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Why Do Girls Have to Wear Ties at School in the UK?

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


This chapter investigates how gender is accepted, ignored and understood in school uniform policies, in other words, how gender is ‘done’. Ties, skirts and blouses can be understood as some of the ‘mundane materialities’ of school that are often not noticed but are significant in the way that they enact gendered power. This chapter focuses on the mandatory wearing of ties for girls, as this is a hitherto unreported focus of research in relation to school uniform and gender. A content analysis of the school uniform and/or dress code policies of all 357 publicly funded schools in Scotland showed that 90% of schools require all pupils, boys and girls, to wear a school tie. Ties are hardly worn by women outside of school uniform, which highlights the male body and male dress as the norm to which girls must comply. The chapter does not conclude with suggestions on what secondary schools in Scotland and beyond should do but hopes that the chapter can raise questions about how gender is ‘done’ in dress codes in terms of the materiality of the tie and what it does to those who wear it and those around them.


  • School ties
  • Gender
  • Gender norms

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I wish to thank the students who were involved in the original sourcing and coding of the school uniform policies, namely Lucas Adrian Brauns, Jasper Friedrich, Agata Kostrzewa, Marton Kottmayer, Annabelle Eveline Olsson, Kirsten Phelps, Daniel Phillips, Vilma Pullinen, Atyrah Hanim Razali, Cameron Roy and Maria Steiner Simonsen.

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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. (2023). Why Do Girls Have to Wear Ties at School in the UK?. 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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