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The Materiality and Materials of School Uniforms at a Local and Global Level

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Part of the The Cultural and Social Foundations of Education book series (CSFE)


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.


  • Affordability
  • Comfort
  • Cost
  • Sustainability
  • Textile workers

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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.

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Correspondence to Rachel Shanks .

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© 2023 The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG

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Shanks, R., Carnarvon, A. (2023). The Materiality and Materials of School Uniforms at a Local and Global Level. In: Shanks, R., Ovington, J., Cross, B., Carnarvon, A. (eds) School Uniforms. The Cultural and Social Foundations of Education. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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  • Publisher Name: Palgrave Macmillan, Cham

  • Print ISBN: 978-3-031-32938-8

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-031-32939-5

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