Gender Neutral Dress Codes

I noticed the headline in my newsfeed: “School bans boys from wearing shorts, tells them to wear skirts”.  Yes, you read that correctly, you can check out the link for yourself here.

What are dress codes?

Generally speaking, dress codes are the standards established by an individual school and/or school board to define expectations about what clothing is appropriate for those attending.  It is common for dress codes to include stipulations about text and images on shirts or sweaters and define what length or style of clothing might be too risqué for the classroom.  Recently, such stipulations have been criticised as being far stricter for females than males because of society’s tendency to define female dress as ‘distracting’ for males.  I discussed this in response to complaints at Essex District High School in this post.

Gender Neutral

One of the ways to move beyond such criticisms is to seek to make dress code policies gender neutral – in other words, to establish the exact same standards for males as for females.  The challenge with this, however, is that the fashion trends differ by gender.  Boys tend not to wear short shorts or have to worry about their shirts revealing their bra straps, while girls know how to pull up their pants.


These are less of an issue for boarding schools or Catholic high schools in Ontario where uniforms are the norm.  (Note: Having taught in a Catholic school, I do remember having to instruct many male students to pull up their pants and tell female students to roll down their skirts after having rolled them up at the waist to make the required skirts shorter).

There are a variety of advantages to uniforms particularly when these come from a single source and are thus the same for each person.  It then becomes possible to define what people are expected to wear every day with little variation.  For Chiltern Edge Secondary School in Oxfordshire, that means trousers or skirts with shirts, ties and blazers, an appropriate uniform for those expected to end up in high powered business positions.

What do you think?

Is this gender neutral gone too far?  Would you allow your son to wear a skirt in order to feel cooler in the hot summer months?  Is it OK for females to wear trousers in the cold winter months?  Are these the same thing?  Why or why not?  For more reflection on gender neutrality check this post on the latest heir to the royal throne.

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