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Student fashion: is a uniform too uniform?

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In recent years, student uniforms are becoming more and more fashionable with many creative designs appearing.

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This new wave of fashion seems to have changed school as place for learning into a fashion catwalk. If you visit schools and universities in Phnom Penh, you’ll notice students dressing up or altering their uniforms with fashionable accessories and styles.

Some students style their uniforms in Thai or Korean fashions.

Despite styling their uniforms to be more attractive, students do not break school policy because they still use their school colours, and they do not dress in a revealing manner.

They also abide by the rules by tucking their shirts into their trousers of skirts.

Wearing a high-waisted black skirt with a special design sleeve and collar, Tourt Bopha, 23, a Norton University student, says  her university uniform is a Korean design. Since she did not like her university’s original uniform, Tourt Bopha?? had it re-designed.

She said she is happy and proud whenever her schoolmates admire her uniquely designed uniform.

“My school has never said anything about the design of my uniform because it is not sexy, and it is black and white- so it still abides by school policy,” she said.

And it’s not just girls who like to re-design their uniform.

Boys are also just as fashionable. Chhun Bory, 22, a fourth-year student at Royal University of Law and Economics said that his uniform has different tailored features, such as pockets, sew lines, colour mixtures or buttons.

Chhun Bory copies designs from clothes shops or model books; he gets his clothes made in the same way so he will look unique and cool in front of his classmates.

“As I am a trendy person, if I dress up very normal, I feel very shameful, ” Chhun Bory admitted.

However, there are some teachers who do not welcome this fashion wave. Chun Leng Orn, a biology teacher at a Phnom Penh high school, said she doesn’t approve of students altering their uniform because it looks clumsy and interrupts other students’ studies.

“I do not care how fashionable they are outside of school hours. During school period, they should respect school policies by dressing in their normal uniform. It does nothing to their study if they focus too much on dressing up,” Chun Leng Orn said.

Pheng Phanaka, 20, a third-year student at Royal University of Law and Economics, also shared his impressions on altering the student uniform.

He says that at his university, all students are required to wear a uniform, but some of them are always trying to alter it because they want to be fashionable and attractive. He stressed that schools and universities are places to gain knowledge, not to portray how fashionable you are.

“I don’t think those styles of uniform can make them look attractive if their studies are failing,” Pheng Phanaka said.

Kim Socheata, an economic lecturer at National University of Management blames this fashion wave on the media, for broadcasting foreign cultures to Cambodia.

“For sure, university students are over 18 years old; they have freedom to wear whatever they want – but, they ought to limit that freedom particularly during school hours,” Kim Socheata said.

Iv Sao Sokha, deputy director of Sisowath High School, a school known for its strict policies, said that controlling student uniforms is not easy amid the modern generation. He said his school has been doing everything they can to keep the school uniforms under control - even forbidding students from changing something as simple as a button.

Wearing a school uniform is a requirement of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport in order to form student identity.

Having a uniform means students are treated fairly, and are not judged by their teachers or classmates based on what they wear, the Ministry says.

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