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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

STUDENT DRESS CODES

BRYCE ON APPEARANCE

- If the dress code was left to students, what would they select?

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A couple of months ago I was involved with a panel discussion at a local high school to discuss time management. This was a special session made available through the business program at the school and was open to all students interested in their career beyond high school. I was pleased to see over 100 students attend the session. Coupled with this, the teachers appointed the day as "Professional Attire Day," meaning the students in the business program were asked to dress up. Instead of t-shirts, shorts and gym shoes, they were asked to wear suit and ties for the men, and dresses for the ladies. This was very much appreciated by the panelists who complimented the students on their appearance.

Following this, we developed a questionnaire to determine how the students genuinely felt about dressing up for the day. I received the responses recently and tabulated the results. Frankly, I was surprised by how the students responded. I suspect you will too.

PROFESSIONAL ATTIRE DAY SUMMARY

A. Did you feel MENTALLY sharper today as a result of dressing up?

75 - Yes
39 - No
1 - No answer

B. Did you feel PHYSICALLY better today as a result of dressing up?

71 - Yes
41 - No
3 - No answer

C. Did you feel more CONFIDENT?

83 - Yes
31 - No
1 - No answer

D. Did you feel SUPERIOR to others?

70 - Yes
45 - No
0 - No answer

E. Did you feel more POSITIVE in your outlook?

93 - Yes
21 - No
1 - No answer

F. In what ways could the DRESS CODE of students & teachers be changed to reflect a more professional image?

Collared shirts (16)
School uniforms (12)
Ties (6)
Looking professional (5)
Have regular day to dress professionally (perhaps Fridays) (4)
Khaki shorts (4)
Business casual (3)
No shorts or tank tops (3)
Wearing slacks (2)
Less trendy or vulgar things (2)
Teachers should wear ties or suits (2)
Teachers should enforce dress code, not ignore them (2)
No short shorts.
No jeans.
Not allowed to have ANY image on shirt.
No flip flops.
Can be expensive, but improves self esteem.
Wear nicer clothes.
(many no responses to the question or illegible answers)

G. What is the BEST part of Professional Attire Day?

Compliments on dress (17)
Looking my best (13)
Feel more professional (12)
Looking sharp (6)
Ties (3)
Dressing nice with peers (2)
Wearing slacks (2)
Points you get for the class (2)
Confidence
Uniformity
(many no responses to the question or illegible answers)

H. What is the WORST part of Professional Attire Day?

Florida heat (25)
Shoes (8)
Dressing up (4)
Waking up early to get dressed (4)
Having to get dressed up (4)
Being stared at (3)
Choked by ties (2)
Sometimes uncomfortable (2)
Having to change for gym (2)
Shirt tucked in.
Trying to stay clean.
Buying a new outfit.
Friends laughing at you.
Embarrassed.
Wearing a dress and sitting on the ground at lunch time.
Dress flies in the wind.
(many no responses to the question or illegible answers)

I. CONCLUSIONS

Preface: There were 115 legible responses to the questionnaire from students. Two were submitted blank and not counted in the summary. Many of the text responses were illegible. The comments shown were grouped together based on commonality as observed by the reviewer; the text entries were not all identical. It appears most students answered the questionnaire sincerely. As to be expected, some answered just to pacify the teacher and earn credit for the day, mostly negative.

Observations: In general the "Professional Attire Day" was well received by the students who perceived it as a positive experience as denoted by Questions A - E. I had expected a positive response for Question A, "Mentally Sharp," yet was surprised that the students also felt "Physically Sharp." Overwhelmingly, the students felt more "Confident" and "Positive" as a result of dressing up. As further evidence, in question G, the students appreciated the compliments they received for their dress, and liked looking professional. In other words, they felt invigorated by their appearance, thereby heightening their self esteem. This added to their personal image as expressed in Question D, "Superiority."

As to the negatives of the experience, the Florida heat proved uncomfortable, particularly for young men in dress suits. Having to change clothes for gym was also bothersome. A small handful felt embarrassed by the experience, and were uncomfortable having their friends laugh at them. There were others who simply disliked the experience and preferred to dress slovenly, but they were definitely in the minority.

As denoted by Question F, the students were overwhelmingly in favor of improving the dress code on campus. There were many comments in favor of a school uniform. There was also suggestions for having a "Professional Day" at least once a week, possibly Fridays, where everyone dresses up for the day. There were quite a few students who disliked, t-shirts, jeans, flip-flops, and short shorts. The implementation of collared shirts was strongly suggested, as well as ties. However, due to the Florida heat, wearing ties may not be a viable option. Also, the selection of shoes should be carefully considered; not gym shoes but something expressing a positive image and were comfortable. Khaki shorts for men were also suggested, as were slacks.

Whereas I had expected a rejection of dress codes, I was surprised to learn the students actually wanted a better code than what they currently have, for both students and teachers alike. In summary, they appeared to genuinely take pride in looking their best. They felt more positive and confident when dressed up as opposed to being dressed down. I sensed there is currently peer pressure, to dress badly. If the student body was allowed to vote on the school's dress code, you would probably be surprised what they would chose, at least with those students involved with the business program.
 
It was obvious to me the students comprehend the effect of a professional image, both at school and beyond. Some genuinely yearned for a better school dress code as opposed to the slovenly appearance which is currently the norm. They may appreciate the concept, but will they be allowed to implement it? After the summary was prepared, it was presented to the school for their consideration. I will be curious to see how school officials respond.

Keep the Faith!

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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim's columns, see:   timbryce.com

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