Breakdown of Uniform Fetishism #1 – School Uniforms

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School uniforms had always been one of the most identifying outfits in the world of anime. Using the powers of imagination and escapism, school uniforms had evolved to the point that they had became a fashion in a sense. Some anime has very unique uniforms and some games like Persona, even had different variations of the same uniform within the same school.

School uniforms are one of the most important costumes in the world of anime, especially since most lead characters in anime tend to be of teen age, and would be no doubt donning on such an outfit. Each costumes had their own individualistic sense and style but by having every students wearing the same uniform, it prevents solitary and also induces oneself the feeling of belonging to a familiar group of society or organization, which is the school in this regard.

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The above shows how a typical school uniform looks like. The “sailor” uniform is definitely the most normal look. A school girl would don on a regular sailor uniform, with ribbons tied around the collar. Of cause in some cases, the ribbons can be replaced with a neck tie, or a bolo tie. The students also wear uniforms with varying designs, depending on the seasons. The picture above definitely shows a summer version of a particular school uniform; in colder seasons, the uniforms would be long sleeves, and would probably be accompanied with a blazer of some kind.

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While school uniforms are objectively important, people obsessed over them for different reasons. First would be that it maintain a girl’s innocence. School uniforms are outfits worn by students, as such, it is immediately assumed that they are worn by teenagers. School uniforms symbolize innocence, youth, education and is a representative of the younger society. I guess this is why so many anime seem to have a high school setting with characters in their teens. This creates a condition where the characters are “almost” adults, yet, are still kids who are nearing graduation and almost hitting that “adult age”. Especially in slice-of-life, this concept creates a solidifying development for their characters.

Persona 3 - Most diverse and one of the best designed school uniforms yet.

Persona 3 – One of the most diverse and best school uniforms designed yet.

Another aspect of school uniform, is the creating of identification by “modifying school uniforms”. Most of us wear school uniforms already at a very early age and as such, we begin developing our own in-school persona. Aside from casual costumes, school uniforms are something worn from “blank state”. Just before, I mentioned that they are games like Persona, which even improvise different variations of their uniforms, with the use of additional accessories like belts, headphones, or via uniforms modifications like with uniforms not tucked in, open blazers or shortened skirt. Metaphorically, this shows that students had already begun developing a persona in school, graduating from their blank state.

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If you’re the diligent type for example, you will probably buttoned up all your blazers, if you’re the wild type, you will probably open up all the buttons of your blazer. For the girls, the length of their skirts is a debatable idea. I heard that some Japanese girls in real life even deliberately fold up their skirt so that they look better and more individualized, perhaps long skirts seem more old-fashioned, though I’m not sure if the guys prefer short skirts in a similar fashionable mindset or just perversion in general. I’m the former myself. In that sense, when girls pick their school of choice, the design of the uniforms and their tastes in fashion surprisingly comes into play as well. That, and also long skirts in Japan seem to be associated with female delinquents a lot, as you can see from so many “female gangster” girls wearing long skirts in Japanese media.

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School uniform is one main aspect of anime culture, be it as a form of philosophy, fashion, art or even adult entertainment. What do you think of the school uniform?

Note: This post is inspired by one of AOIA’s older posts, Analysing: The School Uniform. Also, this is part of a series of posts where I talk about various anime outfits, so this post on school uniforms, will be just the beginning.

Breakdown of Uniform Fetishism:
Breakdown of Uniform Fetishism #1 – School Uniforms
Breakdown of Uniform Fetishism #2 – Bloomers

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This entry was posted by Kai.

25 thoughts on “Breakdown of Uniform Fetishism #1 – School Uniforms

  1. … I never expected to see an in-depth analysis of school uniforms. Absolutely brilliant, keep up the good work, 10/10 would read again, so on so forth. Looking forward to the next one, too!

  2. To be honest? I think the fetish had created the fetish, and it’s taken root and spread of its own, or through people treating the fetish as if it truly did exist.

    Ok, the above probably needs to be unpacked, but what I’m referring to might be what they use the term “Stand-Alone Complex” for in the anime, or some of the concepts discussed by Walter Benjamin – Is a fake a fake when there is no original? And in our modern society, where much of creation is a remixing of existing content, or just taking the old and slapping on it the word new again, can you even tell where something is born? It’s all meta, it’s all inter-connected.

    Had there ever truly been much of a school uniform fetish? I don’t know. But suppose media and fans always talk about the school uniform fetish, as if it exists – by merit of this discussion, they create the fetish as an object in the world. Even more-so, it’s mentioned not just in media and by fans, it’s mentioned inside anime, inside manga, and that’s a sure-fire way to make people pick it up, to emulate it, to then create the fetish, even if it had never existed, and regardless of its past existence or lack thereof, just like with customs and social rules (see Claude Levi-Strauss), by our actions we are re-affirming the existing social order.

    Suppose an anime that is immensely popular, or a studio, begins acting as if something that doesn’t exist is an existing anime-world behaviour, it is sort of a copy of the real world. Then the real world people copy the anime. It’s the copy of a copy, without there ever having been an original. Stand Alone Complex. Motoko would be proud.

    On another note, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if this exists a lot in “our” crowd, as anime fans are very ritualistic in their behaviour, fetishistic/obsessive is another way to say it (without any value judgement). Just look at the rote formula figure reviews take, and a great many other things – there’s an accepted form and people perform these often meaningless tasks for no real reason – I do plan to discuss the form of figure reviews at some point.

    • Reality and Illusion. Indeed, it’s one of my favorite topic as well and I think I wrote something about those sometime before, lol.

      When something appeared from zero state for everybody to see, comment and criticize, they are putting their own colors into it. If most of them has more or less the same comment, that similarity develop from fake into something real. It’s an interesting concept and the uniform fetish might had been born from that, I don’t know either. If that’s true, then I can say the same concept can apply to most of the others as well – A fetish born from nothingness.

      That is true. A popular anime studio may create something in an anime, and then it might be copied into the real world as an existing manifestation. However, I’m not sure if the fetishes are born from inside anime; parodies and references are only popular at the later stages of anime and from what I know, fetishes in uniform begun way back ages ago.

      Figure reviews, some of them see figures as a sort of art even, so their reviews are pretty interesting. I wouldn’t say figure reviews are meaningless anyhow, but guess I’ll check out your figure reviews article soon, lol.

      • Figure reviews are not meaningless, the ritual within it often is – the photos of the cardboard package the figure’s box came in, who needs that anyway? It’s not meaningless in the way that it serves no real function, the function is ritualistic, to adore the fetish (non-sexual meaning, an object of power), but it sprung from a no-place.

        I am not sure it came from anime either, that’s why I used it as an example, think of an “X Scare” created by the media (news), even though it doesn’t exist in the real world, and then people start noticing/reporting/being negative towards X.

        I have an interesting link, which I’m saving for my post on the matter, but deodorant for instance had been manufactured in the 30s or so, and only afterwards did a media blitz dedicated to painting body odor in a bad light had come about which changed our opinions on the issue. Same for removal of hair from women. These things had been manufactured for a monetary gain.

        • Now that when you mention it, I always take photo of the figure’s box, not sure if I need to do that. Also a bit hard to change since I had already written several figure reviews in my draft with photos of the figure’s box, lol. Never took photos of the whole cardboard package though, and haven’t seen any of the figure reviewers within the scope of my connections did either o.O

          Ahh, made sense. Indeed the fake and reality comes to play once more. Exaggeration from the media becomes a solid opinion, guess even products like deodorant and hair removal are victims to it, lol.

  3. Interesting that long skirts are associated with delinquents, since in the Western world that’s usually associated with prudism more than anything else.

    According to Wikipedia, the majority Japanese high schools have shifted to using blazers and plaid skirts due to the fetishization of the sailor fuku, as well as to differentiate high school uniforms from those of middle school which still commonly use the sailor fuku.

    • In a more idiotic perspective, perhaps long skirts can avoid panty exposures, so that’s why female delinquents wear them so they can fight more efficiently? Lol.

      Indeed, I guess it’s to show maturity, though I can see a lot of middle school students already using the blazer.

  4. Actually it all has to do with the delusion that once a person becomes an adult, the excitement of life would disappear. Honestly, that’s silly.

    Anyway, I only pay attention to uniforms when they’re worth looking at…which they usually aren’t. Hey, Japan, you want me to notice your girls’ uniforms, give me damn purple colored one to look at!

  5. High School and the associated uniforms provide an easy environment for coming of age stories. As you touch upon, uniforms can show advancement, personality, and youthfulness. It is easier to show a character developing by changing clothing than changing or “maturing” the character’s design.

    Frankly, I find school uniforms tired. It is refreshing when I find an anime that has nothing to do with school. Although school is one aspect of life many people share. The age group is one of the leading consumers of anime.

    • It is interesting, considering that they are more high school settings then say, middle school settings or elementary school settings. Indeed, more often then not, “maturing” the character designs only make them look even more awkward.

      Indeed hard to find such anime nowadays, and I find in contrast, such anime are usually more of the adult types. Not an alternative setting where there’s no school or something, but just basically “adult” anime, featuring characters with an older age then typical characters from high school settings.

  6. I think it’s also interesting to contrast how we feel about uniforms in Western society. I personally hated my uniform when I was in High School, and i’m pretty sure everyone else (males and females alike) felt the same. Perhaps the difference in feeling stems from the very different way schools are run here compared to Japan (Here’s the part where I say that everything I know is from Visual Novels and Anime, so there’s a good chance that my knowledge is horribly inaccurate).

    You talked about uniforms giving a feeling of being part of a greater whole, which seems to go along with Japanese schools having a greater sense of unity. From what i’ve seen (and again, this could be wrong), clubs and after-school activities seem to be much more prominent in Japan, to the point where it’s considered weird to not attend one (that is, to attend the Going Home club). The annual founder’s day festivals also promote student teamwork and even put each of the aforementioned clubs on display. Neither of these things are true for Western schools, at least not in New Zealand where I was educated. I didn’t feel any particular sense of belonging to my school, and thus the uniform meant nothing to me, and I couldn’t wait to take it off at the end of each day.

    • I think escapism comes into play as well in regards to uniform fetishism. Not sure if you dislike your uniform physically or psychologically (seems more of the latter to me) but to me, since Brunei here doesn’t have any season changes, my school uniform was pretty much fixed. White buttoned uniform on top and black slacks, and that’s it. As you can see, it’s more of a summer uniform and we pretty much worn such uniform throughout my junior and senior high school years. I may be getting tired of it, and got surprised when watching anime – one uniform, can have a hundred, or even a thousand different fashionable variety.

      And also the fact that the students can actually create their own clubs, so there’s a great sense of independence as well. My school also has an after-school clubs too, however, the activities are all arranged by the teachers and I found more uninteresting activities then the interesting ones. It’s disappointingly little too, not more then 10 if I could remember. The Japanese founder day festival looks fun and interesting, it’s almost like a summer festival, with all the different clubs running different kind of clubs and stalls. Indeed, I don’t feel much about much about my own school uniform too but as said, there’s escapism in play too.

      • We also had a fixed uniform with no real customisability (other than tucking in shirt or not, but that depended on whether particular teachers wanted to enforce that rule).
        The clubs thing is a big one. I’m pretty sure all the clubs we had were sport-related, which wasn’t something I was interested in (though I did practice Karate outside of college). Since the Japanese clubs are student-run it means people that become involved in things that really interest them. I mean, there are things like Occult clubs in a number of anime, so it wouldn’t surprise me if Otaku clubs were also possible. (or perhaps Gaming clubs >.>).

        I feel like i’m getting off the topic of uniforms >.<

        • Teachers forced us to tuck in our shirt, but we still try out best to defy that rule, it felt suffocating sometimes, lol. There’s also the hair, even with hair at medium length, you would had already attracted the discipline master’s eyes >_>

          Most of mine were sport-related, with some small exception like Chess. No Japanese clubs either, can’t say I’m really interested in them much too. I heard a neighbor school of mine had a Japanese club, while I’m stuck playing Chess, well, I found it fun back then, but I’m sure learning Japanese would be more fun, lol. Student-run clubs seem to be more fun then teacher-run clubs, my school is of the latter. I could had sworn I saw a number of people joining “Anime clubs” in college, lol.

  7. Nice.. I’ve always pondered about anime school uniforms. They give a relaxing feel or something when I watch anime girls that wear school uniforms.. maybe because I miss my school days? :D Japanese school uniforms are really eye catching compared to other countries’ school uniforms, maybe because of the short skirts and all. :)

    • The skirts are actually longer, they actually “modified” it by rolling or folding the upper parts of their skirts, to create an unique identification perhaps, though the boys might rejoiced in a different reason altogether :p Now that when I think about it, uniform rules in Japan seems pretty loose, though I’m not totally sure about it still anyway.

  8. I never was in a school with uniforms and so the whole idea of everybody looks the same is a bit odd in my mind and I kind of despise most western school uniforms they are ugly, plain and blehhh!

    Even though many western pupils don’t like the idea of school uniforms, I noticed that especially girls tend to dress in a certain similar style, that lets it nearly appear like a uniform, even though they have the choice. That fullfiills nearly the same purpose as these uniforms, to feel to be part of a group. I do like it when girls dress individual yet thats pretty rare.

    In contrast I see japanese school uniforms as really fashionable dressup, they appear more fresh and youthful to me and I liked uniforms since I watched my first anime. Sailor uniform designs are in the majority, to me these kind of uniforms have a feeling of youthful innocense and cuteness.
    Well I admit that It’s nice when girls are wearing skirts, they are a lot more feminine than trousers ^^

    It can’t be helped that school uniforms are that often used in anime, since they often portray teenage life, homework aside, school life is one of the best and most exciting parts of life, where you can create many interesting settings.
    So Im not really sure if there is a real school uniform fetish in anime itself or more common sense to include these things.

    The worst school uniform I’ve seen in anime were in K-on, I really can’t stand that western design that seems to suck out the spirit off the students with their outdated design and dusty appearance. Sailor Seifiuku forever !!!

    • Having uniforms have their own advantages and disadvantages, I know there are indeed some schools without uniforms, not around here though, lol.

      Perhaps the girls actually want the uniform, you never knew :D I’m sure it doesn’t fulfill that same purpose as good as uniforms does though, not all people are wearing the same style after all.

      Indeed, especially the way the Japanese school uniforms are designed, it’s easy to see them as a fashion even. Sailor uniforms signify youth and innocence better then the more Western design ones indeed. I guess that’s why middle school students seem to favor them more, though there are still middle schools which uses blazers as well. Indeed, in school with uniforms, it’s almost unthinkable for girls to wear trousers unless it’s for sport or something ;p

      And high school setting is a great setting to show developments in characters, especially in slice-of-life, so there should be thousands of school uniforms, lol.

      They both have their own different beauty D:

  9. I had school uniforms in high school…hated them. Rules for way too strict. So I’m not a big fan of school uniforms in general.

    Although, really neatly designed ones like Persona or Infinite Stratos I enjoy, from a fashion perspective, not because they’re school uniforms.

    • Rules on school uniforms in my school are quite strict too, not a minute you can let our your uniform before the discipline master came rushing in and shout “tuck in your school uniform!”

  10. (All right, I’ll try posting when logged in. If this fails, I give up >.<. Maybe it thinks it's spam and you need to allow my comment. If that's the case, please allow this one and delete the other mess, I think it's better than earlier ones. It was hard work remembering everything x.x)

    “though I’m not sure if the guys prefer short skirts in a similar fashionable mindset or just perversion in general.” and “The skirts are actually longer, they actually “modified” it by rolling or folding the upper parts of their skirts, to create an unique identification perhaps, though the boys might rejoiced in a different reason altogether :p”

    Please don’t call me a pervert just because I prefer shorter skirts x.x I’m sure all (heterosexual) guys do, just like most have a fetish for like big breasts (including me, but you will probably say it's not a fetish either) SEXUALLY (though I DO think small ones look prettier… and apparently 90% of the internet community agrees with me, but I doubt that's true.

    It's far too statistically unlikely that only 10% of the userbase likes how big breasts look. I think most people are saying it because they think it's "wrong" to admit it, to protect the feelings of girls with smaller breasts. But that in turn just degrades bigger-breasted girls instead. Wow, I really went off topic there haha.)

    By the way, I'm sorry for my outburst back there. I just felt so degraded and offended, by things like you making so many assumptions that don't apply to me. Please don't involve Sakata-san in this, she has nothing to do with it.

    You have to understand how our brain works. When we are excited, it clouds the logical center of our brain A LOT, so that we can only focus on, obsess on even, what made us excited. It can make us do things that we normally would never even consider, or be ashamed of for even thinking of it.

    (Though of course we can clear away those thoughts by shifting our focus by focusing strongly on logical thoughts, unless what caused it is still in our line of sight. In that case, it's pretty much impossible, at least for me xD.)

    Here, I'll even show you:

    *thinks strongly about short skirts, or rather, whats under them, in order to become excited* *blush*

    Alright, now I'm REALLY excited. So I can tell you the reasons I prefer smaller skirts without any obstacle:

    1. It makes it much more likely to see their underwear if there's a wind blowing, or they are running… hehehehe ^-^

    2. It makes it much easier to look up girls' skirts, especially if they are standing higher than and in front of me. Even catching a glimpse feels GREAT, being able to look at them directly for even a few seconds would feel AMAZING!! Ehehehe ^-^ …That probably didn't help my case that I'm not a pervert. But it's not something I can help. I'm sorry:(

    3. They look prettier and more feminine.

    Do you really think I would tell you something this embarrassing if I was my normal self atm? I get embarrassed much stronger than most people, so I bet I'll feel awful about this later, but it was the only way to show you. At least you can't complain about me not being honest now! xD

    What's up next…? Ah, bl, bl, bloomers!?…WOW! X_X…That's another HUGE fetish of mine, ah, ahahahaha XD.

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