Dress codes. What's the point, right? Let the kids dress however they want. Let them express themselves! How can the possibly be unique individuals if they can't wear whatever they want? Dress codes are just another way to take the focus off of learning and onto unimportant things, right?
I could not disagree more. I value dress codes. Why? There are several reasons.
First, I have a dress code. Most professional jobs have some type of professional attire. Getting used to dressing to a certain profession is not a bad thing. I can't go to work in whatever I want. Every job I worked from high school to now had some sort of standard that you were expected to meet.
Next, students behave better when there is a dress standard. Homecoming week, with its many dress down days, is when my students are the most jittery. Why? Because they aren't dressed with school in mind. Your attitude starts with how you're dressed for the day. If you're dressed for school, you're more likely to be mentally prepared for school and ready to work. This doesn't work across the board, but it is a general trend I've noticed.
Finally, dress codes are not that restrictive. Dress codes, not uniforms, are really not that bad. Our students have four different colors of collared shirts they can wear, along with any shirt that's an official school shirt (think like sports and club shirts), four different colors of pants/shorts/skirts and pretty much any kind of shoe that they want. They can then wear any kind of sweatshirt, as long as there isn't a zipper on it. Pretty simple, right? Uniforms are different. Uniforms remove much more of the personality of the student.
As with almost everything in education, dress code issues do need to be taken on an individual basis. Our dress code is pretty relaxed and we're pretty relaxed when it comes to dealing with it. One important part of high school, however, is preparing students for life after high school. Life after high school is not going to include college for every kid. We need to prepare them for the real, working world when they graduate. Teaching them to dress at least business casual can be very valuable when it comes to getting and keeping a job.
I view dress code the same way I view cussing. I know they are very different, but the parallels are there. With friends, our kids cuss. They also dress in their own unique ways. At school, they can't cuss and they need to follow the dress code. Not allowing them to swear can, at times, inhibit their ability to express themselves. However, they need to learn to express themselves without cussing in order to survive in the working world. When it comes to clothing, they need to be able to express themselves and be the best student or worker they can be while adhering to established professional dress codes. Dress codes aren't about making life more difficult. Dress codes are about making life after high school as easy as it can be.