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[Opinion] Unwanted Uniforms

Posted January. 27, 2007 07:24,   


School uniforms were once considered a symbol of military culture and conformity, but even in the older days they had their own trendy styles. Boys would show their ankles by either shortening the legs of the pants or tightening them. If they unbuttoned their shirts to reveal the white polo neck of the inner shirt and wore their uniform caps askew, they would be considered trendy. Girls would shorten their skirts or tighten their skirt waists. Diligent girls busied themselves washing and ironing their shirts in order to keep their collars wrinkle-free and white.

In terms of fashion, the uniforms of today cannot be beaten. Standardization has obscured the peculiarities of schools, but students often complain, “I don’t want to go to school in an ugly uniform.” The difference is that uniform fashion these days is not motivated by students but by well-known uniform makers. Having entered the uniform making market, large corporations have manufactured uniforms that are identical to the schools’ directions only in the design and color, but which are conspicuous by the sewing method seen in either the sleeves or finishing or by the material itself. Students try to find their individuality by choosing a brand to wear.

The price of the uniforms manufactured by the four major brands that comprise 80 percent of the market ranges between 230,000 and 250,000 won. Adding a shirt and a pair of pants to wear while the other ones are being washed raises the price to over 300,000 won. Some large companies have produced premium items made from imported high-quality materials available, which are selling like hotcakes at more than 500,000 won. The price jumps above 700,000 won with a winter coat, so it is not at all surprising that parents who already are overloaded with the education fees are complaining.

Every semester begins with doubts raised about the relationship between the uniform makers and schools regarding uniforms, but many attribute the exceedingly high price to the marketing cost incurred by these uniform makers. According to such assertions, the expenses spent on advertisements that depend on famous stars and gift events promising expensive gifts such as mp3 players or mobile phones are all included in the price. Even more, some consumers also complain that as the uniforms are designed with an emphasis on style which makes the legs appear longer, they are not comfortable for students who move around a lot. All these issues have initiated some parents’ organizations to promote “Going to School in Ordinary Clothes” and “Drive out Uniforms” campaigns. Give-and-take with the uniform making businesses can lead to the elimination of guiltless uniforms.

Editorial Writer Chung Seong-hee, shchung@donga.com