The View From Here – School bans wearing of expensive jackets to counter inequality among students

Tom Henihan

A school in England has expanded the old adage “clothes don’t make the man,” by creating a dress policy that insists that clothes don’t make the boy or girl either.

Approximately 46 percent of students attending Woodchurch High School in Birkenhead, come from lower income households, while others come from relatively prosperous families.

Due to the mixture of wealthy and low income students, the school sees the problems caused by one group of students wearing expensive coats, in effect flaunting their money and prestige, while others are made to feel ashamed because they cannot afford these brand name jackets.

This situation can also affect parents who are pressured by their children to buy the fashionable clothing.

Everyone likes to dress up on occasion, and there is some merit to the opposing adage, “fine feathers make fine birds”, but school classrooms and hallways are no place to elevate fashion and branding to a competitive sport.

To address the issue of conflict created by this dichotomy between rich and poor students, the school issued a ban on expensive, brand name jackets, such as Canada Goose, Pyrenex and Moncler.

Of course, things are advertised on the premise that if you have this or that particular brand, then by default you are socially established, you belong. On the flip side, the subliminal message is that if you don’t wear these brands you will be excluded and pushed to the periphery.

For kids trying to assert themselves into social life and school activities these symbols of prestige are important and the dilemma and struggle they create is also very real.

It is easy as an adult to dismiss this issue as superficial, and it most certainly is superficial, but to a kid trying to find his or her feet it can pose a crisis and financially at least, insurmountable obstacles.

From a contrasting perspective, superficial or not, parents want to provide their children with what is to the child’s best advantage and allow them feel as confident and worthy as everyone else.

So the pressure to dress one’s child as everyone’s social equal, becomes a family issue and a stressful one for parents.

There is nothing new about those with money flaunting it in the face of those who don’t have the same financial means.

This divisive line between those who have and those who do not is as old as mankind, but in a school environment it amounts to a form of intimidation and shaming.

This puts enormous pressure not just on the students and parents but I am sure it creates a dilemma for the teachers also.

Woodchurch High School administration sent a letter to parents offering their reasons for the ban, pointing out that these expensive jackets create considerable inequality among students.

What is encouraging however, is that an Internet-based market research company found that two-thirds of British people who were questioned agreed with the ban, which suggests that people are coming to their senses about exclusive brands, and agree that the clothes don’t make the man, the woman or the child.


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