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Amid Sameness of School Uniforms, These Kids Know How to Accessorize

Gabriel Spitzer
Our mini focus group, from St. Francis of Assisi Catholic school in Burien: (left to right) Gino Morella, Gabriel Hamilton, Tyler Valdez, Payne Roberts, McKenna Treichel, Sarah Reay, Rachel Fry and Gwendolyn Shaffer

This story originally aired on December 16, 2017.

At first glance it may seem like the students at St. Francis of Assisi school in Burien are dressed pretty much alike: white collar shirts, red plaid skirts for the girls, navy blue pants or shorts for the boys.

But look closer, and you’ll see that many of them have brought a little something special to their outfits.

“I wear a gold watch,” says Gino Morella.

“I have white Adidas superstars that I’ve worn all year,” says Gabriel Hamilton.

“I tend to wear a leather jacket,” says Rachel Fry.

Also in this little focus group of eight 5th- through 8th-graders is a homemade scarf, a headband, signature Converse sneakers and a gold necklace wrapped around the wrist.

Students say the longer you spend here, the more those unique little adornments stand out.

“They think, ‘oh my gosh, they’re all the same! They’re all wearing the same uniform.’ But when you’re actually in your peer group you start to realize that people have their own different styles. Not everybody's the same,” says Rachel Fry.

Still, it’s a pretty complex balance these kids have to strike. They tend to get conflicting messages: Well meaning grownups say, “Be yourself! Be proud of who you are!”

But at the same time, there are subtle messages from adults and peers not to stray too far from the norm.

“They want you to be who you are, but not too much of who you are, or else they don’t like you,” says Gino Morella. “It’s hard to choose whether you want to be yourself and maybe people won’t accept you, or just be another person and call it good.”

The kids seem to fall in different spots on that continuum, and many are still experimenting … which is, after all, largely what adolescence is all about.

Gabriel Spitzer is a former KNKX reporter, producer and host who covered science and health and worked on the show Sound Effect.