The materiality and materials of school uniforms at a local and global level

Rachel Shanks, Ainsley Dane Carnarvon

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In this chapter we take both a theoretical and practical turn to matter as in the actual materials of school uniforms. Items of school uniform are not simply inanimate objects or artefacts; they also participate in the production and reproduction of social relations. Materials in uniforms in Scotland are explored in relation to comfort, affordability, and sustainability. Comfort is a key concern for children and young people, but it is often ignored when uniform requirements are drawn up and enforced. Affordability because there are tensions between uniform playing a levelling function between pupils while putting the cost
on families. Affordability is also linked to sustainability as the production of school uniforms has an environmental impact and different fabrics are associated with different financial and environment costs. Sustainability covers issues such as micro-plastics, the non-recyclability or biodegrading of clothes with synthetic content, and the intensive manufacturing process of cotton. These material concerns are not often considered in relation to school uniform
policies. The chapter concludes with some recommendations on how the importance of school uniform materials could be acted upon in light of the global climate crisis and the recent growing focus on sustainable clothing.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSchool Uniforms
Subtitle of host publicationNew Materialist Perspectives
EditorsRachel Shanks, Julie Ovington, Beth Cross, Ainsley Carnarvon
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-031-32939-5
ISBN (Print)978-3-031-32938-8
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jul 2023

Publication series

NameThe Cultural and Social Foundations of Education

Bibliographical note

Funding for the pilot study, Affordability and Sustainability of School Uniforms (ASSU), was provided by the University of Aberdeen from its Interdisciplinary Research and Impact Scheme.


  • affordability
  • comfort
  • cost
  • sustainability
  • textile workers


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