Thursday, 24 November 2011

Whose identity is it anyway?

Sitting in the reception of a secondary school recently, I was taken back to my own schooldays and reminded of the uniform regulations and their enforcement.  I wore uniform from the day I started at primary school to the day I finished my A Levels.  There was something comfortable about not having to decide what to wear each day, yet a distinct liberation in changing out of school uniform after the school day had finished. 

"When you put on a uniform there are certain inhibitions that you accept". 
David Dwight Eisenhower (34th US President 1953-61)

Uniform impacts very significantly on our sense of identity.  Wearing something we have not designed, and often not been consulted about, communicates something powerful - representing implicit compliance, and a sign of our belonging to something larger than ourselves.  It is a truth universally acknowledged that some uniforms are more attractive than others.  Some, it would appear, have been devised by a colour blind shapeless entity.  Others are fairly unremarkable.  Often, it is not just the uniform but the way in which it is worn that displays someone's sense of identity.  Some may wear their uniform with pride symbolising something about the relationship with the organisation they represent.  Modification, or destruction of a uniform conveys a message of rebellion, or perhaps discomfort.  

Being dressed in a uniform entails a dual identity - that of being an individual, and being part of a group; an organisation, an institution.  Finding a middle way through the conflict this might entail can be tricky. 


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