School uniform firm to sell only gender-neutral uniforms


One of the oldest and largest independent providers of school uniforms in the UK will no longer market them for boys or girls. Instead, its uniforms will be promoted as gender neutral, even removing packaging if the colour signifies a gender divide.

Stevensons has been selling uniforms since 1925 and serves more than 500 independent and state schools nationwide, including Eton college, St Paul’s girls school, Westminster Cathedral choir school, the Duke of York’s royal military school and the Royal Ballet school.

The retailer said it was responding to concerns from schools. “I have every sympathy with the move towards a gender-neutral school uniform and we’re in the process of removing all references, direct and indirect, to boys and girls in the lines that we sell,” said Mark Stevenson, the managing director of the business launched by his grandfather.

“But when schools ring us to discuss the issue, my first question is whether their own uniform rules are gender neutral; we’re only selling uniforms dictated by the schools themselves and sometimes, it turns out that their own guidance is still gender specific.”

Stevenson, who is also an executive at the Schoolwear Association, said it was an issue the whole industry was working on. “We’re all very aware of this issue and trying to be better at it,” he said. “We’re even changing the colours of the packaging that clothes come in to a gender-neutral colour.”

The retailer’s decision highlights the fact that other uniform stockists have yet to embrace the gender neutrality debate: John Lewis and M&S still market their lines specifically for boys and girls.

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Under plans put forward in the Liberal Democrats’ manifesto, schools would be ordered to allow children to wear gender-neutral uniforms. Layla Moran, the party’s education spokesperson, tabled a bill on the subject in the last parliament. She said the existing rules were “totally out of date”.

“Removing the association of ‘boys’ or ‘girls’ with particular clothes in a school uniform policy may not change the way pupils dress, but it could be hugely important for many young people. It’s time to build a culture of acceptance in our schools,” she said.

Schools in Wales have adopted a gender-neutral policy, which means they cannot enforce separate dress codes. The move came after a heatwave in 2018, when some parents claimed uniform policies were too strict.

But such moves are not always welcomed: parents and pupils protested outside Priory school in Lewes, East Sussex, after it made trousers compulsory for all pupils.

The school introduced the policy over worries about the length of skirts and apparently in response to the concerns of some transgender students.



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