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January 7th, 2015:

Thoughts about School Dress Codes

I’ve wanted to write a blog post about school dress codes for a while and it seems like now is a good time since kids will be heading back to the classroom this week after Winter Break. When I was in school, I wore a uniform for kindergarten through eighth grade and went to a high school with a strict dress code. We weren’t allowed to wear clothing with words or pictures on them, skirts and shorts had to be mid-thigh length, and guys couldn’t have long hair or facial hair.

I saw a few images this fall that made me want to share some thoughts about dress codes. Here’s the first:

Screenshot from Facebook taken in Fall 2014

Screenshot from Facebook taken in Fall 2014

I agree that wearing leggings or yoga pants does not make you look like a prostitute. However, I do believe that high school is a place to get people thinking about what is/is not an appropriate way to dress. If teenager’s job is to go to school, then part of that education is about how to present yourself. I agree that students’ dress should not be a distraction to learning, but it should take a lot to cross that line. Some of my classmates prided themselves of following the dress code while wearing absurd things like a 3-piece polyester plaid suit or pairing purple tights with a lime green dress. Whatever dress code you set, the kids are going to push back – and I actually encourage that if they can do it in clever ways that don’t break the rules.

I had mixed feelings about this photo:

Another Image from Facebook from Fall 2014

Another Image from Facebook from Fall 2014

On one hand, I’m a huge believer that we need to look at how children are socialized and work on teaching them that no one deserves to be objectified and no one should feel pressured to be in that role. If you find someone attractive, learn how to look discreetly.

On the flip side, I agree that visible bra straps and short shorts have no place in the classroom and it’s fine to make any student who is violating the dress code to go change. But that has nothing to do with gender roles.

Speaking of gender roles, these images made me think about what dress code I would create if I was responsible for a school. I support the idea that the same dress code should apply to boys and girls in regards to what garments may be worn and how long short/skirt lengths should be. I have no issue with a biological male student wearing a dress to school as long as they adhere to the same standards regarding dresses as the girls. Here’s the list I came up with:

  • Your appearance must be clean and neat – no ripped or stained clothing. Your hair must be neatly styled.
  • No facial hair.
  • Workout attire should only be worn during P.E.; exception for athletic shoes and socks.
  • No excessively baggy or tight clothing. No see-through clothing. No backless or sleeveless tops or dresses. No exposed cleavage or midriffs. (You should be able to raise both arms above your head without exposing any torso skin.)
  • No visible undergarments.
  • No leggings may be worn as pants but may be worn under shorts, skirt, or dress. No “skinny jeans.”
  • The hem of your shorts and skirts must be at least 5 inches from the bottom of your hip bone.
  • No visible tattoos unless you are at least 18 years old (because you have to be 18 to legally get a tattoo) and the image or verbiage must not be offensive.
  • No verbiage on your clothing except for small logos, unless it is official apparel from a legitimate school or college.
  • Your top must have sleeves.
  • Your shoes must have a closed toe and heel.
  • No hats or hoods may be worn in the building.
  • No pajamas, including slippers.

I’m sure some people will think that it’s odd that someone like me – who wears t-shirts professionally and participates in the annual No Pants Ride would endorse such a conservative school dress code. (My high school alma mater’s dress code is actually more conservative than this.) But here’s the deal – I’m an adult. I know how to dress myself according to the situation. For many people, this will be the type of dress code you will have at your first job. Plus, I want young people to understand that they are more than their appearance. They’re in school to develop their minds so they can have the future that will give them the lifestyle (including dress code) that they want.