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Arguments for and Against School Dress Codes

Stacie L has been an educator for many years and likes to share her experiences and advice.

British school children in London, England 2007

British school children in London, England 2007

Why We Need Dress Codes

Dress codes in schools began as early as the 1950s and 60s when schools were on a campaign to curb juvenile delinquency. School districts decided that having rules for the type of clothing worn are useful for having boundaries all can follow, but unless your heart is convinced, you’ll be miserable as you reluctantly obey the rules.

It is sad that all manners (including dress) have declined to the point that they must now be legislated, but at least legislating such behaviors will instill better habits. A lot of high school students feel that school dress codes are stupid.

Many students have expressed their unhappiness at the thought of a school dress code. I think they imagine themselves wearing military garb and being forced to salute. It's not like that at all. Yes, there are military-type schools and some programs such as ROTC that require uniforms, but this article is about whether having a "uniform" look to the school and attire is the best choice or not.

Arguments for Uniforms

Uniform clothing rules are supposed to reduce violence and bullying by taking style differences out of the equation, according to the National Association of Elementary School Principals. Since the Clinton administration, the Education Department has encouraged schools to go further by adopting uniforms, saying they promote safety and discipline

Dress code rules for high school students also prevent them from wearing gang colors to campus. A unified look is a good rule for reasons that kids would not realize unless they were responsible for purchasing and maintaining their own wardrobe. They are provided (either free or at a small cost) or the parents can choose to follow the general guidelines. Some districts are more lenient but they're all pretty much the same.

Children need rules and guidance.

Philadelphia School Board President Camino Hawing said the district is working on getting Hispanic parents more involved with the schools. And he said that the district hopes the parents will network and convince others to show up at various district meetings. One of our principals has tried for several years to make uniforms mandatory but enough parents protested to keep the issue from passing. In May 2000, the Philadelphia School Board approved a mandatory school uniform policy for all students. Each school in the district will decide individually on the dress policy for its school.

In Springfield, MO, some boys reported that looking “gangsta” is where it’s at … and the girls seem to love that “hootchie mama ho” look. A Springfield Police Department representative made a brief Powerpoint presentation on the presence of gang-related activity in schools. Identification, resulting in intervention, was the main theme of his talk. His argument was that uniforms would make it easier to identify those students who belonged at that school and those who were illegally there. Gang members who sneak in the back doors to try to start trouble or get other students to join them would not be able to do without uniforms.

This problem is not just in the cities but is spilling out in rural areas, for some time.I taught in a school district that was populated with many students who had moved away from inner city problems and gang activity. It was apparent that the gangs had moved out into the suburbs and gangs were roaming the hallways of the high school and middle school where I taught. The violence and gang hand symbols were appearing more frequently. I finally decided to leave teaching when gang members tried pushing me down the stairs.

National Uniformity

The National School Board Association estimates that approximately 135,000 guns are brought to America's 85,000 public schools each day. This is one reason school districts implement dress codes. The board may choose to add a parental opt-out clause; children of parents who choose to opt out shall not be sanctioned academically or otherwise. Students who belong to a "nationally recognized youth organization" must be allowed to wear that organization's uniform to school "on days that the organization has scheduled a meeting.”

Local boards also may create policies that forbid students from wearing gang-related clothing or accessories. The Court held that the determination of what manner of speech in the classroom or in school assembly is inappropriate properly rests with the school board. It was perfectly appropriate for the school to make the point to the pupils that vulgar speech and lewd conduct are wholly inconsistent with the fundamental values of public school education.

Arguments Against Dress Codes and Uniforms

What would happen if kids could do whatever they wanted whenever they wanted? They feel that they would be turned into robots without the ability to express themselves in a society that promotes self-expression and individuality. The problem is that the cost of expressing oneself and being an individual can be astronomical.

There are students that think wearing a simple shirt that says "Jesus Freak" or socks that have cartoon characters are harmless and their right to choose their individual style of clothing. At least allowing denim into the dress code would not hurt anything and would make the students themselves a lot happier at school.

Wearing uniforms will only increase tension between students and administrators. People who advocate these clothing styles obviously feel powerless in the fight for better schools and think that if schools have a well-maintained appearance then all the other factors will just fall into place. Wearing proper clothing helps people dress for success. Many think it is beneficial for learning when fashion's latest trend and all that comes along with it do not distract them.

Students wearing uniforms

Catholic School student on White House lawn

Catholic School student on White House lawn

In Conclusion

The adoption of a school-wide uniform policy is a reasonable way to provide some protection for students. Some clothing may be offensive to students and staff and may disrupt or distract the learning process. This standard asks whether school officials can reasonably forecast whether the student expression will cause a substantial disruption or material interference with school activities. All clothing should be appropriate to the student’s age, the school setting, and weather conditions. Both students and parents share the responsibility for the student's attire because clothing often sets the pattern for behavior.

Students also need to remember that, in the big picture, being asked to dress a certain way for a few hours a day is not really as arduous as it might seem. Hopefully, the big picture will prevail and common sense will rule. I suppose students will always want to break the rules and push the limits, especially in high school. These suggestions are for their protection as well as, everyone else’s education. After all, isn’t that why they are in school?

The age group deciding on school dress codes

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Questions & Answers

Question: Why do the schools tell students what to wear? Shouldn't it be up to the parents?

Answer: School boards make the decisions, and parents have the option to agree or not with their decisions.

Question: How does not having a dress code affect a students' self-esteem?

Answer: There are students who cannot afford to buy the latest fashions, so it can affect the way they feel and are treated in school.

Question: Don't you think that it is important to express yourself with you and your peers at school?

Answer: You can express your individuality outside of school hours.

© 2008 Stacie L


Don A. Hoglund from Wisconsin Rapids on June 20, 2017:

I went to both Catholic and public schools in the 1940's amd '50's. I am sure some had uniforms but the ones I went to either had no dress code or at the Catholic schools it was "no bluejeans." Interesting hub and interesting topic. Even the clergy have somewhat abanoned the dress codes no.

Stacie L (author) on September 26, 2014:

I don't know if I would have liked working in private schools for not. On one hand, they can pick you they want and so reject discipline problems. One the other hand, the parents can be giant PIA's. ;-)

Thanks for reading and commenting about school dress codes.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on September 25, 2014:

I taught in private schools for seventeen years...public schools for one year...I preferred dress codes. Having said that, I hated them when I attended Catholic schools. :)

Stacie L (author) on December 07, 2011:

jordan: yes, uniforms are only worn for the school day so it does make it easier to dress in the morning.

peewee: uniforms are not a fashion statement. You are in school to learn and maybe expressing yourself distracts from your education?

How about expressing yourself after school hours?

peewee on December 07, 2011:

I think school uniforms are a horrible i idea i mean clothing is how we express our selves when u wear a unifor everyone is the same but everyone needs to express themselves differently and that can be done thourghout fashion

Jordan on December 01, 2011:

I think uniforms is a great idea now that you have someone from the students perpective because my school is different from most of the others instead of wakeing up at 7:30 thats the time that school starts for me so because I have a uniform it makes it so much easier and faster to walk out my door plus no one can judge me because im wearing the exact thing they all are :D

Stacie L (author) on November 29, 2011:

Falicia Bracamonte: thank you for your thoughtful and mature comments on the school dress codes.dress codes also help students prepared for the work place so starting in school is important.

Falicia Bracamonte on November 29, 2011:

I think school unioforms are a great idea because it will decrease the amount of money parents have spend for theire kid's clothes that "have to be" in style. It will decrease the amount of kids excluded from "groups." There would be no more gang colors used, so kids would not be bullied because of the gang they are in. It may take away kids right to express their feeling and how they show how they act and just what they are, but it is for a good cause. Because a lot of kids do NOT dress proporly and opposite sexes will try to turn on the other sex, which is not good. So if they all wore they same clothing that is not too small, or too short, or tight then it will decrease underage sexuality. it will improve kid's attendance because they will feel that if they do not have the "right" clothing that the can't go to school.

Nancy cedras on November 27, 2011:

I feel that it is very good idea, it make the children feel belongs, ar they are looking the same. It is a way of saving for the parents.

pancakes on November 15, 2011:

NOOOOOOOO more dress codes let us kids express our feelings

RandomOtaku on November 12, 2011:

Even though my school doesn't have a uniform or dress code, I don't exactly see anybody dressing inappropriately; I suppose that's attributable to age.

It's hard to express my opinion when both sides of the argument are agreeable, so I'm stuck in the middle. ^-^"'

Thank you for posting this up- I found it very informative and useful. c:

annonymus on November 05, 2011:

I truly believe in school uniforms because it tells other people that you are student. Nowadays when you go to schools or colleges you will be ashamed of how the stydents are wearing clothes. I feel ashamed because I flow a hindu religion and when i see especially girls wearing clothes like a piece to cover their boobs only and a little pant to go with it, it just doesn't makes any sense of hiding anything there.

Carrie Haynes on October 26, 2011:

I do not think that school uniforms are a good idea because it prevents me from expressing my individuality and it also takes away my First Amendment right FREDOOM OF EXPRESSION

Stacie L (author) on October 21, 2011:

@lesandra: thank you for reading and leaving your comments about school uniforms

lesandra on October 21, 2011:

we should always wear uniforms

Stacie L (author) on October 04, 2011:

Painted Seahorse:Thanks for reading and leaving those thoughtful comments. Kids need to concentrate on their school work-not their wardrobe. I've heard from many like yourself that uniforms were a good idea.

Brittany Rowland from Woodstock, GA on October 04, 2011:

My middle school and high school had uniforms, and it saved me a lot of stress in the morning when I got dressed--I didn't have to worry about how I would look compared to my classmates or whether they'd have cooler clothes. (And I've never had a good sense of fashion!) I see how teens dress today and think uniforms (or a strict dress code) aren't such a bad idea. Kids will have to learn how to dress appropriately when they start looking for jobs (some jobs even require uniforms). Why not start now?

mii on September 26, 2011:

u are cool

Stacie L (author) on September 12, 2011:

Thank you for your comments jacqui2011.As a former teacher, I know this is a good idea to have a dress code and as you said,it prevents the children from competing with one another about their designer clothes.

jacqui2011 from Norfolk, UK on September 12, 2011:

My daughter just started high school last week. Luckily they have a strict code of dress where pupils must purchase a school uniform which is black sweatshirt, black skirt or trousers and white polo shirt. It saves a fortune than if they had to wear their own clothes to school. I think that it prevents the children from competing with one another over who has the best designer clothes etc. I think that it also keeps children the same and is good for the school's image if the children are all smart and uniformed. Good hub. Voted up and interesting.

kdupree on May 18, 2011:

Great hub.

Stacie L (author) on December 18, 2010:

@article_eric; thank you for reading and writing thoughtful and detailed comments.

I thought the I should discuss the pros and cons to it since I was a public school teacher and saw first hand.

I don't totally agree that the teachers are not teaching.

Society has changed greatly and there are more distractions for students than ever before.

The family unit is changing and not for the better I'm afraid.

everyone needs to work together to improve students


have a good holiday.:-)

Eric from Seattle, WA on December 18, 2010:

Wonderful post Stacie. Honestly, I'm not sure whether I am FOR or AGAINST. In one respect, I am on the "right to choose" side of the fence in that we don't want to limit one's beliefs or independence. On the other side, we have the problem of offending groups, races or religions with some of the garb we often see today's children wearing. So how do we make everyone happy? I guess we really can't. Someone will complain no matter which way a school system goes - because honestly, it's impossible to make everyone happy.

So my thought is that more focus should be put on the quality of education and the training of teachers themselves. Too many more important concerns are overlooked for things like dress code or a child taking an aspirin in school. While there are issues surrounding things like this as well, I still think the level of education in our country is lacking severely and the main focus should be on the ability of our teachers to actually educate our children. That's my two cents!

Stacie L (author) on December 14, 2010:

@joeenruffin: thank you for reading and your comments. Uniforms are a big budget saver and you are right. kids can express themselves with their shoes and other ways. ;-)

joleenruffin from Tracy, CA on December 13, 2010:

My daughter wears a uniform and it has saved us a tremendous amount of money. The kids at her school "express" themselves through their shoes which are not included in the dress code.

Stacie L (author) on October 13, 2010:

thanks for stopping by schlorshipsformo

scholarshipsformo from California on October 13, 2010:

Very informative hub by the way

Stacie L (author) on July 28, 2010:

Mike Licktrig; that was very well said.Classism is divisive.

Wearing a uniformed or unified clothing unites students for one cause, and that is an education.

there are far too many distractions for today's students and stressing out about not having the latest fashions will help them concentrate.

Mike Lickteig from Lawrence KS USA on July 27, 2010:

Saw this article come up in the hub feed and gave it a look--for the second time in an hour, I'm commenting a year or two after the fact--my apologies for being "late."

If I were to make a case for a dress code, I would simply say that a uniform reduces the opportunities for overt classism. A child from a poor family can't be looked down upon for the clothes he or she wears because everyone is wearing the same thing.

When I was a kid going to the Catholic grade school, jeans and tee shirts were not permitted, and while some of us were from poorer families than others, we didn't really get a sense of it. In that instance, a standard for dress might be seen as worthwhile.

I will contradict myself now and say that if it were up to me I probably would not require uniforms or a uniform dress code. I do believe there is at least a little merit to the idea, however.

Thanks for a thought-provoking article.


Stacie L (author) on July 27, 2010:

liljen23;thank you for taking the time to read and comment.=)

Jennifer Crowder from Shreveport,LA on July 27, 2010:

Great hub on dress codes.. Great job.. Thumbs up..

Stacie L (author) on July 24, 2010:

A Granny's House; thank you for your comments. many people,especially teachers, agree with this sentiment.:)

Stacie L (author) on July 24, 2010:

@talfonso; i understand both sides of the issue and it brings up strong feelings.

A good dress code may be as effective as a uniform code.:)

Granny's House from Older and Hopefully Wiser Time on July 24, 2010:

I think there should be a dress code. People behave different when they are dressed nicer. Also it would save children that don't have much from being bullied

talfonso from Tampa Bay, FL on May 30, 2010:

I disagree with the uniforms a little - sure, those who are for them think that they teach modesty to children, but I want a bit more leniency in the clothing while keeping decent, like collared shirts in ANY solid color they want to wear but keeping the pants to slacks of navy, black, and the more professional khaki.

Stacie L (author) on April 26, 2010:

@mquee: that's a good point. parents instill feelings of self worth and validation.

kids think wearing the right clothes will improve their self esteem.

Yes,you may feel more confident but looks are emphasized too much today instead of education

thank you for commenting

mquee from Columbia, SC on April 23, 2010:

We as adults, for the most anyway, understand that school is for learning. Not just textbook learning, but social interaction, learning about other cultures,and experiencing in a small way(hopefully) some of life's problems. The young people that get this, probably have it validated in the home as well as in school. I think uniforms would be another tool to take some pressure off of a lot of youngsters. A very good hub.

adaratheone on April 07, 2010:

i think that we shold be good to waer nice thing but sume of the thing are not good to waer. i am a stundent in a school that has a lot of stuff they should not waer. i waer stuff thet are good.i use to go to a school that had to waer uniforms i like it but i like to waer thing that i like. u have to think about the people that waer them.a lot of people a re not going to waer it they are going to try to waer there nice things to school. u have to waer that all day. put ur self in are shoes see how it feels to waer uniforms.

Stacie L (author) on March 08, 2010:

eidy_18; thanks for reading and commenting.

The fact is that was ONE school district and ONE board president for Philadelphia gave his opinion about his school district.

The following paragraph also spoke of gangs in Springfield and didn't make a distinction.

If the Philadelphia's board members comments offended you, then I suggest writing him and telling him so.

eidy_18 on March 08, 2010:

Your comments are important as any other comment, but the fact that they put in that Hispanic parents should try to be more involved makes me feel like all the fault is being out towards Hispanics, which is not true! Hispanic people is not the only race that is involved with gang affiliations, but also the other races. That is what makes me sad putting us out like that and people should be more aware of what they put online and consuider the fact that whites are not the only race in the world.

Stacie L (author) on February 10, 2010:

GoGranny; I'm glad you enjoyed my hub and that we agree on the school uniforms! = )

GoGranny from Southeastern PA on January 19, 2010:

Another nice hub Stacie. I think school uniforms should be universal for the reasons you stated in your hub. The fashion wars are erupting all over the country...even elementary kids! I think uniforms would help kids to realize that school is for learning first...not socializing!

Stacie L (author) on August 25, 2009:

thank you for your comments.

I think uniforms are a good idea myself....:=)

Moon Daisy from London on August 25, 2009:

I enjoyed your hub, you raised some very interesting points :)

I'm also from the UK, where school uniforms are the norm. I suppose because we're so used to every school having a uniform it's a generally accepted thing for both children and for parents.

I used to have no problem wearing a uniform. I didn't have to think about what to wear each morning (which was never my best part of the day, lol) so that suited me fine!

I found it much more stressful when, from the age of about 16 we didn't have to wear uniforms any more. I hated worrying about what I should wear each day, and the whole issue of whether I looked fashionable enough.. A lot of teasing went on when people didn't wear the "right" shoes, or clothes that were considered cool at the time. And I'm sure that kind of thing is a lot worse now in schools with no uniforms.

My daughter's starting school next year, and I'm really glad that she'll be wearing a uniform, because the discussions about who's wearing the best/prettiest/pinkest skirts and the coolest/sparkliest shoes already started in pre-school (I'm horrified to say!!)

Stacie L (author) on July 31, 2009:

thank you for taking the time to read and comment on this hub Daedal=)

Daedal on July 30, 2009:

I have read your hub on this and I will admit that it is a very well thought out argument on both sides. But I would stilll be on the side of not having a school uniform. Uniforms break down the creative outlets, and are seen as utterly stupid outside of the school. Uniforms also disable kids in the ability to find a style that suits them later on in life(take college for example--elementary and high school is where the awkward finding of styles takes place. Most people are more understanding of a teen who is just trying to find out who they are by dressing a certain way to express themselves. In college it is totally out of place)

sophieqd on April 03, 2009:

The Pros and Cons for School Dress Codes

Thank you very much for this hub! It's really very useful.. I appreciate it very much and will follow your advice!

linjingjing on March 22, 2009:

The Pros and Cons for School Dress Codes

Very creative

kittykat on January 25, 2009:

Sorry about my spelling

kittykat on January 25, 2009:

I think that school uniforms will increase bullying from othere kids at other schools. And I say that kids SHOULD be able to express themselevs. :(

LondonGirl from London on January 20, 2009:

School uniform tends to be cheaper than normal clothes in the UK, if it's generic. A lot of primary schools, for example, have a uniform of grey trousers or skirt, white shirt, and school jumper (bought through the school). So there are very large quantities of grey trousers and white shirts being bought, and the price tends to be low.

Ashley Joy on January 20, 2009:

I like the idea of the uniform but I do wonder how some families will be able to afford the ones their children need. I know they do have to buy them clothes either way but for some poor families this is an extra burden. It would seem this would also put an extra burden on tax payers to outfit these kids.

LondonGirl from London on January 15, 2009:

Pretty much all schools in the UK have a uniform (not a dress code, a full-on uniform) and they are generally supported.

Lgali on January 15, 2009:

nice hub

Stacie L (author) on December 19, 2008:

thanks for participating John.

Yes, students are supposed to be in school for an education;not a fashion show.

Why not join my fan club and start writing.:)

John on December 17, 2008:

Having gone to both public and Catholic schools back in the 60's where the Catholic schools required a uniform/dress code and the public schools did not allowed a bit more of a freedom of expression in the public schools with clothing styles, but I think I got a much better quality learning experience due to the focus being on education and not style and I have survived just fine in life with my Catholic school so I would have to be a supporter of a uniform or dress code since school is really supposed to be about education right?

Stacie L (author) on December 09, 2008:

thank you for your comments. Yes, there are two schools of thought on this subect

(excuse the pon!);-)

i invite you to join and write on hubpages

Sherrie on December 09, 2008:

I believe in a school dress code. What is mean by that is NOT School Uniforms! I think it is important to express one's individuality and that is part of growing up. However, I believe that it is important to instill guidelines for the type of clothing that should be allowed in schol. The purpose of going to school is to prepare young people for the world upon graduation and be well-equipped in proper business attire. If children have been allowed to wear jeans, no socks, etc, etc they are being misled. I believe that attire is a reflection of oneself!

whastzis on November 15, 2008:

Well-thought out essay. I am stunned by the looks on many middle schoolers in my neighborhood- shorts in the spring that leave nothing to the imagination - does nobody wear a dress or a skirt anymore? Shows you my age!

Stacie L (author) on November 15, 2008:

I couldn't agree more! When students wear uniforms,the fights and thefts over popular clothing are eliminated ;-)

Rebecca Graf from Wisconsin on November 15, 2008:

i like the uniform rule because it actually helps us save money when school starts again.