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10 Outdated School Dress Codes (And 10 That Still Remain)

Riley O’Keefe was one of many female students at a Florida high school to have a black bar digitally added to her yearbook photo to hide her chest. Credit...Bartram Trail High School Yearbook

When it comes to dress codes throughout history, there have been plenty. Some reflected the societal views of the time, some were trying to unify the way the students looked, and others were, well… just really strange. And while dress codes have changed drastically throughout the past century, some rules that applied back in the day seem to still apply today. So today we wanted to take a look at those in particular – to dig up 10 dress codes from the past that are since gone and 10 dress codes that still apply.

Some of them definitely still make sense and seem to be appropriate, while others did not stand the test of time. From boys wearing hats to girls wearing makeup, schools have always dictated what kids and teens are allowed to look like for class, and we doubt they will ever stop. While dress codes seem to have become way more lenient, they are still there, and we think, to an extent, some of them are still necessary.

Now here they are: 10 dress codes from the past century that are luckily not a thing anymore and 10 of them that some schools still apply.

20. Girls Weren’t Allowed To Wear Pants


Up until around the 1970s, girls were not permitted to wear pants to school; they had to wear either dresses or skirts. But as women started getting out of kitchens and becoming part of the workforce, fashion rules started changing, and by the early ’70s, most schools caught up with the times and let their female students attend class in pants. While some girls love and live for dresses, a lot of us really can’t imagine having had to go to school in a skirt or dress every day. Seems like that would have been such a hassle. Good thing this dress code is not applicable anymore!

19. But They’re Still Not Allowed To Wear Skirts That Are (Too) Short


Okay, fair enough: The skirt rules have changed drastically, but there are definitely still rules in almost all schools on how short the skirts can be. And the most common rule is the “fingertip rule,” aka the skirt can’t be shorter than where your fingertips reach your thighs. And while we often see this rule being completely thrown out the window in teen TV shows, in reality, kids do actually get sent home if their skirts or dresses are too short. We have definitely come a long way in what is allowed now compared to what was allowed back in the day, though.

18Girls Were Not Allowed To Wear Makeup


Schools, up until a couple of decades ago, didn’t allow girls to wear makeup to class. And while schools still definitely have what is considered acceptable and not acceptable makeup, the rules of this have become much more lenient. Some girls even start wearing a bit of makeup like lipgloss, mascara, or blush. While it is still questionable whether girls should start wearing makeup at a young age, it is undeniable that the makeup industry became huge and its influence will definitely remain. And today girls are rarely sent home for wearing too much makeup, while back in the day, that was the case frequently!

17And Boys Are Still Often Not Allowed To Wear Makeup


While schools got way more lenient on the idea of teenage girls having their eyebrows on fleek and contour chiseled, boys are still quite often discriminated against. Guys who love wearing makeup tend to be sent home from school if they show up with the same look a girl would totally get away with. And while society is still at a stage of debating whether this should be acceptable, it is evident that schools and their dress code rules, which have already undoubtedly come a long way, still have quite a bit to go. Kids still get sent home for things many people think should not matter.

16Jackets And Sweaters Were A Must


Back in the 1940s, wearing jackets and sweaters was an important part of every school outfit, especially for boys. Seeing them in just a shirt was unimaginable and considered very impolite. Needless to say if one showed up without a sweater or jacket they could put on, they were immediately sent home, and probably even got detention for breaking the rules. Seems silly nowadays, doesn’t it? But yeah, popular society’s perception of what is acceptable fashion has definitely changed incredibly in the past century! Kids nowadays show up to class in pretty much sweatsuits, and nobody even seems to care!

15But Showing A Lot Of Shoulder And Cleavage Is Still A No-Go


While lots of rules got less strict, there is still common decency that prevails in school dress codes, meaning too much skin is definitely something that might cause a controversy, and the girl or boy showing it will most likely be sent home. A lot of schools still have very specific rules on what is acceptable cleavage and how thick the tank top straps need to be. Some schools definitely still require the shoulders to be completely covered, but nowadays this is also something that is heavily influenced by the climate of the area, as well. Warmer places tend to be more open-minded about showing more skin because, well, it’s warm outside!

14Girls Could Eventually Wear Pants If They Were Part Of A Coordinated Pantsuit


As we’ve already mentioned, once the late ’60s and early ’70s came around, schools everywhere allowed girls to wear pants, but frequently they weren’t any pants they wanted to wear — they had to be part of a perfectly coordinated pantsuit! And while these were very very popular at the time, and in our opinion very boss and ladylike, they were still a constriction and meant you couldn’t wear just whatever pants you liked. But hey, fast forward only a couple of years after that, and this rule was completely banished from all schools, allowing women to wear whatever darn pants they pleased!

13And Distressed Jeans Are Still Often Not Allowed


While jeans themselves were not allowed at all for a while after they got popular (mainly due to the fact that they were considered to be worker pants and not appropriate for a school environment), distressed jeans are still often an issue. The fashion trend was already quite popular in the ’80s, but it had its revival in the 2010s, and plenty of kids got sent home ’cause their jeans had “too many holes in them.” Regardless of what some may think about them, the distressed jeans stayed around for quite some time, and it seems as if schools are starting to slowly accept some more modest versions of them.

12Haircut Rules Were Very Strict


Nowadays, kids can rock pretty much any haircut and hair length they like, but just a few decades ago, that was not the case, especially not for boys. While girls were pretty much allowed to wear shorter and longer hair, boys’ hair could not be below the bottom of their ears. Of course, with the ’80s, that all changed, as longer hair became more acceptable for men, too. And while schools still might have rules on what color kids can’t dye their hair, often most hairstyles and colors are allowed. Besides, who could stop a teenager from experimenting with their hair anyway?

11But Nowadays The Face Must Still Be Well Visible


While hairstyles aren’t really that big of a deal today, it is still important that the student’s face is well visible. This means that punk or emo hairstyles where half of the face is covered with side bangs are not really acceptable in most schools. It makes sense that the students should have their faces visible at all times, and well, if half of a face is covered with hair or anything else, it is difficult for teachers (and other students) to recognize the person. So we do sort of understand the reasoning behind this dress code rule, as it seems to make some sense.

10Corsets Were Required In The 1920s


Almost a 100 years ago, females were required to wear corsets to school, and while most of us nowadays associate corsets with rather sensual clothing and lingerie, that was definitely not the idea behind this back in the day. The corsets were there solely for two purposes: to make girls sit up properly and to help their posture — which is honestly something students do struggle with a lot, and to flatten out their chests and make their figures more boy-like in hopes of making sure the girls distracted the boys less. Yup, society has come a long way in realizing women shouldn’t be changed or blamed for men’s behavior.

9And Bras Are Still A Must


While corsets are thankfully not a requirement anymore (can anyone really imagine the pain of having to wear one of those each and every day?) bras still are, and there have even been cases that made the news recently of girls being sent home from school because of this issue and the look of their shirts without the undergarments there. The debate on whether this is acceptable or not seems to still be quite fresh, and it seems that this particular wardrobe issue really isn’t that big of a deal. It’s their body, and everyone has them, so why is this whole thing so unnecessarily controversial?

8Sneakers Were Not Allowed


Sneakers are probably the most common shoe that kids choose to wear to school nowadays. And who could actually blame them? They’re flat, super comfy, and quite fashionable — especially with the current “athleisure” trend going on! But kids were not always allowed to wear sneakers to school (except for gym class, of course), as they were considered adequate only for sport, and not attending class. However, in the late ’70s and early ’80s, this slowly changed, and sneakers became everyone’s favorite footwear. And many think this was a ridiculous dress code that should have never existed in the first place.

7And PJ’s Are Still Not Allowed


While PJ-like clothing such as sweatpants, leggings, and comfy T-shirts are allowed at most schools today, PJs are still usually prohibited under the dress codes. The only exception to this rule is if the school has an annual “come to school in PJs” day, in which case the code obviously wouldn’t apply. And frankly, we do believe this one should stay in place: PJs are for bed, after all, and we all hope kids wouldn’t sleep during their classes (although we bet some do). Besides, other super-comfy clothing is allowed, so there is no need to change this rule!

6Shorts Used To Be A Requirement For Boys


The same way that boys had to wear hats regardless of whether it was warm or cold outside, there was also a dress code making them wear shorts to school, instead of long pants. This one was changed around the 1930s, and boys were finally allowed to not freeze their legs off in cold winters. Whoever thought school uniforms should include shorts instead of pants hopefully got fired, and ever since, kids were allowed to wear weather-appropriate clothing. This is definitely one of the more weird dress codes from the past, one that really doesn’t make much sense at all.

5And Uniforms Are Still A Thing In Some Schools


Uniforms used to be a requirement in almost all schools back in the day. But as we know, now uniforms are not as frequent anymore, which allows the children to express themselves through their own style, as well as be more comfortable in what they are wearing. However, some schools still apply the uniform rule, especially more expensive, private schools. While the benefit of uniforms is the fact that no one can judge each other’s appearance — as they all look same — many also believe it does make certain children uncomfortable and it seems quite unnecessary at the end of the day.

4Girls Weren’t Allowed To Wear Maxi Skirts And Dresses


Alright, this might come as a shocker, but back in the ’60s when maxi dresses and shirts started becoming very popular, schools used to prohibit their students from wearing them. Their explanation for it? Long skirts were taught to be just as distracting as super short ones, which is why girls had to stick to a midi length, the skirts couldn’t be shorter than just above the knee or longer than mid-calf. A weird thing to think about, right? Luckily, this dress code didn’t last for long, and as soon as the ’70s came around, you could see floor-length skirts everywhere!

3Boys And Girls Still Have Different Dress Code Rules


One thing that’s still evident is that even though our society has slowly started grasping the importance of equality, gender neutrality and fighting gender stereotypes, school dress codes are still very often divided between those for girls and those for boys. And while we understand it’s going take a bit more time to adjust to the idea of seeing young male teens with makeup or in a dress, having the same rules apply to everyone definitely seems like a positive step forward to a more inclusive and free school environment where children can explore and be what they truly are.

2Boys Had To Wear Hats


Up until pretty much the beginning of the 1950s, boys had to wear hats to school, regardless of if it was winter or summer. Hats were just a part of a decent male outfit back then, and not wearing one was considered rude. It’s crazy to imagine that nowadays, it definitely seems like a huge hassle to have a hat on at all times. Luckily for everyone, this ridiculous dress code was not much of thing in the ’50s and boys finally got rid of that hat-hair look, which meant they got to explore the world of different hairstyles a lot more!

1Kids Are Still Not Allowed To Wear Whatever They Please


Lastly, one thing that remained is that dress codes still exist, even though their contents have changed drastically. Kids are still not allowed to wear absolutely whatever they want, and while that is constraining, it may also be necessary. As long as most rules are gender-neutral and don’t discriminate against anyone, we think a little bit of guidance when it comes to dressing for school isn’t so bad. There are still of course dress codes that stir up controversies and have students and their parents ask themselves if they are really necessary, but many do believe a lot of those codes will still change in the coming years.

By Jelena Aska

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