This secondary assembly considers peer pressure and designer clothing

This assembly for secondary schools considers the influence of branded and designer clothing on young people. It discusses the cost to parents and the part played by peer group pressure, suggesting that we need to be thoughtful about what we wear. The designer brands mentioned (Jack Wills, Abercrombie and Fitch) may be altered to fit in with local tastes.

Resources

  • A Leader and two Readers
  • Reader 1 wears a garment bearing the brand name ‘Jack Wills’

Engagement

Leader: Excuse me, what team do you support?

Reader 1: Pardon? What team do I support?

Leader: You’re wearing a sweater with ‘Jack Wills’ on it. What team does he play for?

Reader 1: (smiling) Jack Wills isn’t a famous footballer.

Leader: Is he a singer? Maybe he’s the leader of a boy band?

Reader 1: ‘Jack Wills and the Likely lads’ Sounds good. But wrong again.

Leader: Oh. Well, maybe it’s your name?

Reader 1: No, it’s not my name! Look, what planet do you live on?

Reflection

Leader: [To the audience] Of course I was only pretending. Most of us know that Jack Wills isn’t a footballer or a pop singer. ‘Jack Wills’ is a fashion brand, and one that’s very popular with some young people. There are other popular brands that you might recognise too, such as ‘Lacoste’ and ‘Abercrombie and Fitch’ [vary to suit local tastes].

But a recent report suggests that some parents are having problems because they feel forced to spend a lot of money on their children’s clothing. Consider this:

Reader 1: Designer brand t- shirts sweatshirts and trousers can cost up to £60 each for some of the must-have teenager makes, while high street t-shirts can cost as little as three pounds.

Leader: Let’s hear what this can lead to.

Reader 2: ‘I went shopping with a friend last week and she spent lots of money on her kids in a children’s designer store. Then she went to a high street store to buy herself a cheap summer top.’ (1)

Leader: Let’s think about what we wear, why we wear it, who’s producing it and who’s paying for it.

Further back in history there was huge financial gap between the rich and the poor, and it showed in the way people dressed. Lords and ladies wore silk and satin, while poor peasants often went around in dirty rags. Children in large families often had to wear hand-me-downs − clothes that their big brother or sister had grown out of.

But people have always tried to dress as well as they could. Our grandparents were proud of their ‘Sunday best’. Once a week they would put on their smartest clothes in order to go to church, or maybe just to walk in the park in the afternoon.

Nowadays dress is much less formal. Most people don’t wear a ‘Sunday best’ anymore; even churchgoers often wear T shirts and don’t bother with ties.

So it looks as if things have changed − or have they? Have brand names and designer labels taken over from silk and satin as the things that young people feel they ‘must have’? Let’s listen to some research findings made by an insurance company about this subject:

Reader 1: ‘Just over half the [1,010] parents [asked] said that they had spent less on their own clothes in the last six months, so as not to cut to back on what they spent on their children.’

‘And nearly seven in ten said they feel their children were under peer pressure from friends to wear the latest branded or designer clothes.’ (2)

Leader: Is that true in this school? [Discussion may follow] How does peer pressure work? Do people follow you around chanting, ‘Na-na-na-na-na! What a grotty t-shirt?’

Reader 1: Not usually − but if your friends are all wearing a designer brand, then you feel that you ought to wear it too.

Reader 2: And it all depends on which group you’re in. Some like to wear one thing and some like another. If you’re wearing the right brand, it shows that you’re one of the gang.

Leader: Even though mum and dad have to pay up for it?

Reader 1: Sometimes, yes.

Leader: Here’s another thing the report found. That over fifty percent of parents have had their children refuse to wear items that had been bought for them. (2)

Can anyone own up to doing that?

Reader 1: Parents shouldn’t force you to wear things you don’t like. They should let you choose.

Reader 2: Most young people like to be fashionable. It’s only natural.

Leader: But are those branded garments and designer labels really any better than the cheaper stuff? Aren’t people being conned into paying extra and providing free advertising?

Reader 1: Fashionable labels might work for a time, but if the top brands aren’t really better quality, then people will just stop buying them.

Leader: Fair enough. And they may have to, because times are changing. People feel less comfortable spending a lot of money on things recently. Here’s another news item:

‘Kids now graft for their pocket money as parents feel the pinch. Parents are making sure that their kids learn about the value of money by working for their pocket money rather than giving free hand outs.’ (3)

Reader 1: It’s a good idea. I like working to get extra money.

Reader 2: But it’s still nice to get some free pocket money too.

Leader: This report says that pupils aged 12-16, who do jobs like washing the car, cleaning the bedroom, helping in the garden, or washing up, get paid an average of £2.85 per hour, or £9.98 per week. How does that compare with what we get in this room?

[More discussion may follow]

Reader 2: That’s a lot less than the national minimum wage.

Reader 1: But let’s face it: your parents are already paying for your housing and food anyway!

Response

Leader: We often take our clothes for granted, but we need to ask ourselves, are those expensive branded labels are really worth it? We should also remember that, at the other end of the scale, some clothes are cheap because they are made by underpaid people working in tough conditions.

Let’s think quietly about all the work that went into some of the things that we are wearing now.

Reader 1: If it’s made of cotton, then somebody planted it.

Reader 2: If it’s wool, then somebody cared for the sheep

Reader 1: If it’s synthetic fibre – somebody worked in a factory to produce it.

Reader 2: Someone used skill and imagination to design it.

Reader 1: And somebody carefully cut and stitched it.

Leader: In ancient times, King Solomon was famous for setting the trend. He wore the latest designer clothes and jewellery. Solomon was into power dressing and wanted to prove how important he was with what he wore. But when Jesus Christ came along he soon put the fashion king in his place. This is what Jesus said:

Reader 1: ‘Look how the lilies grow; they do not work or make clothes for themselves. But I tell you that not even King Solomon with all his wealth had clothes as beautiful as one of these flowers.’

(Matthew’s gospel, chapter 6 verse 28-9, Good News Bible translation)

According to Jesus, a single living flower was more beautiful than the famous king of fashion. The flower was a living work of art, made by God – and of course good clothes can be works of art too, made by teams of living people.

Please listen to our ‘wish list’ – and if you like, make it your prayer.

Reader 1: We would like to think carefully and dress thoughtfully.

Reader 2: We’d like to feel happy in our skins and in our clothes as well.

Reader 1: We’d like to make ourselves and other people happy by the way we dress, and even more, by the way we live and love.

Leader: May our wishes be granted. Amen

(1) http://www.theherald.co.uk/news/other/display.var.2513391.0.Parents_cut_back_as_children_obsess_over_labels.php June 17 2009

(2) Figures taken from press release from Sheila’s Wheels. For more information email asia.manzoor@sheilaswheels.com or visit www.sheilaswheels.com.

(3) http://www.sheilaswheels.com/media/news/KIDS_NOW_GRAFTING_FOR_THEIR_POCKET_MONEY.html June 17 2009

This e-bulletin issue was first published in June 2009

About the author: John Coutts has worked as secondary school principal in Nigeria, taught RE in Scotland, and has been involved in teaching and teacher training at the University of Greenwich. He has written and presented many scripts for the BBC and other broadcasters, and currently works as a freelance writer, poet and performer.

Category: