I had a elementary school teacher in the 1980s who would share stories of how she and her teaching colleagues, in the 70s, would wear pants to work in protest of the school’s dress code. They would be sent home to change out of their pants before they could return to work. As much as women have made strides in the types of clothes that they can wear to work and in public spaces, men’s choices have not expanded to the same degree.
Why are we so afraid of men wearing dresses? Men have worn skirts, robes and dresses at different points throughout history and still do in quite a lot of cultures today.
The all-male Morehouse College is making news for its new dress codes which prohibits men from the wearing pajamas, do rags, sagging pants, dresses (and a few other identified objects such as sunglasses) in public spaces on campus. Yes, even in their free time. Students who violate the new policy can be kept from attending class. The part that prohibits men wearing dresses is making waves due to concerns that it may reflect anti-transgender (or anti-drag queen) sentiments. In the CNN article, it’s mentioned that the new policy stems from a vision that the college’s president has about fostering graduates who could grow into leaders similar to the likes of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Spike Lee – which I find incredibly ironic given that these men are well known and respected for the way that they have challenged norms, applied critical thinking to social problems related to equality and written eloquently about civil disobedience. Maybe a few hundred of those bright, articulate, wonderful men can get together – yes, en masse -and wear dresses to class.