The times, they are a-changing. Most of us are more likely to admire someone’s tattoos or funky haircut than to find them unsavory, but that hasn’t stopped schools all over the world from partying like it’s 1951 when it comes to writing their dress codes. A 13-year-old UK girl found this out the hard way recently when her edgy, on-trend hair style landed her in the headmaster’s office.
Lauren McDowell was rocking a half-shaved haircut with a cheetah-print dye job — a style she’d been wanting for a long time — when she was informed that the ‘do violated her school’s dress code. Her school’s head teacher said the style goes against explicit guidelines that state extreme haircuts and hair colors are not allowed in class. Her mom says her dismissal is a “human rights violation” and her daughter is being discriminated against.
McDowell attends a private school that requires uniforms and a strict dress code, so the school is totally within their rights to set guidelines for how students dress on campus. Still, it seems like the rules that govern modern schools and professional settings are increasingly out of date. I mean, what’s the real harm in letting a teenager experiment with their hair?
Despite our insistent prejudices, body modifications like tattoos, piercings, and hair dye do not preclude someone from being an upstanding citizen or leading a successful life. You can have a nose ring and a PhD. You can even shave half of your head and give yourself cheetah spots and still manage to get straight As.
People argue constantly that dress codes exist for a reason and “unique” styles are too much of a distraction, but to me those arguments sound like a lame excuse to continue policing bodies based on sexist, classist, and lazy stereotypes. A recent Pew Research Study showed that almost 40 percent of people ages 18-29 have at least one tattoo. Clothing is becoming increasingly gender neutral and it’s not uncommon to see people from all walks of life — including plenty of moms and dads — rocking creative and colorful hairstyles.
The idea of “traditional” dress is fast becoming a thing of the past and stifling kids’ ability to express themselves through fashion and hairstyles just doesn’t make sense anymore. It’s easy to say “dress codes exist for a reason” and push for the standards of decades past, but that argument simply doesn’t make sense. You shouldn’t need to look a certain way in order to be successful or be respected by your peers. You shouldn’t need to adhere to strict guidelines to prevent people from unfairly judging your intellect, abilities, or sense of morality. I’d rather see a hundred thriving students with whacky haircuts and piercings than yet another generation of kids raised to believe body policing is okay.