Last week, I fulminated about a couple of school dress codes that were, at best, problematical and, at worst, bigoted.
Now comes Ruthann Robson to explore the questionable history and application of dress codes as a means of perpetuating and enforcing class and status.
At their heart, school dress codes that go well beyond safety concerns and basic decency rest on the unequal relationships between adults and youth. School officials like to tout the rules as preparation for employment, but those standards are hard to pin down: Billionaire Mark Zuckerberg would be suspended at most schools with detailed dress codes.
Dress codes also hearken back to a time when kings, queens and government councils routinely proscribed all manner of attire, with special attention to prohibiting people of “mean condition” from certain styles – purple, for example, was reserved for royalty. But the English went even further, regulating how frilly men’s collars could be or how revealing their tunics could be. Colonists brought such traditions with them to America. The Puritans prosecuted women who wore lace and Southern colonies included matters of dress in their slave codes.