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The big dress code round up post

Teenage RebelsIt’s the season for prom, graduation, and hot afternoons stuck in the classroom. Which means it’s also dress code enforcement time in a lot of schools. Dress codes and being reprimanded for dress code violations are nothing new. In his forthcoming book Teenage Rebels, author and social movement scholar Dawson Barrett points out dress code protests among young people dating back at least a generation. It’s an ongoing favorite topic in student newspapers too. But it seems that dress code instructions, infractions, and protests have been cropping up all over lately. When even the Canne Film Festival is enforcing gender specific dress codes and limiting the ability of women to participate based on attire, it’s clear that these are not isolated events. Shall we compile?

In the news

IMG_3718Student’s awesome non-apology for wearing leggings

“I chose to break this rule because… I wanted to wear my clothes to school.”

This girl used her yearbook quote to call out her school’s dress code

All those poor kids whose academics suffered after being exposed to belly buttons

Girls’ photos removed from yearbook because of what they’re wearing

“It’s like I didn’t even exist in Lincoln,” she said, noting that she chose to wear a tux because “that’s what I’m comfortable with.”

High School students angered by sexist graduation dress code letter

The infamous “sausage roll” letter

Sixth Grade Pool Party Non-White T-shirt Debacle

I love that this is the mom of a boy who brings this up. Sexism hurts everyone.

#CropTopDay in Toronto

How are guys running shirtless in gym any less distracting than girls wearing crop tops?

Keep it Classy: N.J. School Board Enforcing Dress Code for Graduation Guests

Put on a collared shirt, leave the shorts & jeans at home, or don’t expect to be admitted.

Newly elected National Honor Society historian stripped of title for wearing a sundress and then a month later, reinstated to her position by the superintendent of schools

What we’ve heard


At a recent teen event hosted by our teen board, high school students gave advice to incoming freshmen. Nothing brought emotion forth like the conversation about dress code violations. The advice from the teens? Getting “dress coded” was humiliating, and you might end up having to wear fleece pj pants from the lost and found on a 90 degree day, so better to just keep a spare outfit in your locker at all times. I asked, “Do guys ever get dress coded?” They said last year one guy wore the same pair of cutoff jeans every day for several days in a row, and cut one inch off the bottom each day to see how far he could get before he was told to go put on his gym shorts. Apparently he got pretty far. The fact that guys can use the dress code as a funny experiment and prank and the girls who sit next to them call it “the most embarrassing thing that happened to me this year” is seriously problematic.


The Tween’s school has a very strict dress code, which results in basically being a uniform. All the kids can wear navy or khaki bottoms, no shorter then 2 inches above the knee. Then they can wear basically any collared polo shirt or button shirt of 5 colors. They have to wear brown or black shoes, or tennis shoes of any color. Older kids have to wear a belt and everyone has to keep their shirts tucked in. There are some gender specific hair guidelines, guys can’t have long hair (which is an issue I have seen for some guys in the news). All in all, it is more gender neutral than most, though it certainly does have an issue here or there. But the amount of emails I get reminding me about the dress code can be overwhelming. I’ve had more communication from the school about dress codes than anything else, except for maybe testing. The dress code can make my morning as a mom go much easier, which I have discussed before. But I have been happier with this dress code than many others because it isn’t so gender focused. I have written before about dress codes here. As a mom, there are things I like about dress codes – have I mentioned how easy our mornings are? – though as a former teen and a youth advocate I certainly can see a lot of problems with them, particularly in the way they put the focus of male education in the way girls dress, which is of course ridiculous. I think school districts everywhere should rethink what the purpose and focus of their dress codes are and rethink their wording. If a school is to have a dress code, they should be gender neutral and support the importance of everyone’s education, not just a boy. And at the end of the day we all need to remember that each individual is responsible for their own behavior and education.

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