Remember the folks back in the early 1970s who said loosening school dress codes would destroy Western Civilization as we then knew it?
Apparently they were right.
It’s not that one particularly yearns for the standards of yesteryear but somehow it seemed reassuring that students wouldn’t wear pajamas to school, mistaken pants for knee pads, or use their clothing to shock more than make a personal statement. All of those things - and more - have cropped up at one time or another during the past few years on area school campuses.
The big revolution in school dress codes didn’t happen in most Central Valley communities until the mid-1970s.
It wasn’t unusual up until then to see female counselors measure how high dress lines fell above a girl’s knee - two inches was usually the max - or for guys to get sent home when their hair touched their collars.
Collars are those quaint things that once appeared on something called dress shirts.
It was back in the days when guys had two choices of attire - Levis or Lee’s - unless you bought some off-brand of jeans. Pants had cuffs or hems, actually covered one’s posterior, and actually were worn at one’s waist.
Footwear was simpler then too. Unless you wore dress-style shoes it was either black and white Converse or - for those who were really pushing the limit - white Converse. The less trendy guys wore Keds and other not-so-cool brands made in Asia that didn’t cost an outrageous $9.95 a pair.
T-shirts were a no-no. Girls did not wear pants. Shorts were banned. Sandals weren’t allowed on males or females. And - don’t laugh too loud - a guy’s shirt had to be tucked in at all times.
As for head gear it had better be a hood to protect against rain or else you were in the principal’s office in five seconds flat.
There were pitched battles to try and ease the dress code. They’d often pack board meetings that often had to be moved to cafeterias or - in some cases - gyms.
And when the Age of Enlightenment arrived, it did so as a slight thaw in the relaxation of standards.
The concession may seem small today but they were earth shaking back then.
Boys and girls were allowed to wear shorts from the start of school to Oct. 1 and then from May 1 to the end of school. That was modified shortly thereafter to allow them on other days when the temperature was above 90 degrees since schools as a rule did not have air conditioning. They had to be walking shorts or Bermuda-style shorts, though.
Girls were allowed to wear pant suits and open toed footwear as long they had a strap on the heel.
Guys were allowed to wear their hair two inches below a standard dress shirt color. They were even allowed to wear T-shirts providing they were solid colors and had a collar and were hemmed on the sleeves and worn tucked inside the pants.
The reaction - looking back - was amazing. Teens acted as if it was the end of World War II. A fairly large segment in the community acted as if the schools had just steered civilization down the path to Sodom and Gomorrah,
In retrospect, they were both right - to a degree.
I’m all for California causal though there does need to be some reasonable limits.
And as far as concerns over modesty go, everyone back then fretted that girls would show too much cleavage, too much leg, any midriff, and too much shoulder. Who would have thought the real problem with modesty would involve everyone being forced to see a guy’s underwear and crack?
Given the trends over the past few decades, one hopes 40 years from now that saggers don’t turn into full disclosure.