Argumentative Essay on Dress Codes and School Uniforms

Paper Type:  Argumentative essay
Pages:  6
Wordcount:  1559 Words
Date:  2022-03-09


In the last few years, dress codes and the use of school uniforms have developed to be a subject of controversy in learning institutions (Pavlakis & Roegman 1). Educators, members of the public, and students remain divided over the value of implementing school-uniform policies. The proponents and opponents to the subject have been raising contradicting opinions, ideas, and solid evidence to back their stance on the most appropriate approach to handle this situation. According to schools administrators, "observing dress codes might curb adverse behaviors that have been hindering students from concentrating on their education ". Contrary, students and parents' beliefs that the introduction of the sensitive rule in support of school uniforms and dressing mode in learning institutions would interfere with students' right to freedom of expression (Sequeira et al. 1). The dispute between proponents and critics on the ongoing implementation of dress codes in learning institutions has intensified over the years making it one of the prevalent and antagonistic controversies in schools.

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The history and roots of dress code policies in learning institutions can be traced back to the sixteenth century when an English school provided its students with free blue cloaks and yellow socks as their uniform (Scholastic.Com 1). The outfit known as the voila uniform promoted equality among students who were mainly from lower-class families. Nonetheless, the ideology of the English School did not spread to other institutions and until the mid-1950s students' dressing mode remained their choice. In 1955, eventually, jeans were banned from class as they were widely associated with Marlon Brando and James Dean (Scholastic.Com 1). The two actors who always stunned in jeans on- and off-screen had developed to be so influential, especially among students but the society had termed them as rebellious and troublemakers. A decade later, the populous Beatles and military haircut styles had begun to trend as they were considered masculine. Consequently, some schools began insisting that boys should keep their hair neatly trimmed and short. Following these changes, by 1970, parochial and some public schools had already established a fairly strict dress code but the ideology was not welcomed by students who felt that such policies were discriminatory.

From 1970, critics of dress codes policies have been seeking judicial intervention claiming that education administrator has been using such acts to discriminate against students and undermine their freedom of expression (Scholastic.Com 2). For instance, during the case between Tinker and Des Moines Independent School District, the Supreme Court ruled that dress code acts should not limit students' right of speech unless their dressing disrupts the learning environment. In 1972, the federal civil rights law also declared it illegitimate for schools to discriminate against learners on the basis of sex. Subsequently, schools reviewed their dress code allowing girls to wear pants. Likewise, as time went by fashion began to be so influential, especially with the rise of Madonna and Michael Jackson among other public figures. Learning institutions retaliated by enacting rules against wearing flip-flops, halter tops, and ripped clothes to class. In the twenty-first century, more schools have been adopting school uniform policies which have become less legally fraught as compared to implementing school dress codes. As of 2013, about 23 percent of elementary and 15 percent of public high schools in the United States required students to wear uniforms (Sequeira et al. 2). However, the push for a dress code has remained a prevalent issue in learning institutions. They are several factors that have made the dress code controversy persist for so long. One of these elements is the persistent imposition of dress rules that are clearly gendered and tacitly aimed at minority cultural groups. According to the National Women's Law Center, "a number of dress codes applied in Washington aimed at controlling race-neutral language and fashions mostly preferred by African American girls". For instance, in 2017, two African American ladies in Massachusetts were reported to have been kicked off sports teams and barred from attending prom for wearing their hair in braids (Underwood 2). Likewise, based on a survey carried out in Lincoln High School, female students felt that the adopted dress codes in the institution sexualized them as they treated common American clothing options including spaghetti strap tank tops as alluring outfits.

However, based on teachers' and school administrators' concerns about dressing were neither race nor gender-oriented but issues of inconsistency on enforcement. On the other hand, students feel the discrepancy in enacting dress codes is not by chance but by administrators' and teachers' beliefs about specific races or gender (Underwood 2). Some of these sentiments and discrepancies have made the dress code controversy so intense with victimized students seeking judicial intervention once they feel they have been subjected to unfair treatment.

Proponents also believe that the dresses code limits students' right to expression. Certainly, a person's mode of dressing can be a form of expression (Foer 3). For instance, people associate or may express their support to a specific political view or politician through a common mode of dressing. Likewise, religious groups advocate for a varying dress code that their followers may observe, which might contradict schools' guidelines on the same issue. The First Amendment on dress codes in schools acknowledged the desire of students to express themselves. As a result, it dictates the much learning institutions can go in regulating the mode of dressing among learners. First, a school may be allowed to control a student's speech on the occasion that it might disrupt the learning process or environment. Second, the amendment also restricts learners from expressions that may be termed vulgar. Third students should not promote illegal activities such as drug abuse through their way of expression (Freeburg & Workman 7). In this case, for a learning institution to preclude a particular message from being conveyed, their rule must comply with the three provisions of the First Amendment.

Additionally, disagreements have arisen in regards to the merits and demerits of dress codes in schools deepening the misunderstanding between proponents and opponents on the topic. According to proponents, "dress codes improve learning climate, self-esteem, morals, and overall academic performance" (Pavlakis & Roman 5). However, opponents believe that dress codes do not protect religious principles, freedom of expression, discriminatory acts, and individuality among students. With the two opposing sides failing to borrow and accommodate each other views, the rift between proponents and critics continues to increase every day.

Consequently, they are numerous effects that have resulted from the persistent controversy on dress codes in schools. For instance, when schools decide to apply dress codes, they sometimes run into legal troubles as students have learned means of protecting their rights in courts. Enactment of the First Amendment on dressing has seen different complainers file cases aimed at preventing learning institutions from victimizing those students they feel might be violating dressing guidelines (Freeburg & Workman 3). Likewise, fashion has been advocated as one of the safe ways learners can exhibit their creativity and explore their interests. As a result, students form the largest percentage of opponents to dress codes and they are determined to eliminate such policies once and for all even if it calls for seeking judicial intervention.

Dress codes controversies have also resulted in the adoption of school uniforms in public and private institutions. According to uniform policies, students are expected to wear certain colors or designs without visible symbols, labels, logos, or writings. Unlike dress codes, uniform policies take a neutral stance on matters of politics, religion, or group behaviors (Underwood 3). However, uniform rules also have their own shortcomings in that they have to ensure they exempt issues of religion, they are readily available, and they are economical. The majority of schools that have been using school uniforms have managed to instill discipline among students and promote security by decreasing the formation of gangs and peer pressure.

Similarly, dress code controversies have led to wastage of time and resources on the side of both students and administrators. For instance, those that have been found to violate certain dress code standards they may be sent home or hindered from accessing the school premises which might cost them essential learning time (Underwood 3). Likewise, those that pursue judicial intervention may end up using so many resources before the judges give their ruling. Some of this negativity has also resulted in poor performance among students.


In conclusion, the dress code controversies that have been sweeping the education systems for years have resulted from parents and students feeling that such policies are discriminating, sexist, or both. As a result, schools have been adopting guidelines, which reflects a better understanding of appropriate dressing modes. Therefore, to avoid such disputes before adopting dress codes, learning institutions must involve stakeholders to examine their views on the issue. With this kind of involvement, schools would benefit from having dress codes as compared to the free dressing approach.

Works Cited

"Are School Dress Codes Fair?" Choices.Scholastic.Com, 2019,

Foer, Joshua. Moonwalking with Einstein: The art and science of remembering everything. Penguin, (2012) ISBN-13: 978-0143120537.

Freeburg, Beth W., and Jane E. Workman. "Dress Codes and Uniforms." Encyclopedia of Adolescence (2016): DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-32132-5_359-3Pavlakis, Alyssa, and Rachel Roegman. "How Dress Codes Criminalize Males And Sexualize Females Of Color". Phi Delta Kappan, vol 100, no. 2, 2018, pp. 54-58. SAGE Publications, doi: 10.1177/0031721718803572.

Underwood, Julie. "Under the Law: School Uniforms, Dress Codes, and Free Expression: What's the Balance?" Phi Delta Kappan, vol. 99, no. 6, Mar. 2018, pp. 74-75, doi: 10.1177/0031721718762429.

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