Despite the old adage “you can’t judge a book by its cover,” you can, in fact, set standards of dress for certain places. You often can find these standards, commonly referred to as dress codes, in schools, businesses, organizations and even restaurants.
Businesses, restaurants and schools enforce dress codes to promote the values or morals of a company, preserve the elegant ambience of a dining room, or prevent distractions in the classroom. Dress codes also can provide uniformity to a group.
Throughout history, dress codes have provided uniformity. However, dress codes more recently gained notoriety in public school systems, after school districts decided that dress codes reduce violence, alleviate the influence of gang colors and limit distractions in the classroom.
School dress codes usually limit revealing and sagging clothing, and may even dictate a specific uniform students must wear. Office dress codes may require business, business casual or casual attire, depending on the company. Dining establishments that require a dress code typically request that customers don’t wear jeans, flip-flops, or shirts without collars.
Many argue that dress codes limit First Amendment rights. Most of the controversy lies in dress codes enforced in public schools. Both supporters and opponents of the school dress code laws use Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District to support their position. In this 1969 case, the Supreme Court ruled that public school officials couldn’t limit student expression unless they could prove it was a distraction to the learning environment.
Dress codes in the workplace convey a positive image or certain ideals and traditions that a company upholds. In schools, dress codes encourage equality among students, especially those of lower socioeconomic statuses, to ensure all students receive equal opportunities in the classroom. Dress codes at certain restaurants contribute to the atmosphere to provide a fine dining experience.
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Rymonda Davis began writing professionally in 2009. Her research and writing have been included in Kansas State University's historical archives, a traveling history exhibit for the Chapman Center for Rural Studies and online publications. Davis is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in communication studies from Kansas State University.