With some colleges asking students “to wear dignity on their sleeves,” we have tried to decode the dress code.

One of the frequently asked and unanswered questions in the recent date has been the one about the dress code. We are not speaking about the code of conduct, but the more vital and relevant one — the dress code. With Madras Christian College (MCC), Chennai, being the latest to fall in line, it certainly came as a shock to the students. However, Dr. R.W. Alexander Jesudasan, Principal, MCC, refutes all the hype that has been created and says, “We have no such rules. You can come and see for yourself. We have told the students to refrain from wearing objectionable clothing and stick to a certain code of dressing required for higher education.”

Students however, give a different version. “Of course, there is a dress code. There have been several instances when teachers have humiliated students in the canteen and at the gate when they have not adhered to the said codes. We are being made to follow some of the engineering colleges. Even a round neck T Shirt has to be within a certain specification. While discipline is acceptable, humiliation and being yelled at in front of one’s peers is not acceptable. And they lie when they say that they have not enforced any dress code,” says a student from MCC.

Reasoning the rule

Why are college authorities not taking a stand then? Rules have been implemented and students are expected to follow them. Then why shy away from talking about it? A faculty member of Sathyabama College, says, “Codes have been implemented to groom students for interviews. It helps the students in maintaining uniformity when it comes to dressing. If they choose to violate the code, after a warning, it is only then that they are sent home and a notice is sent to their guardians and parents.” Dress codes have always been exercised with caution as youngsters coming from school to college do not wish to continue with the same pattern. “Some of the rules make no sense. For example, boys are not allowed to wear black as it is considered to be party wear and they have to be dressed in formals through the year. And when I say formals I mean full-sleeved shirts, a tie and trousers. Similarly, girls are not allowed to wear leggings, but are allowed to wear chuddidars and patialas. Jeans is a complete no-no,” says Ankita, student of Christ College, Bangalore.

And this does not hold good for Chennai or Bangalore alone. Colleges across the country have been implementing rules to exercise control over the students and claim to do so in order to discipline the students. But there are students who feel that these rules are aimed mainly at girls. In Symbiosis, Pune, boys are not expected to adhere to any dress code, but girls are not allowed to wear anything above the knee including skirts and shorts.

No codes

However, a few colleges such as Fergusson College, Pune, have not implemented the rules, and students have reasons to celebrate. Adreeja Chatterjee, a first-year B.Sc. student, says, “It does not matter to me because I know where to wear what. But the whole idea of the dress code will push me to wear something I am not comfortable in such as requiring me to wear a salwaar kameez. I know I am not wearing anything that is objectionable.”

Some colleges like St. Xavier's College, Mumbai, have used their discretion to maintain semi-formal attire for students wherein wearing sleeves and ankle-length clothes are a must. “We want to create a conducive atmosphere for studies, and this rule is anyhow relaxed on days of ‘Culturals’ and other activities,” says Dr. Frazer Mascarenhas, Principal, St. Xavier's College, Mumbai. Very few colleges in the country such as Thapar University in Patiala have been fairly liberal with their students. “We do not have any codes. Ours is a professional college and we allow students to exercise their freedom in what to wear. We have asked them not to wear Bermudas, but if they do, we do not debar them or penalise them,” says Seema Bawa, Dean, Student Affairs, Thapar University, Patiala.

Even with all the varied opinions, this is one debate where the management and students will always be at loggerheads as the tussle of codes continues and both agree to disagree.