothing.
“Free dress days to me was a day to show people what I always look at,” MSU junior studying apparel and textile designs Ayron Gillam said. “I’m always looking at clothes and different magazines, clothes, brands, etc., so on those days I got a chance to show people my vision.”
Expressing yourself through the way you dress is all based upon what you’re exposed from in person interaction, different social media outlets or television.
“I was able to move from Detroit to the West Coast and was exposed to a different element of dressing,” Gillam said. “When I came back, people would say little funny remarks, but at the end of the day I couldn’t deny it.”
Freedom of expression is a right that everyone has. However, according to Karen Harry-Tolbert a fifth grade teacher at Ralph J. Bunch Preparatory Academy, a school that requires uniforms, this freedom can deter students away from their learning and have an effect on their self esteem.
“When the students wear their street clothes, they come as though they’re outside or at home, like the rules don’t matter anymore. It completely changes their personality,” Harry-Tolbert said. “We spend more time dealing with behavior issues on free dress day.”
Harry-Tolbert said she also notices a behavior change in the students who aren’t as fortunate as the other students who have the newest shoes and clothes.
“They can’t even focus on school work anymore because as opposed to paying attention in class, they’re paying attention to their friends who are dressed differently; which makes them feel different, and makes them feel set apart,” Harry-Tolbert said. “I notice that their demeanor is sad because they probably couldn’t afford to wear free dress or either their wardrobe is not up to par.”
Wearing a uniform every day takes pressure off of the parents who may not be able to afford multiple outfits for their child; however, this same reason eliminates the pressure on students that may feel like they need to fit in.
“I explain to my kids like, ‘Hey look, while this student is wearing beautiful clothes, their work doesn’t reflect that.’ Then I use an example of myself to reinforce that they’re okay with out designer clothes,” Harry-Tolbert said. “It takes more effort yes, but if that’s what’s going to help them in the long run, then that’s what we’re supposed to do. It’s part of teaching.”