Dress Codes in School

Dress codes are rules on clothing choices. Schools usually have dress codes for their pupils and for their teachers. These rules may require students to wear a uniform in school as well as when traveling to and from school, or at sporting occasions. Clothing has a social significance, and historically dress regulations in schools were intended to promote egalitarianism among schoolmates and remove the peer pressure that children suffer because of the way they dress.

In most cases, school dress codes concern the policy on what students can or cannot wear in class. Policies vary, from school to school. Dress codes in some primary and secondary schools define only the types of clothes and symbols that must not be worn. In other schools, pupils have to wear a uniform, a standardized set of clothes.

In schools where uniforms are the preferred choice, usually boys have to wear dark short or long trousers and light-colored shirts. A tie is sometimes required. Girls' uniforms usually consist of a dress or a blouse matched with a skirt or culottes or worn under a pinafore. In some countries girls can also wear trousers. Boys and girls may be required to wear a blazer or a suit-like jacket in many countries.

In most cases dress codes are less restrictive than uniform policies. Most dress codes do not allow students to dress seductively or provocatively. In some schools the dress code requires students to wear certain colors, and bans images or logos on clothes. Some may even include rules about jewelry or the pupils' hair length. Scarves, curlers, bandanas or sweatbands inside of school buildings can also be banned. In some countries, mainly in western Europe, dress codes ban students from wearing religious attributes such as crosses or headscarves.

Dress codes provoke disputes in schools and societies worldwide. There are two main opinions: that uniforms are beneficial, and that unifying students stifles their individuality and imposes an unnecessary means of control. The supporters of uniform policies say that this type of restriction on clothing hides the differences in students' social status. Uniforms also prevents gang members from identifying themselves and forming lobbies within schools. According to surveys strict dress codes prevent students from being robbed of expensive clothes and jewelry. Uniforms also help school administrators identify non-students, trespassers and other visitors on the premises.

Surveys also show that dress codes reduce family tensions on what their children wear. For some students school uniforms increase their sense of belonging and school pride. This is specifically the case with most private schools worldwide that have dress codes.

Opponents of dress codes say they violate the students' right to freedom of expression and are a financial burden for poor families. Critics claim that there is no conclusive evidence that dress codes and uniforms help better academic performance or decrease violence in schools. According to critics uniform policies may provoke negative behavior such as rebelliousness. Surveys among students also show that dress codes do not eliminate the competition over clothes. In most countries uniforms are easier to enforce than dress codes as there are cases of students challenging dress codes through the courts.

Dress Codes in School: Selected full-text books and articles

Should Schools Have Dress Codes? By Bugg, William; Rowland, Lee New York Times Upfront, Vol. 149, No. 8, January 30, 2017
The Student Dress Code Debate By Swafford, Melinda; Jolley, Lee Ann; Southward, Leigh Techniques, Vol. 86, No. 1, January 2011
The Student Dress Code Debate (Part II) By Swafford, Melinda; Jolley, Lee Ann; Southward, Leigh Techniques, Vol. 86, No. 2, February 2011
Your Hair, Your Right? By Bubar, Joe New York Times Upfront, Vol. 152, No. 8, January 27, 2020
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