What you wear today may haunt you in the future

January 30, 1997

Tim Rowland

Herald-Mail columnist

I want all you kids out there at Williamsport High to know that I am behind you 100 percent in fighting the school dress code.

One word of warning though. Twenty years from now, when your own kids find your yearbook in some old trunk and start picking you out in all the old photos, you are going to WISH there had been a dress code.

I say this because 25 years ago when I was in grade school, the big fashion items were hideous, fringed part-suede, part-vinyl vests that looked like sort of a cross between Daniel Boone and Disco Duck.


The longer the fringe, the weirder the coloring (marbled snake was particularly "in") the better. Fortunately my parents never gave in and I was forced, hanging my head in shame, to go to school wearing a mere shirt.

But now I am so glad they stood firm. Because former classmates of mine are, as we speak, hunting down and killing anyone who may by chance have photographic evidence that they once wore these abominations.

So think about it. Do you really want your squawking kid to come up to you some day saying "Daa-aaaad, why do you have a 20-foot chain hanging out of your pants?" Or "Maa-womm, why do you have what appears to be a radiator-hose clamp dangling from your left nostril?"

But if you think you can handle the ridicule, well, godspeed.

Let's be clear; if I were a parent I would like nothing better than a dress code. But I am not, a fact I take as a license to make trouble.

Besides, I can't argue with any group that answers to the name of the Western Maryland Anarchists Collective. I think a kids' group with a name like that threatens all the right people. And I love the kid who called the newspaper and asked whether the two hours he spent protesting in front of the board of education could count toward his community service requirement.

I know. People say we have to wear uniforms or conform to dress codes all our adult lives, so get used to it.

Yeah, but all their adult lives they're also going to have to shave, pay Social Security tax, bring home a paycheck, get the emissions system tested, keep a budget, make dental appointments and remember to buy heating oil. Being a kid is just another name for the grace period you're afforded before you have to act normal.

A dress code isn't about rights. Kids have no rights. If there were any due process in Ms. Martin's fourth grade English class, I should like to have known about it. Superintendent Wayne Gersen said some dress, patches for instance, might be protected by free speech. A patch supporting Bill Clinton would be protected, he said, a patch promoting marijuana use would not. How one tells the difference between the two is up to administrators.

Also, there's the understood, if not legal, right to look, dress and act like a complete loon and get it out of our systems by the time we're 21.

In theory, anyway. For some, 21 is just the beginning. I quote from the Associated Press: "Men - are you ready for nail polish? Not that clear coat you sometimes get at the end of a manicure, but serious nail polish with dark, metallic colors.

"Candy Man is the name of this first line of nail polish aimed specifically at men. Priced at $12 a bottle for .45 ounces in a choice of seven shades, it's expected to hit the cosmetics counters in February."

Uh-huh. All of a sudden those rainbow suspenders don't look quite so bad, do they? And as for the dog collars? Well who's to say they're not just practicing to become presidential political consultants.

At least there's no male nail polish on the students. At least not until someone might happen to mindlessly bring it to their attention that such a thing exists. But who would do a thing like that?

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