Fashion has always been an important part of our society - no matter how superficial that may seem, and young adults were always especially prone to finding and expressing themselves through the clothing they wear. Of course, this also means that schools always found a way to limit the expression of individuality and one's own fashion sense by applying strict and ridiculous dress codes. And while we have come a super long way with schools allowing kids nowadays to wear pretty much whatever they want, we still do have a bit to go.
But just as a reminder of the journey behind us, we've decided to take a trip down memory lane and look at some of the most prominent dress code rules for both, boys and girls, all the way back to the roaring '20s. By looking at the school dress codes from different decades, you can totally tell how much fashion trends actually influenced them. Like distressed denim or cropped tops became popular and all of a sudden schools had to rewrite their dress codes taking those into consideration as well.
Okay, here are 20 school dress codes, from the 1920s all the way up to our current decade.
20 1920's Girls: Corsets Were A Requirement
Back throughout the roaring '20s, a pretty common school dress code requirement for girls was that they need to wear a corset. This school rule would pretty much be applicable somewhere from middle school on, or as soon as the girl starts growing. The goal was, of course, not to give her a super tiny waist - which is our first thought when someone mentions corsets, but rather to flatten out her chest and make her look more boy-like. Either way, can you imagine girls being forced to wear those to school? What a hassle that seems!
19 1920's Boys: Uniforms Included Hats
Yup, in the 20's a majority of school dress codes required that boys always come with a hat, as hats were usually a part of their school uniform. As everyone already knows, hats used to be a big fashion thing back in the days and men would rarely be seen without them. Which is why this school dress code doesn't really come as a surprise. And guess what, if you forgot your hat because you rushed out of home to not be late for school, well, you'd definitely be sent home for breaching the dress codes. Hats were not taken lightly back then!
18 1930's Girls: Knee Or Ankle Socks Were Allowed Instead Of Stockings
Up until around the early 1930s girls were required to always wear long stockings, no matter what the outside temperature was and how warm the weather. In the '30s this started to slowly change, as they were finally allowed, even encouraged to switch out their stockings for knee-high or ankle socks. This goes hand in hand with the two becoming more popular in female fashion in general, and schools picked that up quickly. Either way, this was a huge step-up for the female school fashion game, and you bet all of them immediately hopped onto this slightly more risky and skin-showing trend!
17 1930's Boys: Shorts Weren't A Requirement Anymore
One common thing for school dress codes of the first third of the 20th century was that boys were often required to wear shorts, sometimes even during winter time. It was just what their all-year-around uniforms used to look like. Well, sometime in the 1930's this changed as many schools stopped insisting on shorts as part of their boy's uniforms. While they could still wear them if they wanted in the spring and summer, the colder winter days they could spend in warmer and longer pants. Not to mention that their look also went form child shorts to grown-up pants, and the boys sure did love that!
16 1940's Girls: Mary Jane Shoes Were A Must
During the 1930's and 1940's Mary Jane shoes - aka closed low-cut shoes with one or more straps across - became a fashion staple in every girl's closet. They were so popular that some schools even required their students to only wear those. Thankfully, Mary Jane's are pretty comfortable, so no one was complaining. And as for the teens, there were even slightly heeled versions, so that they could look extra fancy and put-together if they wanted to. And even though we're decades away from the 1940's, Mary Jane still has a loving spot in today's fashion world! Yes, your grandma rocked them, so why wouldn't you as well?
15 1940's Boys: Jackets Or Sweaters Were Required
In the 1940's most schools required their boys to always wear either a jacket or a sweater over their shirt, regardless of the weather conditions. It was considered very casual attire just wearing a shirt with nothing on top of it, and school was obviously everything but a casual environment back in the days. Which is why boys had to sweat during summer school (and not just because they didn't know the test answers), but luckily for them, this school dress code didn't last for too long as, we suppose, everyone soon realized how ridiculous and unnecessary it actually was.
14 1950's Girls: Very High Necklines
As global fashion started drastically changing, schools everywhere had to adapt their rules, because certain things were not already part of the school dress codes simply because fashion didn't require them to be. But as the 1950's came around, fashion allowed the ladies to drop their necklines more and more, and well, school's obviously had to do something about that in order to make sure the girls stay "decent" during class. Which is exactly why this dress code stepped in place, making sure the girls are covered up to their necks, as nothing bellow was acceptable. Seems crazy compared to today's schools, doesn't it?
13 1950's Boys: No More Hats
While girls in the 30's, had to pull their necklines higher up, the boys were finally allowed to ditch their everyday school uniform hats! Schools gradually relaxed when it comes to the hats and stopped requiring them, which, honestly most boys were beyond happy about! Now they didn't have to wear hats on a daily basis anymore, especially not on those warmer days. This also allowed male hair trends to flourish more, as the hair was pretty much exposed all the time. Welcome to a new era, where boys cared about what their hair looks like pretty much just as much as girls did!
12 1960's Girls: No Floor-Length Skirts And Dresses
This one may seem a bit odd, as you'd think that conservative fashion was still a major school dress code, but floor-length dresses and maxi skirts were pretty much forbidden in most schools. In the 60's the maxi dress and skirt trend became quite fashionable, but as far as schools go, the maximum allowed length for the hemline was about mid-calf. Long skirts were considered just as distracting as super short ones, and getting sent home for wearing a maxi wasn't so unusual at the time. Who would've thought that going shorter was more acceptable, but hey, apparently it totally was!
11 1960's Boys: No Jeans Allowed
The jeans really had their big breakthrough in the 1950's and 1960's, and as cool as they were (and still are), they were not considered appropriate for school. This means that boys still had to stick to actual proper pants, and leave their jeans for after school and weekends. Of course, this all soon changed, but for a certain period of time, the world's most favorite bottoms were prohibited at schools. As for girls, they were still mainly forced to wear skirts, even though certain schools here and there slowly started allowing their female students to wear the pants (in the school).
10 1970's Girls: Coordinated Pantsuits Were Allowed
Praise the 1970's as they finally meant school girls can wear their pants just as well as boys can. Granted it usually had to be a coordinated pantsuit - something like in the catalog add above, but you bet girls all over schools were thrilled to finally show the guys who the actual bosses were. This school dress code was a huge milestone for female fashion, and it symbolically meant women were getting a step closer to equality. Besides, 70's wide-legged pantsuits were totally fierce and bossy, and 50 years later they are still finding they're way into the fashion world.
9 1970's Boys: Hair Can't Be Below Bottom Of The Ear
Since guys dropped the hats, male hair trends went totally wild. The main influence on hair trends were big rock bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, whose boys rocked all sorts of hairstyles throughout the 60's and 70's. And obviously, young boys were excited to recreate those hairstyles, which many schools thought to be too much. As a result, school dress codes about boy's hair length were set in place, hoping to stop this long-hair madness from happening. Generally the hair couldn't be longer than the boy's bottom of the ear, but as you're guessing, this rule didn't stay up for too long! At the end of the day, schools just can't fight fashion...
8 1980's Girls: More Casual Collars Allowed
Hello 1980's, and the dropping of the female neckline at school. Of course, a too-revealing neckline was still not allowed, but hey, at least your collarbones could breathe during the summer. Another crucial change is that a lot of schools stopped requiring their girls to wear dress shirts, but instead they could opt for polo shirts or even more casual T-shirts. 80's fashion was wild in colors, and you can totally tell that that trend was picked up all over schools, with kids coming in wearing super bright colors and fun patterns! As silly as some of it seems to us today, it was totally loved back then.
7 1980's Boys: No Ripped Clothing
The 80's kinda made that whole ripped jean clothing trend flourish, and once again, schools had to put a new dress code in place, one they probably wouldn't even think was possible a few decades earlier. Now boys (and girls) would start showing up to school in distressed denim jeans and jackets, and the schools were definitely not happy about that. After all, even though school became way more casual compared to the 1920's, it was still a place of education, and education is a serious matter where no ripped jeans or jackets belong. At least not back in the 80's.
6 1990's Girls: No Exposed Midriff
Oh, the 90's. Any millennial out there is gonna feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside remembering that time period. One thing that was a staple in every girl's closet was a cropped top exposing your midriff to the whole world. Well, except to your school, because chances are, you were not allowed to show your midriff at school. Well, someone should have told Britney and Christina to stop showing us their bellybuttons then, it wasn't our fault. Either way, 90's girls made sure to rock the exposed midriff look after school, and guess what, 20 years later we are still doing it!
5 1990's Boys: No Overly Baggy Pants
Another thing the 90's brought us were those big baggy pants that both, boys and girls were rocking all the time. Yeah, from the Backstreet Boys to TLC, baggy pants were the it pant of the decade. And yes, there was a huge difference between slightly baggy and 90's excessively baggy, and the later was something most schools had a dress code prohibition on. The funny thing is, just like cropped tops, baggy pants have currently found their way back into the fashion game, which just makes us wonder has the time come where millennials are running the fashion industry?
4 2000's Girls: Skirts Had To Reach The Tips Of Fingers
The mini skirt was always popular, but in the late 90's and early 2000's girls rocked it in schools everywhere. And a general rule schools had on them was that it is okay if the hemline reached to the tips of your fingers when you have your hands down by your sides, which, granted, was still pretty short. But hey, it was allowed, so none of us cared, and we rocked our best Regina George wannabe outfits. Comparing this to the required mid-calf skirt hemlines of the 1920's, female school fashion codes have really come a long way in making it shorter.
3 2000's Boys: No Grillz
Oh yeah, with rappers like Lil Wayne and Flo Rida making Grillz super trendy, it was only a matter of time kids at school would start showing up with them as well. And well, according to most school standards, braces are one thing, but Grillz are another and therefore not allowed in school. Looking back at this trend, seeing a 15-year-old rocking Grillz in history class does seem a bit excessive, but hey that's what the 2000s were all about, being extra and going all out! Lucky for most schools, the Grillz trend has slightly calmed down, at least for now, but with fashion trends, you never know!
2 2010's Girls: Must Wear A Bra
Our current decade has been quite lenient on school fashion, and most things that were previously prohibited on this list are pretty much fair game now. But every now and then there's a news article about a silly school dress code that makes social justice warriors on social media go crazy. And one of them is the fact that girls who don't wear a bra to school, are often required to change or even sent home. Of course, no one cares about male nips showing, which makes this whole issue a lot worse.
1 2010's Boys: No Skirts
The same way girls are often put into a certain corner regarding their fashion choices, boys are as well. Which means if a boy shows up to school wearing makeup or a skirt, he won't be put up to the same standard a girl would, instead he will be asked to take the makeup off and sent home. Regardless of what people's personal opinion is, these kinds of school dress code rules disable young people to express themselves and be who they are. Again, we've come such a far way, and in a world that loves Ru Paul, a teen boy with some makeup at school really shouldn't be an issue.