Monday, December 14, 2009

School Uniforms (교복).

These stifling expressions of fashion in the West share a much bigger spot in the limelight in the East. School uniforms are commonplace in Korean music videos, dramas, and movies. They also differ in style from school to school. It would certainly exhausting to catalog all types offered, although I'm pretty sure at least one or two bloggers have tried in the past.

School uniforms become mandatory at the junior high school level. I wonder if this is because the cirriculum gets harder at that time - hence requiring more professional attire. Maybe it's because they are too expensive. Maybe it's because elementary age children play outside more and would get them dirty much quicker. I wonder...

Korean School Uniforms

It's important to note that school uniforms are purchased locally at retail stores. Okay okay, so Wal-Mart does the same thing over here, but we're talking blue polo shirts and khaki shorts mostly, right? I was under the impression that Catholic school-style uniforms are purchased through a supplier linked to that particular school and not readily available at most retailers.

교복 prices vary but they most certainly cost more than their American equivalents. Cheapies will run around 250 000₩ while others go up to 500 000₩. Granted, many junior high school students will end up taking care of their 교복 and were them for three years straight until they reach high school where yet another 500 bucks can be spent on a new set. Joy.

Don't get me wrong, I think they can be bestow a sense of distinction for students. They are unique to the students of that school and no two uniforms look quite alike from school to school. They help to foster a sense of community. They also help identify themselves in the larger community. It's easy to spot a student with a uniform. What better way to place someone socially? Almost like a businessperson's suit.

I did not wear a uniform in school. In fact, I didn't even know anyone who did wear a uniform. Also, if you were to ask me in high school about uniforms, I'm sure I would have barked back some rhetoric on freedom of expression, celebration of diversity, and Slipknot. In retrospect, uniforms were probably a good idea on the grounds that they are cheap in America and they help put less focus on showing off your clothes and more focus on your studies. But then again, many Americans genuinely feel that uniforms are stifling. I suppose it varies by area. I say this because many American schools both public and private use school uniforms and seem to do just fine by them.

For that matter, I wonder which other countries have uniforms and to what degree? Do east European school students have uniforms? Are the dress codes strictly enforced? I don't know exactly how a certain community adopts a new dresscode. Is it a smooth transition? Does it go quietly? Is it a heated debate? I pose this question because for most, uniforms are just business-as-usual; the students don't think about them because they have always been there as long as they can remember. But certainly they were once without a dress code, right?