Fri | Feb 28, 2020

Review dress code for gov't establishments

Published:Monday | October 6, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Recently, there was a tempest in a teacup over the actions of a high-school principal as he stridently enforced the dress code. It was reported that he saw that the girls' uniforms were regulation lengths ... or else. Students were reportedly sent home to have their apparel altered appropriately.

It was further revealed that the students of that particular high school and another in which similarly strict attention was being placed on the adherence to uniform length, were underperforming in the CSEC examinations. It was suggested that perhaps if more attention were placed on academics and less on the school uniforms, the passes may have been better.

I'm not defending the administrations of the schools that were highlighted, but perhaps the principals were attempting to instil discipline in schools that woefully lacked it. Perhaps it's the lack of discipline, in spite of their efforts, that has led to poor exam results.

As I see it, a uniform is just that ... a uniform. If schools were to abandon uniforms as required dress, then parents would cry out for their inability to afford regular clothes for attending classes and there would evolve fierce competitions to see who could dress better than whom. Soon, the less fortunate students could be easily identified by their inability to keep up with their trendy schoolmates. So, I believe that we are stuck with school uniforms (clothing that conforms to one rule).

Whereas I can fathom the value of being strict regarding regulation uniforms, I am at a total loss when it comes to understanding the rules concerning the dress code for visitors to government entities.

These institutions (like government offices, police stations, hospitals, health centres and so on) have dress codes for visitors that do not permit the wearing of shorts, shoulder-less, spaghetti-straps, see-through or sleeveless blouses, tights, tank tops and so on. The representative of one establishment generalised the stipulations by saying that visitors must dress modestly (whatever that means). Another said that they must be dressed appropriately as if they were going to church. Obviously, the rule makers have never been to a Roman Catholic church.

Recently, a young woman that I know attempted to do business at the Registrar General's Department. She was dressed modestly. I believe that her dress would be acceptable anywhere, but it lacked sleeves. For this, she was instructed to leave and dress 'appropriately'.

Out of hand

Sometimes things get out of hand where the dress code is concerned. About four years ago, a woman went to a police station and tried to report another woman in the community. She was turned away for not being properly dressed. When she returned to the community, she ended up being killed by the same woman that caused her to seek assistance from the police. It was reported in a Gleaner piece that, coming out of that tragedy, the police high command issued a directive that the dress code be relaxed for persons making reports.

Even grief-stricken parents and relatives are turned away from public hospitals if they are deemed to be inappropriately attired. Most of the time, one's attire is the very last thing on one's mind when a loved one is seriously ill. It is heartless to turn away someone for wearing the same clothes that they would wear in any city capital.

The way I see it is this, if the clothes worn would not constitute lewd apparel and would not cause someone to be arrested for (public) indecency, I see no reason why that same outfit cannot be allowed into government (public) buildings or entities.

The dress code for government institutions are ridiculous, hypocritical, unfair, sectarian, archaic, bigoted nonsense. It's time to get rid of them. Short of exposing private parts, I can't imagine how one's attire can influence the way that business is conducted on government property.

Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to and