Of Navels and Tattoos: Dress Codes Exposed

"My mom told me that bare legs were banned at her high school, and if she arrived wearing a sleeveless blouse she was sent home to change." Alice poured herself some fresh coffee and reached for a bran muffin.

"That was a long time ago." Cindy raised her eyebrows and went on, "These days anything goes. I can't believe how kids dress today. It's not just the hip huggers with navels and cracks exposed, and the pants with the crotch hanging down to the knees. What about all the tattoos and body piercing?"

"I don't raise a ruckus over what my kids wear." Alice shrugged. "My rule is they can dress however they like. I don't mind the outrageous hair colors either. Hair grows. It doesn't stay that way forever. But I draw the line over stuff that's permanent. Last week my daughter came home with a stud in her tongue. Can you imagine."

"No! What did you do?"

Alice shouted her response in a high pitched screech that signaled her outrage. "Well, of course, I made her take it out immediately. What was she thinking? That's a health hazard."

Cindy nodded her agreement. "I'd have done the same."

"When I was a kid, my mom fought for our right to express ourselves." Alice threw her hands in the air. "She fought for our right to dress as we pleased. Of course those days it was the right to wear jeans; well I guess they were pretty tight." Alice paused for a moment. "I remember my mom saying to a group of other moms during a game of bridge, 'So, would the world come to an end if they came to school in their underwear?'"

"No. She actually said that?"

"I'm not kidding, she did. She really did."

Cindy had a puzzled look on her face. "Your mom must have been some kind of rebel."

Alice laughed. "People used to get all bent out of shape over the length of boy's hair. I remember my dad and my brother had a big fights over the length of my brother's hair. My dad was a military man and he was insistent that boys should look like boys."

Cindy freshened her cup. "I remember all the fuss over hair."
Alice continued, "My dad marched my brother, Mike, to the barber and supervised the cut. Dad would have liked it a little shorter but he softened a bit when he saw the tears in Mike's eyes. On his first day of high school Mike was escorted out of the building before he reached his homeroom. The vice principal was at the door checking for infractions of the dress code, and Mike was told to get a hair cut before returning."

"I agree, that was a big fuss over nothing. I mean Mike's father approved. What right did the principal have to go over a father's rule?"

"I guess I'm a lot like my mom. I've always been against dress codes for kids. I remember one time our family doctor challenged my mom. He asked her how come she didn't have control over my brother. How come she couldn't make him get his hair cut. This was a few years after the first day of high school thing I mentioned, and Mike's hair was almost shoulder length. My mom told the doctor off all right. She said, 'What makes you think I disapprove of his long hair. I happen to like it that way'."

"Yes, well, Alice, you have to admit things have gone too far. Kids today could use a lesson in modesty."

"Maybe you're right… Today we have a different kind of problem though. Headscarves, yarmulkes and turbans, even crosses are being banned in France. That's got nothing to do with modesty though." Alice shrugged. "It's because the schools want to avoid violence between kids of different faiths and cultures."

"I heard about one school that bans boys from wearing pink. When I was a kid you couldn't get a boy to wear pink and now they're forbidden to wear it." Cindy sipped her coffee. "I guess wearing pink signals membership in a gang."

"Hmmm, maybe my mom was wrong. Dress codes could be a good thing."

"How about uniforms?"

    —M. LaCourt

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