• ApparelXchange

AXC - School Uniform - imagining the future


ApparelXchange started out in the world of school uniforms. If you want to promote pre-loved clothing for children, looking at what they wear 5 days a week is an obvious place to start. Add that it means large groups of children all wearing the same items in different sizes and you have a built-in re-use model just waiting to be energised (handing down to siblings and friends could grow into a sharing circular economy for a whole community!). But, over the years, we have found that in fact school uniforms present complex problems both for families and for a ‘green’ way of life. Let’s talk about school uniforms..


Uniforms are about being recognisable. As tiny children we learn to recognise people who will help by what they’re wearing: firefighters, police, doctors, nurses, paramedics, even road-crossing wardens all stand out – thankfully in moments of need – for their distinctive clothes. Later on, uniforms identify teams of people that work together and create brand identities. Often worn by people who work hard and might get messy (think restaurant servers) a uniform is a practical outfit that creates a sense of order… and can be happily removed and thrown in the wash at the end of the day. School uniforms share a lot of this logic. Reasons given for having a school uniform range from them being simple and practical (no need to wrangle over what to wear each day), them making children identifiable (especially on a school trip out, teachers can quickly see who they need to round up), to fostering a sense of equality (everyone is in the same clothing boat), to (as the city council explained to us), ‘preparing children for the world of work’ by wearing smart clothing.


Well, in reality, lots of these good reasons come with their own difficulties. And it’s that last point that really gives us pause for thought. As the ‘world of work’ changes so rapidly around us, is it time to think again about school uniforms and what we want them to do for us? As the Scottish Government consults on school uniforms, we are going to be chatting about some of the things we’ve found out from all our years of sorting and caring for school uniforms items, and from talking to the families that use them. And we’re going to start talking about how we’d like to see their future direction… Please join us over the next two weeks on our blog!