Denim in the Dress Code?

Lily Bertles 22’, Reagan Reilly ‘24, and Morgan Tracy 22’

This school year has been a slow return to normalcy after a school year filled with COVID restrictions and zoom calls. This year, students are swapping out their sweatpants for khakis as the dresscode returns to what it was during the 2019-2020 school year. This shift from last year’s relaxed dress code means no jeans, no loungewear, no logos, and definitely no midriffs. 


When asked about the topic of jeans, Ms. Adams states that “I have not heard a good argument of why we should switch to jeans,” with such a variety in styles of jeans, it seems that they might require their own dress code. “Different blue jeans can have various levels of formality,” Mrs. Adams continues. “I don't know how you would define jeans that looked appropriate or looked formal enough for the school day.” The concern appears to be that if jeans are allowed, certain styles of jeans that are less formal will be worn to school.  


“If we allow jeans, and then people start wearing jeans with holes, then it's a problem,” Ms. McGuire explains. 


Students of the SSSAS community feel that the dress code, especially the ban on jeans, limits self expression. There is a lot of controversy surrounding the topic of jeans because many  students think that allowing them to wear leggings but not jeans does not make sense considering jeans are arguably more formal than leggings. 


Senior Zoe Wallach ‘22 gives her take on jeans: “I don’t understand why they don’t allow much expression-- like jeans, I don’t think jeans would hurt anyone.” 


Bronwyn Chesner ‘22 argues, “The jean rule is a little ridiculous because I think they contradict themselves when they allow you to wear leggings but not blue jeans.” 


Ms. McGuire also agrees that, “generally most students look better in a pair of jeans and a nice shirt than they do in leggings and a giant sweatshirt.” 


When asked about not being allowed to wear jeans, William Adams ‘22 states, “I think that’s kind of ridiculous.” 


When Mr. Mallett was asked about jeans, he had a different opinion entirely. “I am in a different space altogether with a dress code. I am in favor of exploring a uniform option.” Mr. Mallett explains that he appreciates the simplicity that a uniform would bring. “[We] have a complex dress code, … [so] it's hard for people to understand and then to enforce.”

Some students agree that a uniform would be easier to wear compared to the stress in the morning when you need to find something you like that also fits the dress code, “I had a uniform in elementary school and it was so easy,” says Mackenzie Davis ‘22. “I really didn’t mind it.” Despite the simplicity of a uniform, some students argue that they lose their sense of style and individuality.


 “We have this dress code in which we're trying to honor people's individuality, self expression, we're trying to create a sense of belonging, right?” Mr. Mallett says, when explaining his thoughts on making a school uniform. 


The Dresscode photo album that is posted on the school website outlines what is and isn’t acceptable school attire. Opaque leggings are acceptable but joggers, sweatpants, and non-opaque leggings are not. Skirts and shorts have to be thumb length or longer and athletic shorts aren’t allowed. Dresses and tops must have straps wider than 1 inch. Shirts with big logos or graphics are not acceptable. On chapel days, students must wear the Lands’ end uniform, ties, blazers, dress pants, skirts, or dresses. When it comes to shoes, students are not allowed to wear flip flops, dirty sneakers, slides, shower shoes or slippers. Lastly, students are not allowed to wear blue jeans or pants with tears, rips or frays. When asked about mid-drifts, Ms. McGuire states, “I think [that the] midriff is non negotiable,” closing the case on that topic.


Ms. McGuire makes it clear that the restrictions in the dress code including top straps, skirt length, and the ban on athletic shorts are not meant to lower distractions or sexualize students' bodies. 


Ms. McGuire states, “I don't agree with any sort of dress code language that implies this is about sexualized body parts. To me, this is about the level of casualness that, you know, [if something is too] casual [to] wear.” Students agree with the fact that the dress code does not enhance learning or lower distractions and some students feel that the dress code shows a lot of bias when it comes to who is affected more by it. 


Layla Stewart ‘24 states, “I think it disproportionately affects women instead of men.” Even though the intentions behind the dress code are to keep formality in the school environment, some students still feel that there is bias when it comes to race, gender, and the topic of “distractions.” 


When it comes male students, William Adams feels that he has “No limits” when it comes to what he's allowed to wear. 


Though many students and teachers have different opinions on the dress code, as the dean of students, Ms. McGuire is not discouraging students from speaking their voice and taking action to better the school community. Ms. McGuire speaks on the fight against the dress code, “I would imagine that there's things that we will continue to update [about the dress code] and I love when it comes from like students advocating for that as well. ” She wants students’ to be part of the dress code discussion and the dress code committee is what helps SSSAS students have that representation. The population that the dress code affects most are the students because they are the majority of the people following it. 


Ms. McGuire talks about her role in the dress code, “I'm the dean for the students. So I have no problem sort of helping you navigate speaking with administration.” 


Students express their worries about finding clothing that is affordable under the dress code. Safira Yisrael ‘24 states, “This year I'm not even able to buy any shorts because the dress code doesn’t allow me to find affordable shorts.” Not being able to afford certain clothing that the dress code restricts can create stress for students. The dress code is created partly so that students will feel fit in more and feel more part of the community, but when the style now, at least for girls, are crop tops and jean shorts, how are students supposed to find the clothing they need to fit the school’s dress code? 


August Moon ‘24 agrees with Safira when it comes to wearing very formal clothing, “a lot of plain patterns and collared shirts that the school requires, like Vineyard Vines are really expensive.”  


As for changing the dress code in the future, it is safe to say that those in charge of creating the dress code are open to enhancing it in ways that will incorporate more student opinions. It comes down to the voice of the students and speaking about what you like and dislike about the dress code. Mrs. Adams encourages students to advocate for themselves by saying, “Your guys’ job as high school students is to question and push and encourage and help us think, in new ways, and that's one of the things I like about dress code. It leads to these conversations, right?” 


It is very possible that jeans could be achieved in the future and be added to the dress code with the right form of persuasion. “It's healthy friction,” Mrs. Adams approves.