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Does the "Transfer Student Uniforms" Trope Work in a Written Medium?:

Exactly What It Says on the Tin.

Is it possible to use Transfer Student Uniforms in a written story to highlight a transfer student's fish-out-of-water-ness in his/her new school? Or would the lack of visuals cause the trope to lose its impact when used in a purely text-based medium?

On a side note, can this trope be applied in a Western (not talking about the one with cowboys) setting or is it something that is purely Japanese?

edited 5th Mar '13 5:21:58 PM by peasant

 
 2 nrjxll, Tue, 5th Mar '13 5:14:38 PM Relationship Status: Not war
Seems like this might fit better in Trope Talk.

Anyway, as far as 1 goes, I kind of doubt it. I can't imagine that the answer to 2 is yes - I've never attended or even known anyone who attended a high school with actual uniforms, but I can't see why transfer students wouldn't be given their new uniform pretty much immediately.

I thought this was a better place as I wasn't really aiming to discuss the definition of the trope but figuring if(and possibly how) this trope could be used in a piece I'm working on.

And while most schools in the U.S. may not have uniforms, the same can't be said cor countries like the UK where many - possibly even most - schools have some sort of uniform. And while they are by and large similar to one another within the same "type" of school, there's a big difference in uniforms between a state school and a public school (meaning, "private school" in the U.S.).
 
 4 Crystal Glacia, Tue, 5th Mar '13 7:13:08 PM from Cedarpointland
patience, young padawan
I believe the Transfer Student Uniform is- overwhelmingly so -an anime trope, once common in real-life Japan for the practical reason of the new school not having the uniform ready for the student (for whatever reason that is).

In America, most public school uniforms consist of khaki pants/skirt and a polo shirt in a school color or a neutral-colored dress shirt- parts that are easily bought in outside stores and which students usually have to purchase themselves. Private schools are a completely different matter, I would imagine, but I don't see the trope being viable at all in a Western setting. The premise that the trope describes implies that those students transferred on short notice, like within weeks rather than months. This could actually happen if, say, the student was removed from a bad home situation, but that still leaves a buffer of a few weeks. I live in the United States, and I know a girl who transferred to a new school in January of last year; she was in touch with the school in October of the previous year. Even assuming that a student's new school uses a custom uniform, that's more than enough time to get in touch with the student and have them send their measurements.

So, no. Not only would the trope be a tad superfluous in a non-visual medium, its premise doesn't really function in any sort of Western setting.

edited 5th Mar '13 7:13:58 PM by CrystalGlacia

"Well, I bet Casey doesn't have bad dreams." "Ripley... she doesn't have bad dreams because she's just a piece of plastic."
Terracotta Soldier Man
[up] This. American public schools (and the less-pretentious private ones) tend to use a dress code that sets limits on what you can wear rather than strictly defining a set school uniform, although this isn't by any means universal.

 6 Khantalas, Wed, 6th Mar '13 10:51:46 PM from ((Not actually a creepy adorable little girl.))
Creepy adorable little girl
Note that while it is an overwhelmingly Japanese trope, it is not something limited to Japan in reality. It certainly exists on a high school level in my country, especially if the uniform isn't as cheap as it should be.
"Be mine, dear big brother."
It's a visual element and one that requires school uniforms to be pretty standard. It's about as useful to storytelling as having unusually-colored eyes is to characterization just for the fact that it's visual.

This isn't to say that you can't have someone attached to an old school uniform, but that using it as a visual metaphor doesn't work in text. And it definitely has to work with the culture you set your story in—growing up in the US, I can say that even just the idea of wearing a uniform to school is weird to me, though obviously my experiences are obviously only anecdotal.

In the UK (which is where my story is set), school uniforms are (for the most part) compulsory but highly variable depending on the school you go to. There are schools that require students to wear blue, polo-neck T-shirts. Then, there are others that quite literally require the students to be in tailcoats and bow ties. So, while my characters aren't in quite as posh a setting, this trope can - at least in theory - work.

The problem I'm worried about, on top of the lack of visuals, is one of culture. In Japan, the Transfer Student Uniforms trope works as a sort of short hand to convey that a transfer student hasn't quite assimilated into his/her new school. The audience sees/hears/reads it and immediately understand what the creator is trying to convey even in the absence of all other context. Which in turn, allows creators to continue using said trope.
 
 9 Madrugada, Thu, 7th Mar '13 3:33:48 AM Relationship Status: In season
Zzzzzzzzzz
There are schools that require students to wear blue, polo-neck T-shirts. Then, there are others that quite literally require the students to be in tailcoats and bow ties.

And that right there is how you make it work: transfer on extremely short notice so that there's no time to get the new uniform ahead of time, and a rather extreme difference between what the new uniform is and the old one was. Then describe and use that difference the same way you would use and describe it if the character were dressed incorrectly for any other occasion — how would you handle it if he had to go to a formal wedding in khakis and a polo shirt? or to a ballgame in full formal rig?

'He strutted across the bedroom, his hard manhood pointing the way' sounds like he owns a badly named seeing-eye dog. 'Sit, Hard Manhood!
 10 Crystal Glacia, Thu, 7th Mar '13 3:36:47 AM from Cedarpointland
patience, young padawan
Nevermind, negated by Maddy.

edited 7th Mar '13 3:38:03 AM by CrystalGlacia

"Well, I bet Casey doesn't have bad dreams." "Ripley... she doesn't have bad dreams because she's just a piece of plastic."
 11 Wolf 1066, Thu, 7th Mar '13 12:59:59 PM from New Zealand Relationship Status: In my bunk
Wolf1066
When I left Te Aroha College partway through the year and ended up in Hamilton in an area zoned for Fairfield College, my mum didn't even take time to find out what uniform they wore at Fairfield and sent me to Fairfield in my Te Aroha College uniform - "so at least you'll be wearing a uniform."

Imagine my surprise and embarrassment when I got there and discovered that Fairfield College - alone out of all the possible colleges in Hamilton - had no uniform at all.

Not a great start to the term.

The thing that surprised me most reading Transfer Student Uniforms was that the Japanese schools supply the uniforms - we have to buy our own from shops that specifically deal in school uniforms (which around here means a 50km round-trip to the nearest shop that supplies school uniforms to the region.

All three primary schools (new-entrants to "Year 8") within 8km of me require school uniforms, as do all the colleges (In NZ, College = High School).

I'll be making sure I buy the college uniforms for my kids long before their first day, to spare them any embarrassment.
Dangerously Genre Savvy since ages ago...
 12 nrjxll, Thu, 7th Mar '13 4:34:12 PM Relationship Status: Not war
The problem I'm worried about, on top of the lack of visuals, is one of culture. In Japan, the Transfer Student Uniforms trope works as a sort of short hand to convey that a transfer student hasn't quite assimilated into his/her new school. The audience sees/hears/reads it and immediately understand what the creator is trying to convey even in the absence of all other context. Which in turn, allows creators to continue using said trope.

That's probably the biggest argument against using it right there.

 13 peccantis, Mon, 1st Apr '13 10:57:14 PM Relationship Status: Pining for the fjords
the flies will find you
Seeing how tedious repetitive description and redundant reminders of how characters look, instead of what they do and how they act, and what they feel, this is not going to work in a written work.

As others are said, it's mostly a nifty visual shorthand. My two cents are gonna be, find some other ways to show how the transfer student is "foreign" in their new school. Find many.

Random thought: even if the person only wore the old uniform for their first day to the new school, that's plenty of time to gain a nickname. You can both eat your cake and have it, by giving the person a new uniform soon after their enter, but have the old uniform's colour or style live on in a nickname.
before the darkness arrives
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Total posts: 13
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