DRESSING DOWN: Well, who woulda thunk it. Just when the country is all dressed up in tight-ass Newtwear, who should decide to relax its dress code but little old IBM.
In fact IBM may be one of the last bastions of dark-suited swells left in this country--except for a few nasty law firms and maybe the priesthood. And one of the reasons for this lies with the surprise entrance of women into the office with our prints and pocketbooks, our pants and ponytails. What we've brought with us is a penchant for loosening up. Sure, we started out trying to copy men, the one-color, straight-skirted polyester suits and vests and even white shirts and ties. The female uniform became a look in courtrooms and boardrooms. But slowly women realized just how boring it was to wear the same dark look day after day, and as we became somewhat accepted we loosened up and wore what we wanted.
So now that adults are shedding their starched collars, imagine how surprised I was to hear at a PTA meeting the "what-about-uniforms" chant from a man in a dark suit and tie. He brought this up following one of those gang-prevention presentations that send fear into the hearts of those of us who realize we've bought our kid the cap with this week's gang insignia on it.
Uh, oh. I looked around the meeting hoping to catch another raised eyebrow in the small group, or at least a lapsed Catholic who hated uniforms. No such luck. I was on my own. Removing my rarely washed denim jacket, displaying my favorite Batman T-shirt, I suggested that uniforms don't create discipline, innovative programs that keep kids interested and occupied do.
"But we saw on TV how public schools in California love their new dress codes," recites a woman in a tight, white turtleneck.
Those of us stuck in the public schools want an easy answer to "fixing" our problems, but uniforms ain't it. Ask anybody why they send their kids to private school and uniforms are usually not among the reasons they offer; safety, small class size, academic challenge and good programs are.
Furthermore, giving in to dress codes sucks up to gangs. Because gang members want to wear clothing and colors that incite rival gangs, the children who don't should be subjected to a dress code? No way.
I like the solution worked out at my school--no shirts that say things like "Fuck This," or specific items of clothing the experts tell us is gangwear. I'm still not comfortable banning items of clothing, but when a kid gets beaten up for wearing the wrong color, it's OK to nix it. But please, don't subject kids to strict codes that adults aren't interested in following.
Hey, Big Blue is turning into Big Hawaiian Shirt, and I think that's great. Next thing you know, men will be in the stores buying their own socks.
Stay fashionable, warriors.
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