Over the past year, I have become hyper-aware of the media firestorm and controversy over dress code regulation. I am angry at the sexualization of female body parts and frustrated by the standards female students are held to compared to their male counterparts. However, this is not because I have experienced it. In fact, I went all four years of high school without a dress code, let alone a uniform. We could wear whatever we wanted without any restrictions. Over the course of my time in high school, I learned a lot about clothing, self-expression and the benefits of not having a dress code.
Girls learned not to be judgmental
Almost every girl in my grade went through a short shorts, crop top phase, especially as freshman. In a lot of high schools, a girl would be ridiculed or slut shamed for dressing that way, but not at mine. By not having regulations on what we wore, we realized that 14, 15 and 16 year old girls just need time to figure it all out. They may realize that they don’t have to show off so much skin to get their crush’s attention and tone it down by senior year or they’ll figure out that they feel damn good in those clothes and rock them all the way through high school. Regardless, being able to try out those clothes always had a positive outcome and we learned not to be judgmental of each other. Trying out different fashion and styles was not only accepted, but encouraged.
Guys learned to respect women
A popular argument in favor of dress codes is to allow students to focus solely on academics, without the distraction of certain clothing. However, that is not how the real world works. The guys I went to high school with got accustomed to seeing girls in shorts, crop tops and sundresses — all of which would have been banned at a typical school. As they matured and went through high school, my male classmates learned not to objectify the girls based on what they wore. Being in a classroom environment with all genders in all types of clothing, the guys learned to look past external appearance and treat the girl in the crop top the same as their friend in basketball shorts. Best of all, they did it all on their own.
We all learned confidence and self expression
Without restrictions on what we wore, male and female students alike learned to be comfortable in their own skin. We all learned to wear what makes us, not the school administration, feel good. We also learned that clothes are just another method of self-expression, but not the only way to do it. Everyone is multi-layered and we all realized that we could not judge our peers solely based on what they wore to school.
After my high school graduation last spring, I was able to reflect on how fortunate I was to have gone there. I can say that I am going to college this fall feeling totally confident with the clothes I’m taking with, how I’m going to feel in them and how I’m going to feel about myself. I hope by providing a perspective of a 100% positive experience of no dress code, schools and administrators will realize what a benefit it can be.
(Image via Universal Pictures.)