For most people, when the words “boarding school” come to mind, they almost immediately conjure up images of the dreaded dress code; boys donning crisp white shirts, patterned ties, and perfectly polished dress shoes, forced to strictly adhere to an uncompromising set of rules. The dress code is similarly notorious for those of the opposite gender: blazers, plaid beige skirts, and black blouses are a typical uniform for female students.
Despite a few guidelines, such as the regulation against wearing underwear as outerwear, Concord Academy has refrained from regulations regarding attire. With a few exceptions, students are generally free to wear whatever they desire. Yet while this abstention has garnered heavy praise from both students and faculty alike, some are not too thrilled about it, citing body image as the primary concern.
Most notably, the lack of a standard uniform makes it easier for students to compare their physical appearances. In addition, the need to fit in may cause some to fret about clothing brands for hours on end, fearing that the wearing the “wrong” logo might lead to alienation or social inadequacy. These comparisons with others may lead to feelings of inferiority or low self-esteem.
However, while these issues do exist, the absence of a dress code at CA is an overwhelmingly positive quality. For one, it promotes self-expression, allowing everyone to display their unique identities and interests. Choosing what you wear reinforces the notion of individuality and strengthens students’ beliefs in their own opinions. Clothing allows students to convey messages about social justice, express their love for a specific celebrity, or channel their inner Star Wars nerd. Which, let’s be honest, everyone does at one point or another.
The minimal restrictions on attire also enables each individual to feel more comfortable. To most people, leggings, tennis shoes, and a baggy sweatshirt feel much more comfortable than a scratchy, ill-fitting linen suit. Furthermore, studies have shown that comfortable students not only perform better academically, but are also less likely to cause disciplinary issues or violate school policies.
Most importantly, CA’s lack of clothing regulation fosters openness and acceptance. Living and learning in an environment that embraces people for who they are not only promotes a positive body image, but also prevents body-shaming, as students learn to work with those whose physical stature differs from their own. By doing so, members of the CA community learn to look past physical dissimilarities, and instead connect with individuals based on shared hobbies and interests.
Ultimately, CA’s decision not to implement regulation of clothing is the correct choice. It bolsters students’ opinions of themselves, while enhancing the diversity of our community.