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Skip dress code, go straight to uniforms

Jeff Ackerman

Every high school ought to have a dress code. Especially now that I’ve been out of high school for 32 years.

I didn’t realize when I was strolling down my high school hallways back in 1969 that those belly buttons breezing past me would eventually affect my reading ability. Nor did I imagine at the time the impact those mini-skirts would have on my math skills.

No wonder our nation is seeing an economic downturn today. The baby-boomer generation is finally paying for four-years of skin exposure.

Although those same baby boomers were also responsible for many years of prosperity.

“They’re in school to improve their own futures,” said Carson High Principal Glen Adair in explaining the dress code policy that will be enforced this year. “True, it is a social place, it is a friendly place – but that doesn’t mean it is a place for beach wear.”

The principal probably would not have gotten along with one of my old high school sweethearts, who just happened to be blessed with two bellybuttons. Cross my heart. She had two perfectly-shaped bellybuttons running vertically down her belly and she wore them proudly, oblivious to the potential danger they posed to those seeking a good education.

Carson High has always had a dress code, but students have largely ignored it, according to Adair. Tank tops, short shorts, short skirts and flip flops have been banned for some time, but this year officials really, really mean it.

Administrators say students may as well get used to dress codes now, because the “working world” will not tolerate workers who think they can flaunt their belly buttons. “I submit to you, these are the rules that govern the operation of the working world,” said Adair.

Those snotty little ring-nosed and tattooed Dot Commers who retired at 22 after cashing out millions in stock options must not count as part of the “working world.” Belly buttons are permitted at most “Fortune 500” companies today. Especially if they are owned by engineers who can write code.

Curious to compare classroom attire from 1969, I pulled out my high school year book. And, yes, it’s true, we actually looked like that in 1969.

There on page 43 was my pal Rick. Rick’s hair was tied in a pony tail and he wore a tie-dyed shirt with sandals. Today Rick owns a dozen or so video stores in the San Francisco area and he still wears sandals.

Angelo stood next to Rick wearing an open silk shirt, sunglasses and what appeared to be banana-colored slacks. Angelo made a bundle in insurance and lives a semi-retired life in Marin County.

The girls in my Class of ’69 wore short, short skirts and short, short pants. One of them was Carol, who sat just behind me in alphabetical order. Carol is a dentist today and drives a Porche. Somehow she made it through life in spite of her short shorts. She must have had more above the belly button than met the eye.

For the record, I think school uniforms would be great. Not because they’d make the students any smarter, mind you. If you’ve ever seen the Cincinnati Bengals play football you know that uniforms don’t make you smart.

It’s just that uniforms would be easier on parents when it came to back to school shopping. You walk in the store, grab six white shirts and six khaki slacks and you’re out of there. It would also level the playing field a bit in the area of peer pressure. No one should be killed for their $200 Air Jordan sneakers.

But don’t give me this “working world” defense of dress codes. If you want to control what people wear to your school, swell. Adair is correct in saying there must be something in writing to keep students from wearing swim suits to English.

Swim suits are much more appropriate in biology, or home economics, where the kitchen gets too hot.

As an employer in the “working world,” however, I generally don’t want to know what an applicant wore in high school. I kind of look for brains, figuring I can work around the nose piercing and yellow hair. Drug testing is important, too, considering a printing press is capable of crippling even the best-dressed employee.

I’ll also admit that employees ought to come to work well-groomed. I had an employee once who looked great, but smelled like a gym locker. It’s tough to work with someone who makes your eyes water. Nor do you want employees who deal with your customers to wear thonged bikinis with black socks.

In a satire bemoaning the end of the “New Economy,” a columnist for Fast Company magazine wrote that, “Nothing says ‘Organization Man’ like gray flannel suits. Don’t forget the fedora. Do forget Casual Fridays. And try to forget you ever looked cool. Remember: Business is no longer cool.”

Speaking of cool, clothing manufactuers make it difficult on students seeking a conservative wardrobe. According to a Seventeen magazine (which reaches an estimated 87 percent of all female teens) fashion director, there are many “fun trends” in back to school clothes this year.

“Punk Avenue Princesses,” as Seventeen calls those looking to return to the punk craze of the ’80s, will be wearing miniskirts with hems that reach new heights, studded ankle boots, one-shoulder straps and lots of leather.

So Adair’s got that to look forward to this year.

If I were him I’d skip the dress code and go straight for the uniforms. Something in stripes, perhaps, or olive green. Then again, maybe tweed, with just a taste of polyester at the waist for those seeking to express a wild side.

Jeff Ackerman is publisher and editor of the Nevada Appeal.