School Uniforms: Not Just for Catholics Anymore

Tags: Currents, Back To School, Catholic Academy, Catholic Education, New York City, Queens, NY, School, Youth

By Tim Harfmann

Last-minute shoppers wrapped around Flynn O’Hara uniform store in Middle Village, Queens.

“It’s gotten [to] where the customer is waiting until more of the last-second type of shop. This is Christmas during the summer for them,” said Anthony Algieri, a district manager who has spent nearly a half-century in the uniform industry, working at Flynn O’Hara for the last decade.

The family-owned-and-operated uniform provider boomed in the 1960s and 70s with the expansion of Catholic schools.

Today, most of their consumers still receive a faith-based education.

“Out of this location, we serve approximately 130 schools. I’d probably say 110 of them are parochial,” said Algieri.

But the company adapted over the years to keep the machines turning, now also catering to private and charter schools, and even creating new uniform designs to stick with the fashion of the times.

“The girls used to wear a blazer, a vest, a blouse, a skirt. Now, they have a choice of either skirt or pants,” Algieri added.

For instance, more schools are turning to polo shirts and sweaters to give students more options.

The Queens store sells four-to-five-thousand items a day, making it the largest of the company’s 35 locations nationwide.

Behind the scenes, employees are pressing and stitching school logos to keep up with the demand. Though the store isn’t as crowded as it once was, 80 percent of their customers are from Catholic schools.

The embroidery machines run up to 12 hours a day, cranking out hundreds of pieces.

Jessica Laszlo and her mom, Christine, picked up their order on August 22. A student at Saint Francis Prep High School, Jessica said she’ll always appreciate wearing a Catholic uniform; “I, personally, like it because it makes it quicker to get up in the morning without having to worry about what you’re wearing, or how you look, because everyone looks the same.”

“I want the customers to get what they need, and I want them to be happy that they got it,” said Algieri. “Not that they just have to come here.”

Just like Catholic education, these uniforms stand the test of time.