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Unwritten Dress Code

By Brenda Christensen
On October 19, 2017

Photo by: Ashley Alonzo

You see him from across the room. You make eye contact. You quickly turn away and start rummaging through your bag, trying to appear busy.

Please don’t come over here. Please, please, please.

You slowly look up and survey your surroundings. He is nowhere in sight. You breathe a sigh of relief.

You feel a tap on your shoulder. You freeze. Oh crap! 
“Your shorts are a little short don’t you think?” You finish the rest of your school day wearing black basketball shorts that you keep in your locker for gym class.

High school dress codes usually range from strict to stricter. No tank tops and shorts that are a “reasonable length.”

No leggings or tight pants, shorts and skirts must be fingertip length and only natural hair colors allowed. Phrases like “bright hair colors are distracting” or “shoulders are a little revealing” get thrown around often. The majority of students found dress codes to be ridiculous and unfair.

College changed the whole game. Finally, some freedom for students to wear what they want, when they want. No parents or school board to tell them no.

So why is it that at Ottawa University students are following a dress code? It isn’t written in any orientation handbooks, yet the majority of students on campus are wearing the same thing. They are all wearing athletic clothes: shorts, leggings, T-shirts branded Nike or Adidas, even their own high school sports team and long socks paired with tennis shoes. Jeans are a rarity, and dresses are only worn on special occasions.

Paige Lindbloom, a senior soccer player, dresses for comfort and to look cute for herself and others.

“Kansas humidity sucks, so I usually go with a ponytail,” she says.

Lindbloom also mentions that the soccer team has a set dress code: “If you don’t dress, you run.”

This is most likely the case for most of the students on campus. They dress for their sport. However, Dr. Kelly Fish-Greenlee, division chair of social sciences at Ottawa University, claims there is more to it.

Fish-Greenlee explains there are a couple sociological reasons why all students are following a “dress code.” A few factors that play a role in how students are dressing including age, socioeconomic status and culture.

She says undergraduate students are going to dress different from graduate students. Many graduate students have internships so they dress a little nicer, while undergraduate students aim for more casual and comfortable wear.

“You can tell a lot about someone’s socioeconomic status by what they are wearing,” Fish-Greenlee says. Most athletic wear is inexpensive, which works out great for college students who are also looking to dress for comfort.

Culture plays the biggest role. Fish-Greenlee explains how culture has gotten a lot less restrictive in what we expect college students to wear. However, students, faculty and coaches all need to be dressed in a certain way.

“Dressed in something appropriate for what you’re doing,” she states. “What you wear denotes your position in a place.”

In a classroom, it is easy to tell who the students are and who the professor is just by what they are wearing. Professors are expected to dress presentable and professional. Students have more freedom and can get away with wearing about anything.

Psychology also plays a role in how students are dressing on campus. Christine Currier, a psychology professor at Ottawa University, talks about a students’ thinking process. She explains that most of the students are in the adolescent stage of life. In this stage, decisions are often made with one goal in mind: fitting in. In the adolescent stage of life, you are trying to figure out who you are.

“You are searching for your identity,” Currier says. “Your peer group helps you figure out who you are.”

Most students at OU identify with a sport, therefore they dress to fit the part. They dress as an athlete to fit in with others around them.

Moving on from high school to college, students are making new friends, finding new hobbies and searching for their identities.

“You are still going to find a way to fit into your new group,” Currier says. How you dress is a very outward way of doing that.

While you may be dressing for many reasons -- a sport you play, to fit in or just because you want to -- you’re an adult now with the freedom to do what you want and wear what you want, when you want.

 

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