The way you dress influences the way people perceive you. When you only wear black clothes, you can be seen as gothic. When you wear colorful clothes, you will probably be seen as a more happier person. Clothes help us label people. But they can also be used to label people in a negative way and it be used against these people.
According to a study conducted in nine European countries, clothing was one of the most important reasons for bullying in the Netherlands. In Italy and in Portugal pupils said it was a relevant factor too. It often has to do with the pupils not being able to afford a certain brand or the fashion trends of the moment. Could this problem be solved with making an uniform mandatory? Various websites and magazines for teenagers in the Netherlands asked their readers if they would be in favor of having an uniform. Most of them were against this idea, because it would limit them in expressing themselves. However, some of the pupils said that they liked the idea, because it would make everyone more equal and it would offer less opportunity for bullying.
Scherer (1991) conducted a study about this subject in an African American Immersion School, Victor Berger Elementary School, to see if introducing school uniforms really lowered the amount of bullying. He found that wearing a school uniform decreased student victimization. The amount of clothing related incidents were going down and the teacher also reacted positively to this change. Especially pupils with a lower income background benefit from this type of ruling. They often can’t afford the change their clothes with every new style, which let them feeling inadequate. In some cases this even ended up in pupils struggling with attendance;
So it seems that even though research suggests it does have a positive effect on decreasing bullying, students don’t see it as a solution. In Belgium we still have a lot of schools that require school uniforms. Many of them offer a compromise: you can choose your own clothes, but it has to be in the school colors. This is often black or dark blue. Around 2007 we saw an increase in students and pupils that were registered in schools with uniforms. In an newspaper article from 2007, a principal of a primary school in Antwerp, Hilde Coeck, said that parents like the idea of school uniforms, because it gives the children a more strict upbringing. The parents also mentioned that this helps against bullying when asked why they were in favor of uniforms. It creats more equality, says Ann Cleempu, principal of another school in Antwerp.
Mimmo, J. J. (2012). Student Perceptions of School Uniforms: A Comparative Study of Students Participated in School Uniforms and Those Who Did Not(Doctoral dissertation, Rowan University).
Scherer, M. (1991). School snapshot: Focus on African-American culture.Educational Leadership, 49(4), 17-19.