Dress codes: the good, the bad, and the ugly
May 29, 2018
All over the media and in society, dress codes have become more and more controversial for a multitude of reasons. Articles have surfaced in the news in the past that criticize or commemorate school dress codes, and they become even more popular during the warmer seasons of the year. In the Huffington Post’s entire section on school dress codes, there is an article titled: “School Reportedly Sends Girls Home Over Visible Bra Straps”. Another from Fox News in 2014 is titled: “What should students wear? Who decides? Dress codes can be a real minefield for schools”. The debate over school dress codes often heats up as the weather does, mainly because many students tend to wear “more revealing” clothing in an effort to stay cool. However, it is easy to see both sides of the need to uphold or abolish ridiculous dress codes.
If well implemented, a dress code can be very beneficial to a learning environment. While they have been harmful and humiliating if done incorrectly, they can make a school and its students more professional and focus more on their education rather than what they, themselves alone, are wearing.
According to an article by Johnson, Lennon, and Rudd, things like even the color of your clothing can change other’s impressions of you and can change the attitude of the wearer. In the same way, the color of clothing can affect the behavior of the wearer as well. With this in mind, we can understand that the way one dresses can affect their actions as well as their attitudes towards performance in school. Based on past psychological studies, a student who dresses “for success” or more professionally is often viewed in a more positive way compared to a student who doesn’t follow the dress code.
For the sake of a good learning environment, a dress code should definitely be established, but it must be fair to all people being held accountable by it. Kristina Batalden, a teacher at Skyline, gave her opinion on the issue: “I understand that the need to be an individual is important. But things like objectifying women and representing illegal actions are on a lot of clothing I see everyday, and that’s definitely an issue- especially for young men. For young women, things like wearing shorts or shirts that are so short that you are hardly wearing clothing at all, that may seem like you are expressing yourself, but in reality, you are portraying a message completely different to the world around you. And honestly, I know that it is her or his right to dress that way, but too bad. You are presenting yourself in a way that is distracting to not just young men, but everyone around you.”
Dress codes are often seen as either necessary or problematic in schools and the workplace. While they can be beneficial and set an expectation for students, they have also been abused and used inappropriately. A dress code is simply meant to keep a professional environment strictly professional.
While a good dress code can set guidelines and prohibit certain unprofessional clothing from an environment, there are a few main issues with the justification of them and their implementation. Firstly, dress codes are often said to prevent a student’s clothing from distracting others, while many students find this ridiculous and untrue. Just as an example: an article by Today news tells the story of a girl who was sent home for wearing a sweater and a tank-top for showing her collar bone. Stories like this aren’t uncommon either, even at Skyline, we experience situations of students feeling like they are unfairly penalized for infringement of dress code. Liam Niese (9), who has been dress coded, stated: “I hate dress codes, honestly. Over at the middle school, they never cared. I have gotten dress coded for wearing a tank top when it was hot outside. Dress codes are meant to keep kids from walking around in their underwear, that’s it.”
In reality, if a dress code is just and well implemented, it’s not an issue. The true problem is with dress codes that are unfair towards anyone involved, especially young girls, and are implemented in a humiliating way.
The best way to solve the problem with dress codes is to create a generalized dress code that is gender neutral, has guidelines as well as requirements and provides a detailed way to handle a violation. This way, students and faculty can be more comfortable with following and implementing the dress code to create a better school environment.