In real life, there are arguments both for and against schools requiring uniform policies. In fiction, however, there is usually a focus on the negative aspects of school uniforms (especially in North American media).
The most common plot has a school requiring Sudden School Uniforms. Their students, previously allowed to wear whatever they want (and then some), must now all dress according to a certain standard. This is seen as stifling their freedom of expression and is all around a negative thing. Maybe the school is even one step away from becoming an Assimilation Academy!
The students end up protesting (sometimes by creating a Non-Uniform Uniform) and, more likely than not, the uniform policy is reversed at the end of the episode. This usually involves an aesop about individual freedoms being learned.
This trope usually only appears in works originating in countries with no uniform culture and as such causes Values Dissonance in regions where school uniforms are seen as a fact of life, regardless of how the current generation of students feel. It can also seem dissonant in works where a Limited Wardrobe is the in-universe default setting and is played without Lampshade Hanging.
- Season one of Kill la Kill prominently features super-powered school uniforms that are used to keep students in line on the punishment of death in order to support the tyrannical rule of Satsuki Kiryuin, the Student Council President. The larger themes of the show are about how clothing is used to enforce conformity. Also exaggerated in that the opponents of the uniforms, mainly Ryuko Matoi and Nudist Beach, protest by fighting fully nude or in barely there uniforms. In addition, the uniforms themselves are the alien Life Fibers looking to assimilate humanity.
- There was a Peanuts arc involving school uniforms being instated. It didn't work out well, especially for Patty, who had to give up her sandals and shorts. Patty ended up taking her school to court, and she won.
- The Berenstain Bears and the Dress Code pits cubs against adults after some particularly crazy fashion trends prompt the school to take decisive action. After the situation escalates to the students threatening a strike (and teaching the intended audience a fair deal about political activism in the process), the school finally concedes when it is revealed in a public debate that the dress code's most ardent supporters sported fashions just as crazy in their own youths, if not even crazier.
- There's an incident in Dear America: Where Have All the Flowers Gone?, set in 1968 Boston, where protagonist Molly Flaherty is suspended for involvement in a protest against the school uniform policy.
- The book The Pants Project is based around a specific example where a transgender student tries to change his school's uniform policies because it requires female-assigned-at-birth students to wear skirts and male-assigned-at-birth to wear pants.
- Clarissa Explains It All has one episode with a variation on this trope, in which fashion-conscious Clarissa protests against being dressed conservatively for her school picture. After many trials and tribulations, she manages to win the right to dress as she pleases, only to feel dejected when the rest of the class follows suit, causing her to not stand out anymore.
- In the TV adaptation of Clueless, the season one episode "The Party's Over" sees the school gain a new principal, who is disgusted with what he saw as the students' lack of discipline. His decision is to institute uniforms overnight, leading to Cher imagining the school becoming a place of robotic clones. The episode ends with Cher reworking the "I Have A Dream" speech into a speech about individual freedom with the principal conceding he was wrong.
- For most of Degrassi, the school was uniform-free. For a while, however, uniforms were required after an incident. This was portrayed as stifling, though the students didn't complain much.
- This was sometimes a topic in Grange Hill, especially the second series which saw an anti-uniform pressure group causing trouble in the school, forcing pupils to boycott sports matches, Waving Signs Around, and finally occupying the secretary's office.
- iCarly: As part of Miss Briggs and Mr. Howards reign as co-principals during "iHave My Principals", they implement a blue-and-kahki uniform, showing their totalitarian attitudes about their new roles. While it's not the focus of the episode, it does portray uniforms as being a horrible punishment inflicted upon the students.
- That's So Raven has an episode where Raven organizes a protest (everyone is supposed to technically wear the uniform, but in a highly personalized way), but everyone backs out except the mean clique. The plot of the episode is more about Raven accidentally falling in with them, but it does follow the trope.
- Our Miss Brooks: A variation in the 1949 episode, "Dress Code Protest". Madison High's students proclaim a "Spirit Week". This festival is described by Miss Brooks as a "malevolent Mardi-Gras" where the kids wear outlandish clothes each day of the week. One such day was "Girls wear slacks, boys wear one shoe only. In response to the weeks' "festivities", Principal Conklin institutes a strict dress clothes - among other things, banning girls from wearing pants to school. Walter Denton decides to protest the dress code by wearing clothes banned to the distaff side of Madison High - so he shows up wearing a dress.
- In one of George Carlin's stand-up comedy sketches, he talks about how school uniforms are a bad idea (First you wanted them to think the same, now you want them to look the same!?). He goes on to joke that the idea isn't new. He first saw it in some footage from the 1930s, but he couldn't understand the narration, because it was in German.
- El Goonish Shive: Susan's school institutes a uniform policy after the principal catches her and Tedd in the midst of a sissy slap fight that, he's told, began when Tedd poked fun at a shirt Susan was wearing. Susan fundamentally opposed to this new policy, because it requires the girls to wear skirts, which she hates. Susan rebels by wearing the boys' uniform, and Tedd even joins her with the girls' uniform. The policy is eventually revoked, but not due to anything Susan did; the principal got complaints from parents about the additional laundry the policy generated.
- In one arc of Ozy and Millie the school instates uniforms to try and enforce conformity on the distinctly non-conforming main characters. This leads to antics like Ozy and Millie swapping uniforms because Ozy isn't used to wearing pants.
- Danny Phantom: Vlad Masters, the newly elected mayor, makes this a rule at the local high school, specifically to annoy Perky Goth Sam, since she's a close friend/sidekick to Vlad's Arch-Enemy, Danny.
- Doug: The plan to use uniforms is announced at the beginning of the episode. Over the course of the episode, the student body collects signatures on a petition, forms an interest group, sets up protests, and eventually splits based on difference of opinion. By the end of the episode, the student body has accepted the imposition of school uniforms, but because the adults can't decide on a design, the plan is put on hold indefinitely.
- In one Horrid Henry episode, students are made to wear blazers. Henry notices that the blazers look alike and uses it to get away with raiding the confiscation cupboard. The teachers realise this too, abolishing school uniforms to prevent similar events from happening.
- In one The Kids From Room 402 episode, the school begins requiring uniforms after they get offended by some female students jewelry. This is treated as a bad, negative thing.
- My Gym Partner's a Monkey had the episode "Uniformity", where Charles Darwin Middle School instates a prep-school uniform that causes everyone to act uncharacteristically genteel and proper (read: boring), in stark contrast to the students' usual antics. The uniform was instated in about a week and later revoked in less than a day.
- Pepper Ann once deconstructed this. While the school ends up relenting the uniforms at the end of the episode (due to the principal deciding that they worked too well), the students think the uniforms are cute, and still wear them casually in the end.
- In the episode "Team Homer" of The Simpsons, Springfield Elementary institutes a uniform policy. This is depicted as a negative thing that turns the kids listless and depressed. The uniforms policy was instituted following Bart wearing a T-shirt that had a "Down with homework" iron-on from an issue of MAD Magazine. The policy was lifted when rain washed out the grey color of the school uniforms, turning them rainbow-colored and returning the children's playful spirits.
- In What About Mimi?, a proposal to establish a school uniform brought about a heated debate that nearly caused friction between Mimi (against the uniforms) and her friend Elaine (in favor of them). Sincerity was, much to Mimi's displeasure, against the uniforms, until she was given the position to design them herself.