Editorial: Dress Code Dilemma

Lyle Griggs

I have not always adhered closely to the dress code. One day in sixth grade, for example, I emerged from the bathroom wearing a “belt” made of toilet paper in a vain attempt to avoid punishment. Throughout middle school, I scarcely ever remembered a belt. Most of the time, I would spend a few minutes before morning meeting fishing one out of the lost-and-found or begging someone to loan me a spare. When I exhausted these options, I was forced to wither under Dr. Schawang’s disappointed gaze.

Other times, when I came to school with occupied belt loops, I failed to find a clean polo, so I would rifle through my dresser until I found the one with the large hole in the left armpit. That one, at least, was relatively clean and the hole could be fixed with a stapler in a pinch. For three long years, the dress code seemed an unnecessarily restrictive and stressful thing to deal with, and I hated it.

Recently, Student Senate introduced a tentative proposal to allow Seabury t-shirts in the place of polos. Given my past inability to abide by the dress code, one might assume that I love the idea of allowing t-shirts–had I been able to wear t-shirts in middle school, I would certainly have taken advantage of the opportunity. 

I am, however, unequivocally opposed to the proposed change and to any alteration to the dress code. We have a dress code for a variety of reasons; it eliminates the stress of outfit-picking, promotes a sense of community and helps students focus on academics. And these benefits can be accrued without major effort on the part of students; most students, no matter their age, are more responsible than I was in sixth grade. From my perspective, the dress code is undeniably beneficial and should remain in effect indefinitely.

So why, one might ask, am I opposed to mere alterations to the code? Few students want it to be eliminated–such a change would likely require a coup, given Dr. Schawang’s belief in the code. Many, however, want certain changes made, exemplified by the aforementioned proposal. But I worry that these changes would only be the beginning. Every student, myself included, pushes the dress code to its limit. We hide t-shirts under our jackets; we cut off our belt loops; we exploit loopholes and lax enforcement. Were the code to be relaxed further, I worry that the precedent set would allow the dress code to be whittled into nothing. In my view, if we want to keep it, we cannot alter it.