Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Did I miss the memo about the grey socks?

Our older son just started school a few weeks ago (it's Australia so the school year starts in February)  and everyone talks about how tired the kids are when they first start school, but the kids are doing fine, it's the parents who are struggling.

For example, what on earth do you pack for a kids who has had a home-cooked, hot lunch for most of his life, is allergic to 50% of the foods in the world, and doesn't like 49% of the rest of them???  (more on that issue shortly).

One of the things stressing me out will probably sound ridiculous to 99.99% of you.  It's the school uniform.  Having grown up in America the whole concept of a school uniform is foreign to me.  I understand the rationale, or at least the bit about it being an equalizer, so that you can't tell who is rich and who is poor by their clothes.  In a way that would have been a relief to me growing up, when we didn't have much money for clothes and I felt like an outcast because I didn't have 10 pairs of designer jeans.  In retrospect I can see the idiocy of the notion that anyone would want to have 10 pairs of designer jeans, but as a 12 year old girl it seemed important. 

One thing I have embraced about living in Australia (where clothes are much more expensive than in the US, or the rest of the world for that matter) is the concept that you have only a few nice outfits and it's perfectly acceptable to wear them over and over again.  I remember as a pre-teenager agonizing over my wardrobe (most of it sourced from second hand and vintage clothing shops and hand-me-downs, plus a few key pieces from the JCPenney catalog) making sure that I didn't wear the same outfit more than once in a month (really).  Now of course this sounds ridiculous, but in my 12 year old mind it was the only way to achieve social acceptance.

A school uniform would have bee a relief in that sense.  But at what cost?  I learned a lot about thrift and resourcefulness trying to come up with a wardrobe on the $1/hour I earned babysitting.  And clothes were a way for me to express my creativity and individuality.  I'm sure I would have found another outlet,  maybe even a better one, if I'd had a school uniform, but I'm pretty sure I would have hated the conformity of it all.  It still rubs me the wrong way a little bit, and I'm finding small ways of rebelling through my son's wardrobe.  Not that he cares.  He just wants to play mario bros and watch the (original) smurfs on youtube (wait a second, are we in some kind of time warp?).

Anyway.  Aside from my non-conformist tendencies, I have another reason for not being happy with the school uniform thing.  It's not organic.  As you may have noticed, I am an organic freak.  I go to a lot of trouble to make sure that most of our clothes are made from organic cotton or other healthy, eco-friendly, renewable fibers.  And my second choice, if organic etc is not available, is for second hand clothes, where the environmental impact is reduced and hopefully some of the toxic chemicals have been washed away.  So for me the idea of buying brand-new, pesticide and possibly formaldehyde-laden cotton and polyester-blend clothes for my son is anathema.

So what do I do?  I go to a lot of trouble to source organic cotton white polo shirts from America so that I can have them printed and embroidered with the school logo.  And I track down second-hand versions of the shorts.  I did actually manage to find organic cotton shorts in the right color (royal blue) but they were clearly for girls and had lovely pleats etc, so I just couldn't do that to him... I'm a mean enough Mom as it is ;-)

It wasn't until a few days into the first week that I noticed that all of the other boys were wearing grey socks.  Socks were not listed on the uniform order form, so I hadn't even thought about it.  I must have missed the memo about the grey socks.  Maybe it's something like Vegemite or Cricket and you just have to grown up Australian to know about the grey socks. 

I had been lucky enough to find some great organic kids socks at Nordstrom when we were in the US in January, so I bought some black ones and some white ones.  I might have even bought some grey ones if they had had any, but they didn't. 

So I have spent the last few weeks searching for eco-friendly grey socks for a size 13 boy's foot.  They do not exist.  If you can find some for me I will send you a prize.  Really.

I did manage to find some grey bamboo socks at a local shop, but they are more my size than my 6 year old's.  I'm still making him wear them for now though.  I am that mean.


Anonymous said...

Love this one Annie!
I enjoyed conforming to my school uniform, it was a great leveller.The ultra trendy girls from some of the "wealthier" families at my school turned out on " uniform free" days looking like they were fashionistas competing for the front page of the latest teen mag.
Some of us were not quite so indulged with our weekend wardrobes.... I stacked supermarket shelves in the variety section at Safeway when I was 14. Then with an accumulated 6 weeks pay bought some jeans & a top ...especially to go on a school excursion.That way I was assured of not looking like a total frump by wearing my usual out worn "weekend" clothes which consisted of about 2 outfits.
I suppose I learned to be frugal, value the clothes I do buy now... & I am not a slave to fashion.
David Suzuki once said we should be able to get 10 years routine wear out of each item of clothing we purchase.....
Mmm...that would reduce landfill !!
Warmest regards, Lee

Jeannie said...

Hope you can find those grey socks. I never had to conform to uniforms.

Like you, I grew up without much clothing to rotate through for school. It was sometimes embarrasing.

However, It taught me that it is not what you wear, but who you are, when doing your best, that really counts.

I call that a valuable lesson, even though it was difficult at the time. It has served me well in a number of areas throughout life.

Rachel Carey said...

I grew up with a school uniform and it always seemed like a great idea. I always remember when we had non school uniform days it was always such a stress about what you should wear and what everyone else was wearing.

Abby said...

Hi Anne.I enjoyed reading.In my country,we are wearing uniforms too.At school,you can't enter the entrance gate if your not wearing your school uniform.Organic clothes are great!I feel more comfortable wearing it.