8 Of The Most Unfair School Dress Codes That You Have To Follow

If I were supreme overlord of the universe, I would do a few things: Demand world peace, make sure nobody was poor, and get rid of school dress codes. Okay, maybe that last one isn’t the biggest priority in the universe, but it’s still a big deal to millions of students every single day. Sure, there would be some limitations to the school dress code ban fantasy; you wouldn’t be allowed to wear anything blatantly offensive like a Confederate flag or something, but otherwise? Wear the mini dresses, shorts, spaghetti strap tank tops, and unnatural hair dye to your heart’s delight! But that’s a pipe dream for many, because schools across the country are strongly enforcing harsh dress codes. When a student can’t even show a little collar bone without the threat of expulsion hanging over their head, you know that things have gone a little too far.

Some school dress code restrictions are a lot more egregious than others, and it’s those more egregious ones that disproportionately affect female students, body shame, and promote a culture of insecurity; any minute a teacher could call you out and punish you for daring to wear shorts on a hot day. What kind of mess is that? Here are eight of the most unfair dress codes that you probably have to deal with. From leggings to hair dye, it’s clear that schools are more interested in controlling students than making sure they’re learning.


Without fail, there's a news story about girls getting sent home early in the school year--during those last, unrelenting days of summer--for wearing shorts to school. Imagine living in the deep south or the desert or anywhere else during a disgustingly hot day and being forced to wear pants. Ugh! School admins and school dress code advocates will claim that it's not the shorts that are a problem, but rather how short the shorts actually are. Uh, have you been to a clothing store that sells shorts? They're all short shorts, okay? Most popular clothing retailers geared toward young women are not selling knee length shorts that grandma wears on vacation. Why should girls suffer just because their clothing options are limited? Maybe schools should just accept that showing some leg isn't the end of the world.

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This is a weirdly controversial take, but here it goes: Leggings are harmless and are no more scandalous than a tight pair of skinny jeans. "But they leave nothing to the imagination!" Again, have you seen skinny jeans? Sure, the fabric might be thicker, but still, the uproar over leggings is so nonsensical that it's borderline maddening. Let people wear their leggings! They're comfy and they're a great layering piece. Why are schools comfortable with using leggings as a way to body and straight up slut shame teen girls? They're leggings.

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Shoulder Bearing Tops

Off the shoulder, Bardot style tops receive an automatic visit to the principal's office, because apparently shoulders are scandalous or something. I'd bet a lot of money that your principal probably rocked some cute single shoulder tops in the '80s and managed to become an upstanding citizen, so the idea that these tops are somehow damaging to The Youths is absurd.

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Spaghetti Strap Tops

In middle school, one of the teachers would always go around and tsk my fellow classmates who wore tank tops with straps that weren't thick enough. Honestly, I never understood what the big deal was. Was it about making sure bra straps weren't visible? Was it because collar bones or shoulders are, like, too sexy or something? Why are schools comfortable sexualizing their students' bodies for the sake of strict rules? What does this accomplish?

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Black Hairstyles

From big afros to box braids, traditionally black hairstyles have been under attack at schools around the world. Afros are seen as unkempt in societies that still idolize Eurocentric beauty standards, and one school excused its anti-braids policy because they're considered hair extensions, and hair extensions can be considered an unfair status symbol. Okay, but to negate the fact that braids are often a hairstyle of extreme convenience and tradition for many young black women is so awful. Why do people think that rules are more important than acknowledging a student's culture and humanity?

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Unnatural Hair Dye

Maybe I'm naïve because my high school didn't have a strict dress code, but the fact that there are schools that restrict students from dyeing their hair unnatural colors is deeply saddening to me. Like...who cares if someone dyes their hair pink or blue or green? Why must schools stifle creativity under the guise of creating a healthy learning environment. One of my best friends in high school dyed her hair blue countless times, and she got amazing grades. And guess what? Nobody else's grades faltered because they were oh so distracted by her hair color that they couldn't focus in class. Enough with the BS excuses.

Buy this dye at Urban Outfitters for $16

ASOS Faux Septum and Ear Cuffs

The pearl clutching around piercings feels so outdated, like when people assumed that having a tattoo meant you were a trouble maker or something. Piercings are so damn harmless and, after the initial "whoa, Naomi has a septum piercing" aren't even that distracting; they just blend into someone's face after a while. The fact that having a little stud in your nose makes you public enemy number one of your school's faculty is ridiculous. If schools can accept ear piercings, they can accept piercings elsewhere too.

Buy these rings at ASOS for $9.50

Skirts/Dresses That Hit Above The Knee

Look, as long as nobody's butt is showing, why all the hubbub over mini dresses or mini skirts? Especially if you just throw on some tights or bike shorts underneath them. Maybe you don't want to be forced to only buy midi or maxi dresses...maybe you want to wear a damn mini skirt!

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What do you consider the most unfair school dress code? Which do you think are fair? Tell us in the comments!

You can follow the author, Ashley Reese, on Twitter or Instagram. Don’t worry, she doesn’t bite!

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