For Dress Code

In recent years, school dress codes across the country have encountered criticism for stifling student expression and perpetuating sexist and outdated gender norms. With so much widespread criticism regarding the topic of dress codes, should Jesuit reconsider the implementation of its own dress code?

Personally, I think not. As defined in the Student Handbook, Jesuit’s dress code is designed to “reflect respect for the dignity of self, other individuals and groups, and promote effective learning and social environments”—and it has proven to be effective in meeting those goals.

Many anti-dress code sentiments stem from the idea that dress codes prevent students from expressing themselves stylistically by limiting what they can and cannot wear. While it is true that students cannot wear certain types of clothing to school, with the new addition of sweatpants and leggings to the dress code, students have many chances to express themselves while simultaneously following the parameters of the increasingly flexible dress code.

More specifically, dress codes teach students to express themselves in ways that are appropriate in their environment. While many rules outlined in the dress code set clear structures for what you can and cannot wear, some rules are vaguer and more open to interpretation, allowing students to exercise their own judgement and discernment in deciding what to wear. In other words, Jesuit’s dress code allows students to practice using their knowledge of Jesuit and the dress code to make decisions regarding their personal expression.

In addition to suppressing student expression, critics of dress codes commonly argue that dress codes unfairly target female-presenting and minority students. Regarding allegations of inequality, the student handbook clearly states that “the administration may grant exceptions [to the dress code] for religious, cultural, or health reasons.” Thus, if students have frustrations with certain aspects of the dress code, they are more than welcome to get exceptions for those rules.

While some may argue that the dress code unfairly violates students’ self-expression, when students enroll at Jesuit, they sign a form agreeing to follow the school rules outlined in the handbook—including the dress code. No student is subjected to the dress code against their will, because all students sign that form. 

Furthermore, as a Catholic, college preparatory institution, Jesuit has an interest in upholding its reputation for professionalism, decorum, and sophistication, even among the attire of its students. Additionally, it is important to note that students who find the Jesuit dress code creatively stifling will have plenty of opportunities to express themselves with their clothing over weekends, breaks, and spirit days, providing them with time to develop their personal style while they attend jesuit. 

Finally, even if students remain dissatisfied with the restrictions of the dress code, once they graduate, they can seek out other environments that align more closely with the clothing and forms of expression they wish to employ.

The Jesuit dress code provides four years of well-intentioned guidance on formulating personal style within the confines of an environment that requires a dress code, something most people will encounter later in life. There is value in learning to dress to a certain standard of professionalism and dignity at a young age. So, while the dress code may remain unpopular amongst students, it teaches students valuable lessons about creativity, adapting to different environments, and professionalism. Therefore, the dress code should remain implemented in some form for years to come.