Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Attitudes of Youth of Color on Student Dress and Uniforms: A Case of Commercialism in Schools*

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Attitudes of Youth of Color on Student Dress and Uniforms: A Case of Commercialism in Schools*

Article excerpt

The Survey of Student Dress and Behavior in Public Schools was administered to 213 predominately Black middle school students in an urban school. Statistically significant intergrade differences were found among students on their knowledge about the incidence of dress-related problems and the use of uniforms to reduce and prevent dress-related problems. Intergrade differences were also found on students' attitudes on the relationships between dress and dress-problems in their school and other settings. Younger students, grade 6, agreed more than disagreed with attitudes statements, while the pattern was reversed for older students. Implications are made for further research, policies, and interventions on the topic of dress and behavior among students in schools and other socialization settings.

Research and reports of commercialism influences exist in both public and private schools such as pervasive marketing and student and family involvement in corporate sales for school fundraising (Consumers Union, 1995; Molnar, 2001, 2002; U.S. General Accounting Office, 2000). However, commercial influences on student dress are generally not discussed in reports of commercialism in schools (LaPoint, 2003a; LaPoint & Allyene, 2001). Yet, many children and adolescents are often "walking billboards" for certain dress styles, logos, and brand labels (Chapelle, 1998; Curry, 1998; Klein, 1999; LaPoint, 2003a). Research also indicates that children and adolescents are well aware of brand labels in dress (Alleyne, LaPoint, Lee, & Mitchell, 2003; LaPoint & Hambrick-Dixon, 2004) and among other products (Chandler & Heinzerling, 1999). Relatively few empirical studies have examined dress-related challenges among youth in public schools (Holloman, LaPoint, Alleyne, Palmer, & Sanders-Phillips, 1996; LaPoint & Alleyne, 2001). Even fewer studies and reports exist on children's views and experiences as reported by them, especially children of color.

This article reports findings from a research project, the Youth Dress and Behavior Project at Howard University. The article focuses on students' attitudes and experiences related to dress and behavior including uniforms. It includes a literature review, a description of the study, data collection and analysis procedures, discussion of findings, and implications for research, policies, and programs relating to youth dress and behavior. This article focuses on the views of students while a companion article focuses on the views of Black educators in the middle school (Alleyne et al., 2003). In both articles, we use the term "dress" to define individuals' total appearance-clothing, shoes, accessories, hairstyles, and other bodily adornments-a term that is more inclusive and used in research on dress and behavior (Eicher, Evenson, & Lutz, 2000). However, on surveys, we use the terms "clothes" or "clothing" that are more familiar and widely used by students and other research participants.


Research and reports on dress and behavior among students at school, including uniforms, is broad given the various areas where such literature might exist. Few empirical studies exist while varying kinds of reports, especially from the media, exist. Based on this review of literature, we will highlight selected literature in four major areas: (a) youth victimization; (b) academic related challenges; (c) commercialism influences; and (d) the use and effectiveness of uniforms. Mitchell and Rnechtle (2003) review legal issues, on the use of uniforms in public schools.

Youth Victimization

While violent assaults and even murder among youth have been linked to theft of certain dress items in schools, official records about these incidents nationally by law enforcement officials or school officials are often not reported or reported inconsistently (National School Safety Center, 2001). For example, two reports in the 1990's indicated that children are victimized by theft of their clothing and other property (National School Safety Center, 2001). …

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