School dress code: should it become more or less strict in high school?


Photo via Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons License.

By: Sarah Quiceno, Reporter

It seems that as soon as students reach high school, the dress code becomes more lenient. As we get older our bodies start to mature. However, this doesn’t mean our choices in what we wear to school do too. This leads to the question of whether stricter dress codes for younger grade levels really make sense compared to the more flexible high school rules.

Elementary and middle school dress code

The majority of elementary students memorize and follow the dress code. 61.6% of middle school students break dress code, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The blame cannot be entirely put on these students though. Dress code rules for this specific age level are stricter and more heavily enforced than any other.

A minimum of 2-fingers-width tank tops, shorts and skirts not being above middle finger length when arms are at your side, no crop tops, and no ripped jeans are just some examples of the basic dress code rules younger students have to follow. Consequences for breaking the dress code vary from warnings, in or out of school detention, to temporary suspension.

Kids of elementary-age tend to not dress inappropriately to begin with. Their parents are usually the ones who buy all of their clothes, which makes this especially true. Yet somehow it seems that the list of dress code rules between elementary to middle school students are taken much more seriously in comparison to high school students.

Trying to buy clothes that fit the school dress code for middle school students can especially become very difficult  quickly. Most of the clothes sold at the mall are cropped or have rips, and therefore would not be allowed. It’s also nearly impossible to find dress code-appropriate clothes for warm weather. For example, shirts that completely cover a girl’s stomach or don’t show too much shoulder are rare to find. These rules make it tough to not accidentally wear something to school that would get you in trouble.

High school dress code

As you step into high school, most students and teachers become much more relaxed when it comes to dress code. Seeing students attend class with tank tops, ripped jeans, or cropped shirts is nothing out of the ordinary. Unless you wear something extremely inappropriate to school, you won’t be told to change or be punished for it.

As a high school student, you try to express your personality through your clothes a lot more than when you were younger. The fact that high schools tend to be more lenient with dress code really aids students in this aspect. At this age, students typically buy their own clothes. This freedom of being able to buy what you truly like is perfectly displayed in any high school hallway as you see different styles and trends.

Some outfits worn by high school students could never pass in a middle school environment. This proves that as students get older, the rules become more flexible. The ideology behind this could simply be maturity.  On the other hand, it could also be the fact that as a high school student, you get more freedom to make your own decisions. You are expected to make the right choices without always being told exactly what not to do.

Should dress code become stricter as students get older?

Parents control most wardrobes of middle school-age students or below. These are parents would generally not allow their child to go to school in inappropriate clothing. Because of this, I believe the amount of rules for this age group regarding what they cannot wear is too strict. Students ages around 9 or 10 shouldn’t have to question if their classmates are distracted by their shoulders in a shirt bought and possibly even picked out by their own parents.

According to an article by, “The top back-to-school stress point for adults, on the other hand, was ‘Shopping for clothes and school items,’ cited by 56% of those surveyed. ” This proves how parents stress over what clothes to buy their children to wear to school. This is an effect of the strict dress codes for that age level.

When it comes to high school dress codes, I think the rules are valid. At that age is when students can become the most rebellious in their clothing choices. But on the other side of it, students also become lazy with their outfits at this age. If you ever look down a high school hallway, the majority of students will be wearing outfits that resemble pajamas. This is most likely due to the fact that at this point in their school careers, students value comfort over being fashionable. So in reality, those who attend school in tiny tops and shorts, or excessively ripped jeans make up a much smaller percentage than believed.