The Gender of Uniform

Numb, shaking fingers, full-body shivers, and a scratching feeling at the back of my throat. Only some of the effects of the latest insanely cold weather – and an even more insanely impractical uniform. Once again, I find myself asking, is the debate about pants for girls a gender issue – or just a necessary measure that should be put in place to ensure that nobody falls ill?

While pondering the societal and ethical considerations of breaking gender stereotypes through uniform of an Anglican school is all good and well, the practicality of clothing shouldn’t be disregarded. It’s a fact that pants are warmer than thin tights, so why doesn’t William Clarke increase attendance rates just by introducing new uniform? It seems simple enough.


Across Australia, the majority of high schools have a mandatory uniform. Attire to make students seem unified, to represent the school through appearances. Yet, often, these uniform rules reinforce old and outdated gender stereotypes about how people ought to dress.

It’s no secret that, throughout history, women have been wearing long skirts, long hair, and gorgeous jewellery – a stark contrast to the clean-cut men with short hair and trousers. However, as society has advanced and developed, as we have reimagined what is ‘normal’ – shouldn’t what we wear reflect this? People expressing themselves through clothing is an integral part of identity. And for teenagers, finding their identity is very much part of the high school journey. So, why are these archaic rules still enforced in school uniforms?

While pants for girls does seem like a simply solved debate, it remains entangled with gender stereotypes and societal norms. That is why there are numerous arguments against pants for girls specifically, and even more for other gendered uniform rules. Some say that for equality’s sake, introducing pants for girls means introducing skirts for boys. They say that this will cause outrage and isn’t a necessary measure for a Christian school. This is a highly illogical argument, as society has long seen women wearing pants as a norm. Even the WCC sport uniform allows girls to wear trackpants.

Others point to the decision of the 2019 WCC SRC, where a unanimous vote agreed against pants for girls. What is not mentioned, however, is that there was a prototype suggested. The prototype, when described to me by the 2019 leaders, resembled a split in half, extended version of the school skirt. Of course, the uniform is not meant to follow the latest fashion trends – however, creating an unattractive garment that would discourage students from wearing it seems counterproductive.

Another obvious argument is that in a Private Christian school, traditional attire should be upheld. Formal wear is an understandable way for schools like William Clarke College to present themselves to the outside world. No one is arguing that blazers should be replaced by hoodies (…well, most students aren’t) or that we should be able to customise our uniform with large jewellery and jackets. Simply, students are advocating for more comfortable and appropriate guidelines – for now at least.

William Clarke College’s uniform is very normal private school attire. However, for the sake of student voice – it is vital for the uniform to evolve. The students are asking. They are asking for pants for girls, for lenient guidelines towards religious jewellery, for boys to be able to wear one pair of earrings. They are not big asks and not big changes. The uniform is made for students, students are not made to wear uniforms.