Do schools need dress codes?

Dress codes in schools are currently being debated in several European countries. In Sweden, clothing that is considered to be typical of gangsters is a thorn in the side of teachers. In France and Switzerland, teachers are concerned about girls dressing in a way that is too revealing. Now some girls at a school in Geneva are being made to wear an oversized T-shirt that reads "I am appropriately dressed". Commentators discuss whether such rules make sense.

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Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

False morals harmful for girls

For the Tages-Anzeiger, the 'T-shirt of shame' says more about those who force girls to wear it than about those who have to wear it:

“The T-shirt is a textile pillory. It conceals bare skin while laying bare a harmful morality. Apparently the female body is still seen as a danger which must be banished by shaming women. ... Such moral concepts have made life difficult for many girls and women for too long. The focus is always on their bodies. And these ideas also make life more difficult for many boys and young men, who are accused of lusting after a bare knee or staring at a décolleté. That said, there is a simple way out of this bind. The pupils could discuss such issues with their teachers. Because there are arguments for why pupils should dress differently for school.”

Göteborgs-Posten (SE) /

Common rules create identity

A primary school in Gothenburg has introduced a dress code that bans jogging trousers on the grounds that they are the kind of clothes criminal gangs wear. Criticism to the effect that pupils from low-income households will be harder hit by the new rules is unjustified, according to Göteborgs-Posten:

“Schools with many weak pupils and major disciplinary problems stand to benefit most from a dress code. In this way they can take up the fight against the gangs that are otherwise the only community, identity and strong status symbols available to their pupils. ... The radical legacy of 1968 still has great influence on social issues in Sweden, including school. The rights of the pupils are uppermost. ... But the absence of duties does not strengthen people. Least of all those for whom the middle-class identity and good socio-economic conditions do not apply.”

Libération (FR) /

No such thing as "normal" clothes

The French Minister of Education Jean-Michel Blanquer said during the debate that pupils should simply dress "normally" for school. But every norm is a social construct, sociologist Nadia Vargaftig responds in Libération:

“But of course! Let's just be normal, ladies! ... What is more normal than the norm? Why do we researchers in the humanities and social sciences even bother to question, deconstruct, contextualize and confront norms? ... With their call for a norm, and what's more, for normality, Blanquer and Macron hope to end a debate about norms that we undoubtedly need in order to live together, but the historicity and purpose of which must never be forgotten or underestimated, and least of all the purpose of exercising domination.”