One could suggest we are dwelling on the smaller details, but there happens to be nothing small when we are concerned with greatness. Everything becomes a point of discussion and thought. It is the collective efforts and actions that ultimately make a difference, and so dress code does matter.
From a very personal point of view, there are two reasons why I believe a dress code and uniform are important for boys. The first is that everyone needs to learn to conform at some point. It is a reality of life. Insistence on proper dress is helpful in this regard. The second reason is that we know boys want to be proud of their teachers and their institutions. We know our boys are proud of Selwyn House, and we have to convince them that one way to show this is by taking pride in one’s own personal appearance. We should make no apologies for this insistence. It does not have to be an obsession, but we all need to make a certain commitment. The point is that we need to create an environment where the boys want to dress properly on their own.
I believe we should have a bit of fun, and show degrees of creativity with the dress code. Next year, I would like to say that any colour dress socks are permitted (except white). Maybe some of the boys, as some already do, will use this to express their fashion sense or individuality. What harm could possibly occur? Bow ties and braces should be permitted, grey flannel short trousers with low or high dress socks should be allowed, and I would like to see a student committee formed with the purpose of redesigning a summer dress uniform. I love the idea of casual pants (providing they are consistent and everyone has access to the same style and colour), shorts, a polo-style shirt (dry fit) that can be worn un-tucked, etc. Let’s have the boys work with Pia, and come up with a creative design. That would be experiential. Again, it does not have to be an obsession, but it does require a commitment.
And this is where our own dress and deportment enter the picture. Boys are followers, they rely on modelling for most of their behaviour, and they will, therefore, model everything we do. Dress is important for us to consider if we are going to create expectations for the boys. Our own dress needs to be neat, clean, conservatively fashionable, and needs to reflect the fact that we are in a male environment full of teenage angst, insecurity, low self-esteem, and general confusion.
Attached to this article is a brief comment on dress codes at boys’ schools. It is quite self-explanatory, but I urge you all to read it through and reflect. Once again, self-awareness and self-reflection enter the picture. Thanks to Minna for all her work in discussing this issue with many of her colleagues, both here and in boys’ school from around the world. It is amazing how much we have in common.