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South’s dress code in the 60s

Posted By Denebola On February 15, 2011 @ 4:15 am In 50th Edition,Lifestyle | Comments Disabled

By Stephanie Simon, Volume 24
December 19, 1984

Imagine a school where students don’t wear jeans or shirts. All the boys are wearing slacks, and the girls are outfitted in skirts or dresses. This school is not imaginary. It is not a parochial or even a private school. It is Newton South in the 1960’s.
Until approximately 1970, South instituted a formal dress code. It was unheard of for girls to wear pants or boys to wear jeans while in school. The rationale behind this code was that if one dressed sloppily, one’s mind was sloppy as well. However, these standards of attire became hard to maintain. Manufacturers began making denim clothes, and these were so popular that it was impossible to ban them.
When administrators at South realized that jeans were here to stay, they tried to impose some regulations to keep students dressed neatly. Girls were still restricted to skirts and dresses, and boys were only allowed to wear jeans with slash pockets. It soon became too distinguished between different kinds of jeans, and the dress code began to fall apart. Robert Wicks, who has been the Wheeler housemaster since the “dress code era,” believes that the policy was absurd.
“Mothers would come to school wearing pant suits and it didn’t make sense to keep the kids from wearing them,” he says.
Wicks remembers the first girl to actively dispute South’s dress code. According to him, she came to school wearing “a very nice, well-designed, tweed pants suit.” However, this semi-formal outfit was deemed inappropriate and distracting by a teacher, who sent her to her housemaster to be suspended for violating the dress code. Wicks did not feel that there were adequate grounds for suspension.
At this point, he says, “A tweed pant suit was not acceptable, but a six inch mini skirt was fine.” It soon became evident that the dress code was impossible to enforce and the policy dissolved in early 1970’s.
Now, almost anything in the way of clothing is acceptable at South, which has not formal rules regarding dress. However, if a teacher feels that a student’s attire is either totally inappropriate or distracting to other students, action can be taken. If a student’s motive for choosing to dress in a certain way is to provoke others, he or she could conceivably be sent home and asked to change his clothes. However, this is a very rare occurrence.
Most teachers believe that students have a right to express themselves through their clothing. According to Wicks, “(dressing individualistically) is tied to the adolescent process of trying to break free from the authority of elders.”
An example of this occurred a few weeks ago, when a student wore a dress to school. This dress would have been acceptable under the old dress code—except that it was worn by a boy. However, Wicks believes that as long as people are doing reasonably well in school and are not intimidating or distracting anyone with their clothing, what they wear is up to them.
At one time, many people believed that “clothes make the man,” Today, however, many people believe that clothing should be an expression of personality rather than a determination of behavior. Most of us are pleased that South can concentrate its energies on education rather than on haberdashery.

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URLs in this post:

[1] Functional fashion hits South’s classrooms: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2008/10/29/functional-fashion-hits-souths-classrooms/

[2] Students de-pants for charity drive: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/02/10/students-de-pants-for-charity-drive/

[3] No-Pants Monday, no problem: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/02/10/no-pants-monday-no-problem/

[4] Fashion Focus: Carlos Morales: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/05/21/fashion-focus-carlos-morales/

[5] No dress? No stress. Helping girls enjoy prom one dress at a time: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/04/14/no-dress-no-stress-helping-girls-enjoy-prom-one-dress-at-a-time/

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