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The Indian River County school district in Florida changed its dress code. Here are the new guidelines:

“Almost all words and graphics on clothing and accessories, aside from ‘school-approved clubs and activities,’ now are prohibited. However, the code allows print or a logo no larger than 2-by-2 inches.

Leggings, jeggings — jean leggings — and pajamas also are barred.”

Now when kids sleep in class they’ll have to do it in street clothes.

Many parents are unhappy because they feel their children’s ability to express themselves is being trampled. Are they right?

Let’s conduct a thought experiment. Consider the history of creativity. Now reflect how often a message on a t-shirt was applauded as a breakthrough. Even in fashion, creativity is rarely expressed with a logo or words.

If students want to show creativity with words or pictures then let them write, paint or draw. Further, they could act, sing, or play an instrument.

Let’s also ask if a slack dress code is really an impetus to creativity? You would hardly claim to be a poet because you bought a greeting card. How is buying clothing with someone else’s words on it ‘creative’?

Look at any high school. In most, the students’ clothes are interchangeable — the range of choices, narrow. National retailers dominate. And whatever store is the current  ‘must have’ will outfit the masses.

One of the complaints expressed by the parents of these potentially stifled youth was:

“Older kids want to be able to express their individuality,” said Lisa Berry, an Indian River County parent. “I support that — within limits, of course.”

You know who does express creativity? Kids who have to wear a school uniform. As anyone who has done so knows, individualizing a school uniform is an art. Done well it will give the wearer cachet and respect. Although I’m not talking about Catholic school girls rolling up their skirt which, while no doubt brings the desired attention, does not count as creative.

Let me give you an example.

At my high school, the boys were required to wear a uniform. It comprised clothes entirely in black and white, from a black tailcoat to pinstripe trousers. At some time, lost to history, some budding lawyer noticed that while the dress code addressed everything from shoe style to hair length, it supplied no guidelines on hosiery color. The competition for the most vivid, vilest colored or most imaginatively patterned socks was intense – with bragging rights acceded to the boy with the winning pair.

So let’s not kid ourselves that clothes make the highschooler. Going to school in your pajamas points to indolence, not an individual aspiration to creativity.

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