CHICAGO — School uniforms don’t have to be a drag. Students are reclaiming their individuality by personalizing their uniforms with accessories that add flair.
Annika Solberg, a rising sixth-grader in Chicago, wears a school uniform that requires navy or tan bottoms and navy, white or light blue tops, but she and her friends are finding creative ways to let their individuality shine.
“I make it my own style with crazy headbands and socks, and shoes,” she said.
A favorite accessory of Solberg’s is a pair of socks that look like Converse Chuck Taylor All Star sneakers. She also wears socks with neon colors or stripes. In the warmer months, colorful high-top Converse sneakers are a must.
The dress code presents certain restrictions: Jewelry, hats and hoodie sweatshirts are not allowed, but Solberg does accessorize with friendship bracelets and headbands. She prefers headbands made from stretchy materials, “They’re decorative, like rainbow tie-dye fabric,” she said.
As for her other classmates, she notes, “Guys wear funky shoes, like basketball Nikes (in) neon colors and crazy socks.”
Miles Murphy is a rising eighth-grader at a Chicago school where the uniform varies by the day. His uniform is generally a white shirt and blue khakis, but Wednesdays present the opportunity to add jeans and the school’s anti-bullying shirt to the dress code. The back of the purple T-shirt crosses out words suggestive of bullying, like “horseplay,” “fighting,” “name calling” and “sub tweets” and instead highlights supportive words, such as “help,” “encourage,” “compliment,” “friend” and “upstand.” On Thursdays and Fridays, gym uniforms are permitted.
Miles prefers to accessorize his uniform with a watch, bracelets and sneakers. He has a growing bracelet collection.
“My friend gave me a couple of bracelets that I like to wear on specific days of the week. One of them is brown and black, one is leather, I have it on right now, and another one is metal (with a) magnetic clip — it’s like silver and gold, and the other is a skull bracelet that’s plain silver and has skeletons on it,” said Murphy.
Murphy opts to pair his school’s anti-bullying shirt with jeans. “I like blue jeans, black jeans, torn-up jeans,” he said.
Students also deck out their backpacks with buttons and key chains, sew or press patches onto their jean jackets and sweaters, wear bandannas, scrunchies, textured tights or layer band T-shirts under their uniform dress shirts. Within the bounds of the school dress code, kids are finding ways to explore their individuality through their fashion choices.