Last week, Woodchurch High School in the United Kingdom banned students from wearing expensive coats from Canada Goose, Moncler, Pyrenex and other high end clothing brands. The ban, which goes into effect after Christmas, is meant to stop “poverty shaming” in light of recent bullying incidents reported at the school. While the intentions of this ban are commendable, it won’t work.
People typically want what they can’t have. Placing a ban on anything almost automatically makes that thing more valuable as well as more desirable. A ban on these jackets will only make them more alluring. The students usually have interactions after school as well so this ban will only prevent a specific type of shaming during school hours. The other obvious issue that this school will face with this ban are the loopholes in it. Now that a wealthier student cannot wear certain high end brands, they will have to find replacements for their current school fashion. Canada Goose and Moncler will simply be replaced by some other designer brands that were not included in the banned “luxury list” of jackets.
A possible scenario is that Gucci jackets or Adidas jackets will become the new hot article of clothing, and the ban list will have to keep expanding in order to put the rich kids in check. The cycle will continue, just through alternative brand names.
Even if the school went overboard as to issue school uniforms, this still would not stop kids from bullying others or “poverty shaming.” The object of stigmatization will simply shift into another realm. Those without the latest smartphone or the newest shoes would soon be pushed into the same bullying experienced by those without Canada Goose jackets. The jacket ban will relieve some pressure on the poorer students instantly; insecure bullies will find ways regardless of their jackets to embarrass their peers.
The increasing economic inequality facing Britain as well as the United States does not seem to be ending anytime soon. To pretend like this is strictly a school problem appears naïve, but in the ban’s defense, a school is the best place for society to work on this problem. It will take time for the experiment to prove itself effective against bullying and hopefully it does have some tangible benefit. Unfortunately, it does not appear to be a viable solution in the long term. The issue is that it is just a Band-Aid placed on the gash of inequality that cuts through every culture on this planet.
A ban is not the solution to one of the biggest concerns our society faces, but it is a good starting point at least.
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