The history of school dress code


Much like parents around the county, I shipped my kid off to school last week.

Unlike many other parents around the county, I didn’t post the classic first day of school photo on social media with the required, “They grow up so fast!” or “Don’t blink” or “I can’t believe I’m the parent of a (fill in the grade) student! Where did my baby go?” type of sentiments.

That’s really not my style. Instead, I griped about the kindergarten moms who clogged up the carpool lane on the first morning of school. If Suzy Snowflake can’t unbuckle her seatbelt without Mommy’s help, then maybe she needs to ride the school bus and start learning how to fend for herself.

Yes, I took my son’s picture in honor of his first day of “real” junior high. I just didn’t post it since the background had a pile of laundry so high I was ashamed. Yes, I’m still in post-fair clean-up mode.

Plus, he was mad that I made him wear “church clothes” on his first day of school. And by “church clothes” it was khaki shorts and a clean, new T-shirt. Seriously?

Oh, and of course his brand new shoes we bought in July, no longer fit. So I had to send the kid to his first day of junior high in his worn out kicks covered in paint and lord knows what else from this summer.

The older Evan gets, the less and less interested he is in clothes. This doesn’t surprise me, but I was the complete opposite at his age.

I clearly remember my first day of junior high school and what I wore 20 years ago. I wore a sleeveless denim button down shirt, multi-colored woven belt and jeans. I find this humorous since this exact outfit is now considered “on-trend” nearly two decades later.

Oh, and I had bangs. Bangs with the rainbow/tunnel wave on top.

Man, I thought I was cool.

I also remember riding the bus with the older kids. There was a handsome blonde eighth grader sitting in front of the bus. And he had an earring. I had never seen a boy wear an earring before. Wow. Junior high was gonna be awesome. Boys wearing earrings was a sure sign of adulthood.

I also remember the dress code being strictly enforced in junior high.

This week, a classmate of mine posted a thread about her junior high daughter not being allowed to wear a bandana to school because it could be viewed as gang related.

Because, you know, Fletcher and Casstown are divided into fierce and territorial gangs like the Sharks and the Jets these days.

Her daughter’s disappointment and the long historic battle between parents and the local school’s dress code conjured up so many memories of battles between my classmates, their freedom of expression through dress and how that was interpreted in the student handbook during my youth.

I’ll never forget the sweeping popularity of “Co-Ed Naked” T-shirts during junior high. I also never forget Mr. Mullen’s booming announcement over the loud speaker threatening detention for anyone who dared to wear these tongue-in-cheek tops with edgy quips about playing sports with the opposite sex.

I was never allowed to own one.

I also remember the fierce battle between one classmate and a language arts teacher over her support for her favorite NASCAR driver. I sat behind the girl in class. She was singled out for wearing the T-shirt of her favorite driver, who happened to be sponsored by Miller Lite. Oh, was it ugly. I just wanted to crawl under a rock. I can’t remember what exactly happened with that particular dress code war, I just remember wanting to never, ever, be singled out in class like she was because of a T-shirt.

These days, kids have a lot more freedom of choice in the manner they dress. Gone are the days principals using yard sticks to measure skirt lengths now replaced with boys with their skinny jeans halfway off their bottoms.

I guess I can be thankful that my junior high school kid thinks wearing shorts with a button-fly is “dressing up” at school.

Melanie Yingst appears weekly in the Troy Daily News, a Civitas Media publication.

Melanie Yingst Yingst

By Melanie Yingst

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