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A dress code is a set of rules, often written, with regards to clothing. Dress codes are created out of social perceptions and norms, and vary based on purpose, circumstances, and occasions. Different societies and cultures are likely to have different dress codes, Western dress codes being a prominent example.
In seventh through the ninth centuries, the European royalty and nobility used a dress code to differentiate themselves from other classes of people. All classes generally wore the same clothing, although distinctions among the social hierarchy began to become more noticeable through ornamented garments. Common pieces of clothing worn by peasants and the working class included plain tunics, cloaks, jackets, pants, and shoes. According to rank, embellishments adorned the collar of the tunic, waist or border. Examples of these decorations included, as James Planché states, "gold and silver chains and crosses, bracelets of gold, silver or ivory, golden and jeweled belts, strings of amber and other beads, rings, brooches, [and] buckles". The nobility tended to wear longer tunics than the lower social classes.
While dress codes of modern-day Europeans are less strict, there are some exceptions. It is possible to ban certain types of clothing in the workplace, as exemplified by the European Court of Justice's verdict that "a ban on Islamic headscarves at work can be lawful."
The indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast had a complex social hierarchy which consisted of slaves, commoners and nobles, with dress codes indicating these social distinctions. John R. Jewitt, an Englishman who wrote a memoir about his years as a captive of the Nuu-chah-nulth people in 1802-1805, describes how, after some time living there, Maquinna and the chiefs decided that he must now be "considered one of them, and conform to their customs". Jewitt resented the imposition of this dress code, finding the loose untailored garments very cold, and attributed to them a subsequent illness of which he almost died. He was not allowed to cut his hair, and had to paint his face and body as a Nootka would.
Islam, founded in the 7th century CE, laid out rules regarding attire of both men and women in public. Gold adornments and silk clothes are prohibited for men to wear, as they are luxurious, but they are permissible for women. Men are also required to wear the ihram clothing while on Hajj, or annual pilgrimage to Mecca.
It is recommended in Islam for women to wear a hijab at all times when in public, as part of the Islamic standard of modesty.
Sikhism, which was founded in the Indian subcontinent around the end of the 15th century also requires a dress code. Male Sikhs, who are members of the Khalsa are required to wear a turban at all times.
Each country has its own set of cultural values and norms. Wherever you go these norms and laws regarding clothing are subject to change depending on the region and culture. For example nudity is something that changes in acceptability depending on where you are. In New Guinea and Vanuatu, there are areas where it is customary for the men to wear nothing but penis sheaths in public. Women wear string skirts. In remote areas of Bali, women may go topless. This is uncommon in more western countries. Although in America and some parts of Europe, there are nude beaches.
In the United States, The Gender Nondiscrimination Act prohibits employers, health care providers, and housing authorities from discriminating against people on the basis of gender.
Private dress codes
Many place have their own private dress code; these organisations may insist on particular dress codes or standards in particular situations. Such as for weddings, funerals, religious gatherings, etc.
Employees are sometimes required to wear a uniform or certain standards of dress, such as a business suit or tie. This may depend on particular situations, for example if they are expected to interact with customers. (see also International standard business attire)
In western countries, these policies vary depending on the industry with lawyers, bankers, and executives often wearing suit and tie. Some businesses observe that anti-discrimination laws restricts their determining what is appropriate and inappropriate workplace clothing. Requiring men and women to dress differently at the workplace can be challenged because the gender-specific dress codes would be based on one sex and could be considered stereotypical. Most businesses have authority in determining and establishing what workplace clothes they can require of their workers. Generally, a carefully drafted dress code applied consistently does not violate anti-discrimination laws. So long as the dress code does not favor one gender over the other it is usually acceptable by law for employers to have a private dress code.
In western countries, a "formal" or white tie dress code typically means tailcoats for men and full-length evening dresses for women. "Semi-formal" has a much less precise definition but typically means an evening jacket and tie for men (known as black tie) and a dress for women. "Business casual" typically means not wearing neckties or suits, but wearing instead collared shirts, and trousers (not black, but more relaxed, including things such as corduroy). "Casual" typically just means clothing for the torso, legs and shoes. "Wedding Casual" defines yet another mode of dress, where guests dress respectfully, but not necessarily fancily.
Business casual dress is a popular workplace dress code that emerged in white-collar workplaces in Western countries in the 1990s, especially in the United States and Canada. Many information technology businesses in Silicon Valley were early adopters of this dress code. In contrast to formal business wear such as suits and neckties (the international standard business attire), the business casual dress code has no generally accepted definition; its interpretation differs widely among organizations and is often a cause of sartorial confusion among workers.
The job search engine Monster.com offers this definition, "In general, business casual means dressing professionally, looking relaxed, yet neat and pulled together." A more pragmatic definition is that business casual dress is the mid ground between formal business clothes and street clothes. Generally, neckties are excluded from business casual dress, unless worn in nontraditional ways. The acceptability of blue jeans and denim cloth clothing varies — some businesses consider them to be sloppy and informal.
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Many schools around the world implement dress codes in the school system to prevent students from wearing inappropriate clothing items to school and was thought to help influence a safer and more professional environment.
United States education
In 1996, former U. S. President Bill Clinton announced his support for the idea of school uniforms by stating, “School uniforms are one step that may help break the cycle of violence, truancy and disorder by helping young students understand what really counts is what kind of people they are.” Many school districts in the United States took up the idea.
Even though dress code was created to positively affect schools, a common held belief in the U.S. is that the rules actually impede on students' right to self-expression. There have been many court cases regarding school dress code, the first being the Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District. The case was held because students wore black armbands to protest the Vietnam war.
Dress code violations
Non-communicative dress code violations in public schools are violations that are without implications of hate, gang-affiliation, etc. Communicative dress code violations are violations of an explicit nature, where the clothing has implications of hate, violence, gang-affiliation, etc. In cases where dress code rules in public school systems have been violated by non-communicative clothing, courts repeatedly legitimise dress code discrimination based on gender. Amongst the transgender populations, gender based dress codes are primarily enforced against individuals who do not yet pass.
Dress code backlash
Certain dress code restrictions in schools across North America are believed to be perpetuating sexist standards,
In March of 2014, a group of middle-school girls from Evanston, Illinois protested their school's dress code, which prohibited them from wearing leggings to school under the pretense that it was "too distracting for boys." Thirteen-year-old student, Sophie Hasty, was quoted in the Evanston Review saying that "not being able to wear leggings because it's 'too distracting for boys' is giving us the impression we should be guilty for what guys do." In a Time magazine article covering the incident, Eliana Dockterman argued that teachers and administration in these schools are "walking the fine line between enforcing a dress code and slut shaming."
On Monday, September 22, 2014, "about 100 pupils walked out of Bingham high school in South Jordan, Utah." Students staged a walkout because more than a dozen girls were turned away from a homecoming dance for wearing dresses which violated the dress code rules. "School staff allegedly lined up girls against a wall as they arrived and banished about two dozen for having dresses which purportedly showed too much skin and violated the rules." It is believed that this act was awkward and humiliating towards the female students, which spawned the walkouts.
Dress code backlash
A Canadian teenager, Lauren Wiggins, was given detention in May 2015 for wearing a floor-length dress with a halter neckline. The punishment prompted Wiggins to write an open letter to the school's assistant vice principal at Harrison Trimble High School in Moncton, New Brunswick. In the letter, Wiggins concentrated specifically on the fact that females are often blamed for the behaviour of males, saying that if a boy "will get distracted by my upper back and shoulders then he needs to be sent home and practice self-control." She was then given a one-day suspension after writing and submitting the letter.
- "Is the Cannes Film Festival's dress code sexist?". thetylt.com. Retrieved 2019-04-08.
- Planché, J. R. (1847). History of British Medieval Costume: From the Earliest Period to the Close of the Eighteenth Century. C. Cox. pp. 28, 32–35.
- Langdon, Vedder Price PC-Esther; Maude, Jonathan. "Dress Codes and Religious Symbols at Work in the EU | Lexology". www.lexology.com. Retrieved 2019-03-17.
- A Narrative of the Adventures and Sufferings of John R. Jewitt, only survivor of the crew of the ship Boston, during a captivity of nearly three years among the savages of Nootka Sound: with an account of the manners, mode of living, and religious opinions of the natives.digital full text here p161 onwards
- "Employee Dress and Appearance". Society for Human Resource Management. Retrieved 27 September 2017.(subscription required)
- Thomas, Robin. "Dress Code Legal Issues". Personnel Policy Services Inc. Archived from the original on 14 March 2016.
- "Illegal Workplace Policies: Appearance, Dress Codes, and Grooming Policies". www.employmentlawfirms.com. Retrieved 2019-03-17.
- Bowen, Sherry. "Should Kids Wear School Uniforms?". EduGuide. Retrieved September 22, 2013.
- "School Dress Codes - FindLaw". Findlaw. Retrieved 2017-12-08.
- Herbon, Beth, and Jane E. Workman. "Dress and Appearance Codes in Public Secondary School Handbooks." Journal of Family & Consumer Sciences 92.5 (2000): 68-76.
- Smith, Natalie. "Eliminating Gender Stereotypes in Public School Dress Codes: The Necessity of Respecting Personal Preference." Journal of Law & Education; 41.1 (2012): 251-60.
- Dockterman, Eliana. "When Enforcing School Dress Codes Turns Into Slut Shaming". TIME.com. Retrieved 2015-11-16.
- Carroll, Rory. "Students protest 'slut shaming' high school dress codes with mass walkouts". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 December 2014.
- "High Schooler Lauren Wiggins' Letter Nails Exactly What's Wrong With School Dress Codes. They are often frowned upon". The Huffington Post. 14 May 2015.
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- Majority of Americans Would Rather Die Than Take Their Clothes Off at the Wayback Machine (archived May 23, 2006) (Beach Buzz)