Pop Rocks: Dress Codes Are Worse Than Sagging Pants
I went into business for myself years ago for a variety of reasons. But there are two items on my list of things I want out of a job that I have tried to maintain. First, I don't want to be penalized for being fast. If I can get my work done in half the time someone else can, I shouldn't have to sit around in an office all day just to fulfill some ridiculous time requirement. Secondly, I hate dress codes.
Photo by Mike Powell This was once a fashion trend too.
Since I was a kid, I thought they were dumb. Why was it necessary for me to wear a collar at school? What distraction exactly was I providing for other students if I sat in a t-shirt. I remember talking with the guidance counselor at my former high school a couple years after I graduated. That previous year, they instituted a hair policy that did not grandfather in guys who already had long hair. So, as an act of rebellion, a large number of them shaved their heads -- it felt like half the senior class was bald. Administrators were shocked -- being bald wasn't against the rules, but it was damn weird -- and my response was, "Well, what did you expect?"
And this is not to say there is a time and a place for everything. It's one thing to wear cutoffs to a formal wedding or show up at a business meeting in a t-shirt that says, "Is that a pistol in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?" But, I've long thought that dress codes were more about enforcing a doctrinal discipline on a particular group of people than appropriateness. Case in point laws regarding sagging pants like this one from Pikesville, Tennessee.
Look, I get that guys wearing their pants so low you can see their boxers is kinda stupid. I'm not one that particularly wants to see another dude's underwear, but you have to have it pretty good if your town of 1,600 people can spend time making laws about the scourge of sagging drawers.
To make matters worse, it is highlighting the "problem" with a giant yellow marker when, for all intents and purposes, this is a fad. Banning sagging pants would have been like banning bellbottoms in the '70s or shoulder pads in the '80s. Just as fashion trends have moved the waistline on women's pants up and down over the decades, my guess is the same will be true of men's pants, just as I imagine hipsters won't always default to skinny jeans.
And it's bad enough to deride the clothing and those who wear it, but to attach and actual fine to them seems ridiculous. I'd love to fine a people for bad breath or farting in elevators or writing a check in the express lane at the grocery store, but I'm not going to introduce a freaking law.
The problem is that this is not just about underwear and civic pride. It delves into personal taste and, more uncomfortably, exclusionary tactics designed to alienate those who are different. Some dress codes are nothing more than ways to keep undesirables at bay.
Recently, my wife and I were in Fort Worth for a few days. Around the corner from our hotel was a nightclub and posted near the door was a dress code that included things like no flat-billed caps, no tank tops or gold chains. And this wasn't a country bar. This was a douchey club. But, similar stories have emanated from bars along Washington Avenue here in Houston where dress codes target very specific demographics as a means of keeping them out.
When reading this though, I just kept thinking, "This is probably not your biggest problem, club owners." I've gone to many bars, clubs and live music venues over the years. I've seen some pretty disturbing crap and none of it had to do with clothing.