Against Dress Code

Jesuit calls itself a college preparatory institution. So judging by that metric, should the dress code not prepare us for what we will expect in college and the ever-changing workplace environment? 

One common reason for having a dress code is to prepare students for professionalism that will be required later in our lives. However, the guidelines around what is considered professional are becoming more relaxed and accepting of less conservative clothing and hairstyles. Things like additional piercings, unnatural hair color, and casual clothing are becoming less taboo in the workspace especially after the pandemic where people became used to staying at home (Worklife). Even traditionally conservative industries such as banking have shifted their expectations. 

“When people can be themselves, they do their best work,” John C. Williams, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York said to the New York Times

With these cultural changes in mind, is the dress code at Jesuit really preparing us for our future? 

Secondly, while the mission of Jesuit High School is to prepare us for college and beyond, we are still teenagers, not office employees. Why should we be expected to act or look like full-fledged members of the workforce? 

Teenage years are the time when people figure themselves out, including experimenting with our appearances: what clothing we feel comfortable with and how we want to be perceived. Yes, this will mean clothing might be volatile as students find their sense of style, and yes, clothing might become slightly more revealing. However, making some fashion mistakes we will regret when we look back on them is a natural part of adolescence. 

The Jesuit community, a family in itself and full of love and support, should also be a place where we can feel comfortable exploring and making mistakes. Students should be given the opportunity to experiment with their clothing without excessive restrictions even if that means coming to class in a shorter skirt or with an unnatural hair color. 

Most adults do not dress the same as they did in their adolescence, so being allowed to wear more revealing clothing as a young person will not affect someone’s ability to convert to more formal and conservative clothing later on. If a student decides to pursue a career where professional clothing is required, they will have plenty of time to adjust to that when the time comes. It should not be that much of an adjustment if it comes during a stage of life where people typically change their attire anyway. 

In fact, college is closer in proximity to when people will have to wear professional clothing, yet most colleges do not feel the need to enforce restrictions of students’ attire. Students who have internships and jobs during their time in college are also able to transition to clothing appropriate for that opportunity without needing a dress code to tell them how to do so. 

Lastly, there is no evidence that wearing more conservative clothing has any effect on a student’s performance inside the classroom. A student wearing a crop top has no less intelligence than a student who is wearing a full length shirt. Yes, more revealing clothing can draw more attention; however, so can clothing that is bright and colorful (which is not restricted). 

In a world full of distractions, I think students should learn how to accept that something might grab their attention for a moment but then learn to refocus on what they are doing. Students should not expect their lives to be distraction free–because they will not be. Even the most professional workplaces will be full of interruptions and tempting technology. Teaching us to learn how to focus even with distractions is far more effective college and life preparation than giving us a distraction-free environment. Thus, as a self proclaimed college preparatory school, Jesuit High School should shift away from a strict dress code.