Analysing: The School Uniform

Because Kantoku is forever a perfect choice for an anime blog.

I seem to do quite a few meta posts that focus on specific aspects of the human psyche and behavior in the animanga context, so from here on, I will be prefixing such posts with the term “Analysing”. Yay for my supreme creativity.

Now, on to the main topic.

The school uniform is an unexplained fetish of many men across the globe, to be hidden away behind closed doors or only confided to close friends, sexual partners and, in some cases, the greater part of the Internet. Recently, however, as I was casually eyeing a group of nubile female students on the bus, it struck me: Why the school uniform? After some careful consideration and research into this not-terribly-important subject, here are my opinions.

However, before I proceed, let me first detail the theory of the Male Gaze. Filmmaking, being a decidedly male-dominated sector, is often done from the perspective of the male mind – angles, scenes and props are chosen to display the woman as an object to be looked at. In anime, this would be evidenced by skirts that, no matter how long or heavy, would always be blown up by even the slightest gust of wind in a manner that would put Marilyn Monroe to shame; the tendency for massively oversized mammaries that exist on a plane unaffected by the standard laws of physics; also a general rule of thumb that female characters should dress in completely awkward manners that cater to as many fetishes as possible. This is, of course, all done very knowingly, as most anime’s target demographic is quite male in nature.

With that out of the way, my discussion focuses around two fundamental driving factors behind the male gaze: The idea of superiority, and the idea of objectification.

1. The school uniform masks the personal identity of the subject.

Image by Tamura Hiro, feat. Miyanaga Teru. No, no one knows who the yellow-haired girl is, either.

Normal humans, being the hairless earth-skinned beach apes most of us are, seek to express our individuality through the most accessible and visible way possible: Dressing. The school uniform serves as the counterpoint to this, forcing students to give up their individual preferences for the sake of institutional conformality. With this, the notion of the “individual” is downplayed. People are thus able to view them and consequently lust after them as objects,defined by the uniform they wear.

2. There is a certain illusion of innocence and naivete that comes with the donning of the institutional outfit.

For various reasons, all of the pictures for this post (excluding title) will be of Miyanaga Teru.

While the individual in question might not be, the outfit conveys the illusion of naive innocence and youth, tempered in us by both societal and personal experience. This plays with the male wish for superiority, where the individual is able to view himself as above the student in terms of intellect and worldly experience, based purely off the image given by the uniform. Some men are also attracted to such innocence (notably often the same kind of men who wield the Pedobear seal of approval) and, of course, the imagined act of defiling that illusion. Just see the amount of lolicon manga we have circulating around the ‘Net.

3. While the uniform masks individuality, it does not completely block it off from public view.

The third point stems, surprisingly, from the individual. Little fragments of the self escape through the colour and cut of the hair, accessories, bag, type of shoes, and most of all, the behaviour and gait of the individual in public. The result is an image similar to that of a freshly budding flower – a fragile, unstable existence. This once again plays to the idea of superiority.

4. The counterimage.

You see, if those school uniforms weren’t holding back most of her power, Teru would probably be doing this in Saki Achiga-hen right around the second-last episode. DN on pixiv, http://www.pixiv.net/member.php?id=1778800

The counterimage is here defined as the contrast between the image portrayed by the institutional outfit (the school uniform) and the personality or activity of the character. For this reason, there exists in anime numerous variations of the armed schoolgirl – whether with swords, guns, lances, explosives or just badassery in general. In my opinion, it is the contrast between the institutional and innocent nature of the uniform and the ruthlessness that comes with weapons or unarmed combat, or also possibly the male nature to fancy those who share similar passions with them, i.e. sport, or, in this case, weaponry. This is, of course, out of the scope of discussion, but it does happen to be a valid point that deals with how male attraction works.

There are other fetishes that exist within the very scary place that is the male kink list (the last time I saw a list of H doujinshi tags, it numbered at 694). The school uniform, however, does fall under the more popular category. Above I’ve listed some points that I find relevant, but perhaps you have some other ideas on why the school uniform serves as such a strong fetish for males? Please do list them down in the comments below.

About Carillus

"Any sufficiently advanced application of locupletative language is indistinguishable from writing magic."
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14 Responses to Analysing: The School Uniform

  1. windyturnip says:

    Well, you ruined that for me…

    • Carillus says:

      Eh? Eh? What did I ruin?

      • windyturnip says:

        I always thought school uniforms were just aesthetically pleasing. Now I know that I’m actually a misogynistic ass.

        But if you’re going to be analyzing it, I’d say they’re appealing because they represent youth, not inferiority. As for masking individuality, I think it provides a blanks sheet of paper for the wearer to express themselves. If you think about it, all clothes objectify people; I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with that, but it can be taken to either extreme.

  2. hiroy_raind says:

    With the exception of the unique ones, most of the (targeted) viewers has wore/seen others wore them in real life.
    Also, it’s one of the most common group-clothing other than office work and military.

  3. Alterego 9 says:

    While most anime viewers are men, they are not evenly distributed. There are shoujo, josei, and other shows, that are mostly viewed by women, and those also use school uniforms, often they are even putting a thematic emphasis on them.

    And not even all male-oriented shows use male gaze. Even K-on’s appeal is arguably not-really-sexual, (there are no panty shots or anything like that), not to mention the ones like Azumanga Daioh, or Madoka, where there is no physical appeal building at all.

    Besides, most of the shows that do employ male gaze, also tend to have swimsuit episodes, bloomers, street clothes, maid costumes, and a series of other clothes used sexually, so it’s hard to say whether they are going out of their way to show a school uniform fetish, or just use them as inevitable in a school setting.

    • windyturnip says:

      I suppose the fact that school settings are common explains a lot of this. They just take what their given and run with it.

    • Carillus says:

      No, the idea of the male gaze is not something that can be seen so easily, because it is not exactly clearly defined. A show like K-ON! definitely falls under the umbrella of the male gaze, mainly because the anime industry depends entirely upon the character designer, and it is impossible to refute that the characters in K-ON! were designed with the idea of attracting male viewers in mind, emphasising their “cuteness” via exaggerated features and the ‘moeblob’ look.
      Do bear in mind that male gaze has to be viewed relative to region; while sexualizing the female body is a common practice around the world, Japan places a very high emphasis on the ‘kawaii’ factor as well, and this shows in the male-oriented fare that their popular culture machine pushes out. Japan’s male gaze revolves around both ideas of ‘cute’ and ‘sexy’, and it is via taking this into account that I wrote this post.
      The first point you mentioned is the reason why I stated at the start of the post that I would be writing this with relevance to two specific aspects of the male gaze, thus disregarding the female side of things. I’m not female, after all, so I can’t really say I understand how they feel about things.

      • Alterego 9 says:

        “the anime industry depends entirely upon the character designer, and it is impossible to refute that the characters in K-ON! were designed with the idea of attracting male viewers”

        K-on had a female character designer, Yukiko Horiguchi, and a 40% female viewerbase. Not every formally male-targeted media is equally male-targeted.

        While in Japan, cuteness CAN be part of the male-gaze, the male gaze is not the only reason for cuteness. Women, girls, children, old men, and Japanese culture in general, treat cuteness as the cornerstone of their attractiveness ideal. The K-on girls are cute, but so is Sawako from the shoujo Kimi ni Todoke, that the viewer girls are supposed to find likeable. There is not much difference between Ohana of Hanasaku Iroha, or Chihaya of Chihayafuru.

        Kimi ni Todoke, Azumanga, K-on, and Strike Witches are all using cute female characters, but there is a sliding scale of them between “cute like a kitten that you would play with” and “cute like a young woman that you would fuck”, it’s not simply divided between “the female targeted ones are clean, and male targeted ones are sexual”.

        The same goes for uniforms. All of them are cute, but the ones that happen to be targeted at the more male-dominant genres, aren’t automatically 100% sexualized by it, until it is explicitly shown that way with sexualized shots. Male viewers are still capable of enjoying the general, culturally understood attractiveness (in Japan’s case cuteness) of a female person, and enjoying a culturally appreciated attractiveness of a costume.

        Many of these uniforms look cute in the same sense as Nolan’s Batman costume version looks badass. You don’t have have a fetish for men dressed like bats to appreciate how cool it looks, not even if someone else has it.

        • Carillus says:

          Fair enough, I’m not one to argue against a well-supported angle.

          I neglected to mention, though, that this post is about the fetish in general, i.e. including 3D and real people. See if you can gear the discussion toward this angle instead.

  4. @fkeroge says:

    Hm, indeed school uniforms tend to be used (in anime) to serve some sort of aesthetic appeal. I have to disagree on it being purely for the satisfaction of some messed-up fetish, or suppressing one’s individuality. For example, some anime nowadays make it a point to differentiate the ways in which people wear their uniforms (standard/coat-less/with accessories). Also, most anime being set in school, there is a need to design uniforms whether we want to or not. The fetishistic approach is one brought by the perceived need to satisfy a core audience, but I don’t think titillation was an original goal. If you ask me, I think the origin of the uniform fetish was the marketability of objectifying the high school girl.

    And about that blonde girl – that’s Oohoshi Awai from Shiraitodai.

    • Carillus says:

      Well, I did approach this from an overall male perspective (including 3D ones), instead of one merely derived from anime – so I guess the points raised would differ. Perhaps not stating so, along with the addition of this being an anime blog and the supplanted images being from anime, led to quite a misdirection…

  5. Sean says:

    To be honest, I personally just think the Schoolgirl uniform is an aesthetic thing. Short skirt, form-fitting shirt, matching(since these uniforms almost always match), looks like it sort of comes somewhere between formal and casual which allows it to show some of both… it’s just an attractive outfit on a pretty girl.

    But another element to take into mind… when most men are starting to develop sexuality… who are they around? Schoolgirls. Being surrounded by a specific type of female when you’re first starting to notice women as more than just the icky things with cooties… I imagine that has a big impact on it as well.

  6. Mathew says:

    Because school is one of the first places love develops. People feel comfortable with that setting. Have a crush, approach crush, get crush. Rinse and repeat.

  7. Pingback: Breakdown of Uniform Fetishism #1 – School Uniform | deluscar

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