Photo: Sean Ng Pack

Are Designer Jackets a Problem in High School?

Phil Ng PackJanuary 04, 2019

The small northwestern British secondary school, Woodchurch High, thrusted themselves into global headlines last November for creating a movement on poverty-proofing schools against bullying.

Head teacher Rebekah Phillips explained to the BBC that their student dress code bans on Canada Goose, Moncler, and Pyrenex was an attempt at “poverty-proofing our school environment.” She furthers that school officials were simply responding to student complaints of high pressure to flaunt high-end brands. “We met with groups of pupils and made the decision in consultation with them.” Students seem to approve of the ban, after all they were the ones who consulted with officials.

Parents across social media seem to approve of the additional dress code prohibitions.

There is a clear disconnect between the average parent and average student on their views of expensive winter coats. Many parents do not understand the unbreakable grip clothing and fashion has over younger students so when they see a $1,000 jacket, they will immediately chalk it up as a waste of money instead of considering the social implications the jackets represent.

But how does this issue even affect students and what are the results really like?

This supposed pressure to flaunt high-end brands is something that can be described as a “flex culture” in high school, with everybody attempting to impress each other by boasting to own expensive items. In today’s school environment, it’s not uncommon to see students walking around the school dressed in expensive Canada Goose parkas on days with mild temperatures. They may get the occasional nod of approval or compliment on the fit, but more so they do it because they know they’ll get recognition.

Recognition is everything to a fifteen to eighteen year old in high school — it’s part of the reason why social media such as Instagram or Snapchat are so popular to teenagers in the first place, everybody likes validation that they are important.

I asked two students at my high school about whether they’d judge a person differently, perhaps with more respect, if they wore Canada Goose or Moncler. Rony contends “I think it looks really good on some people, while other people look plain stupid in it,” but concedes that he would “respect the fit”. Vicky agreed, acknowledging that they’re expensive jackets, she added “I have both because I saved up for it and I wanted to treat myself.”

This is not to say that if schools take away items for students to flex with that everybody will suddenly become compassionate for their peers. Albeit, for the students that wear Canada Goose or Moncler just for the sake of recognition, the ban is nothing more than a frustration that they’ll need to pick a different jacket in the morning. More importantly, for the type of student that the poverty-proofing plan was meant for, dress coding a bully’s outfit is nothing more than a nominal punishment.

The school comes with good intentions in remedying bullying, but severely misdiagnoses the underlying problem. Putting bandaids over the solution, or in this case, banning the next expensive article of clothing that becomes popular is simply a bandaid reapplied every season. I think what schools should consider is figuring out the root causes of poverty-shaming and work on ways to combat this which probably means changing the culture of the school to be more inclusive and accepting of others from different backgrounds.


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