It’s hardly a secret that worldwide, adults of every age and every nation are growing ever larger. Just as recognized, but more insidious, is the growing size of children across the globe. In response to the changing shape of the average child which needs a uniform, suppliers such as Marks and Spencer have increased their offerings.
Changing Sizes and Patterns
This is not the first time school uniforms have changed in the Western world. Immigration from Africa, the Southern Pacific, India, and Asia have necessitated new patterns. Longer uniforms for longer legs, larger shirts when cultures value a larger body, and smaller uniforms for students much smaller than their counterparts. So while altering both the patterns and actual clothes themselves is not a new phenomenon, the contingent of children wearing uniforms intended for students two years older is.
Plus size uniforms reflect any obvious reality: plus size children. In much of the Western world, these larger children are not due to increased immigration but to that rising level of childhood obesity. The various causes are up for debate, but undoubtedly the causes are new. While a certain portion of the population has always been either overweight or obese—the rotund models of the pre-Renaissance period are prime examples—the morbid obesity which is increasing in the developed world is a new problem altogether. While this is worrying enough, the increase in overweight and obese children is an even greater problem. There is a difference between sturdy or chubby children and obese children.
Across the World
Marks and Spencer, as a UK supplier, is mostly connected to the situation within the United Kingdom. But the phenomenon is in no way confined to that nation. The situation is just as visible in Australia. In that country, the growing uniforms are in stark contrast to those which are shrinking. Australia experiences immigration from both India and Asia due to its proximity, and uniforms have been made smaller. So the trend towards larger uniforms is not a certain one. It is, however, one which is increasing.
Although the United States does not as a rule promote the use of school uniforms, so their size cannot be tracked or recorded as a means of investigating childhood obesity, the trend towards larger children is well-known. According to some, these children merely have “healthy appetites”, their size being a result. This is merely a justification, a way to escape responsibility. While, once again, sturdy children are well-known through history—no farmer wanted frail or underweight children to help in the fields—grotesquely obese children are brand new. Denying the recent obesity epidemic among American children is a difficult one to maintain.
The reality of the situation is that the world contains essentially equal numbers of under- and over-nourished people. The number who have too little food is the same as those who have too much. The increase in plus size children reflects the increase in plus size individuals overall. For a significant length of time, children do not act autonomously. So, when a six year-old to require the school uniform of a nine year-old because of the waistline rather than the inseam, another person is at fault.
Responsibility, and Where It Lies
Whether parents, grandparents, other relatives, or family friends who are trying to feed that “healthy appetite”, the child learns the process of overeating. Barring a severe genetic mutation, a child learns his or her appetite. Satiety is a combination of physical and psychological signals. When suppliers must go out of their way to create uniforms significantly larger for a small contingent of students simply for their girth, something is desperately amiss. They are observing the results of children who are overfed and learn to overfeed themselves.
The last place it lies is with the child. Even if a seven year-old sneaks into the kitchen to snitch a handful of potato chips, someone has taught him or her that snacking is an acceptable habit. When done in response to true hunger, the situation is different. The concept of all-day grazing, though, has supplemented the ideal of three meals a day. Teach a child that it is perfectly fine to grab a chocolate bar between breakfast and lunch, or three cookies at four in the afternoon, and a package of candy after dinner—merely as a matter of routine—and the result is a child who is not of normal size.
If you take your child to purchase a school uniform—or even everyday clothing—and his or her size is far beyond the expected, something is wrong. If the garment must be altered, something is wrong. The problem with clothing is not truly the problem, it is a confrontation with the consequences of patterns and actions. And a wake-up call for a new lifestyle.
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