Like It or Not! The Costs and Benefits of Belonging

A recent article in The Washington Post explored the Japanese regulation that Japanese schoolchildren must have straight jet-black hair – and wear white underwear. “It is supposed to prevent rebellious students — girls and boys alike — from dyeing or perming their hair and encourage them to concentrate on their studies.

Like it or not, cultures can be bullies. BUT – with good intentions? Each group uses fashion and appearance to bind members together and build loyalty.

With most of our group choices, we know we have other options. We can be all in or be a casual explorer. We might grow weary of our reggae lifestyle and start migrating our music and attire toward other musical cultures. Or we might celebrate our country cowboy lifestyle by sticking with our hats and boots while living in a small coastal town in Maine. We express on our outsides what is going on in our insides. Sometimes we match those around us – and sometimes we don’t.

But, it seems, Japanese students don’t have a lot of leeway. And the greater challenge with the stifling appearance regulations is that the student’s education is on the line. The consequences for expressing individuality (aka rebelliousness) can actually affect a kid’s future happiness and success. People are up in arms – again – actively pushing back against their own culture’s expectations.

Hmmmm – maybe this time things will change. What are your thoughts about the costs and benefits of school uniforms?

Black hair, white underwear: A battle resumes over Japan’s school rules,

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