“Opinion: Dress Codes are Outdated”

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Johnna Rodriguez, Contributing Writer

We are all familiar with the controversial topic of school dress codes. If you ask a majority of the student body, it’s likely that most people would have some strong opinions on school dress codes. I think I can speak for the majority of students when I say that both the creation and enforcement of American public school dress codes are problematic. And it all begins with gender; historically, dress codes have targeted young women. If you take a look at most school dress codes, there are usually twice as many rules that apply to young women as they do to young men. For example, we young women have been told not to show our shoulders because they could be too “distracting” to others, especially young men. But this thinking is flawed in many ways as it places the responsibility on young women to keep young men in their classes focused. It also assumes that young men are unable to focus because of a bare shoulder, which is unfair to the dignity of young men. 

If people are so concerned that shoulders are “distracting” for young men, why not teach students to focus on their studies and not the bodies of their classmates?  We need to encourage maturity and concentration on education, not reward the infantile behavior of the few who cannot contain themselves.  Another common dress code rule in American public schools is the skirt length rule: many schools enforce the “fingertip” rule in which anything that falls shorter than one’s fingertips is deemed inappropriate. Other popular items for warm weather, such as tank tops, are also on the banned list for many schools. Yet many schools that enforce these rules are also schools without air conditioning or proper ventilation during the scorching days of June and September. Items like tank tops may be one of the few comfortable selections we have left on these hot days, and yet students walk into classrooms afraid of getting in trouble when we just want to stay cool.

Truthfully, we wear clothes for our own liking and for ourselves. For us students in 2020, our clothing is about freedom of expression of creativity. We don’t pick out our outfits and say, “Maybe this will distract more people!”  We do it because we like the outfit, and we feel confident in it. Yes, there are some things that are inappropriate (like clothing with offensive language or illegal substances), but many rules are over the top and in need of updates.

 If someone wants to wear a skirt with an off the shoulder top, let her wear it. If a student wants to wear a tank top in 90-degree weather, let him wear it. Let us use fashion and clothing as a means of creativity and expression.