BYU-Provo and BYU-Idaho both have fairly strict dress codes. Although, they are not as strict today as they were when I attended BYU-P in the late 60s and early 70s. Then women couldn’t wear pants, and skirts and dresses had to reach below the knee. Now women, at least in Provo, can wear pants and not-to-short shorts.
The whole issue of dress codes was recently in the news again when President Kim B. Clark of BYU-I wrote the following to his subjects:
While out and about yesterday I noticed that a few of you may need a refresher to three items in the dress and grooming standards. The three things that caught my eye yesterday were:
- pants that did not make it down to the ankle [hemmed up too high or rolled up];
- faces of young men not clean-shaven; and
- shorts on campus (just remember to wear warm-ups).
It looks like they have a problem “right there in River City,” I mean Rexburg.
So why is the dress code so important? Here is the Prez’s reason:
The dress and grooming standards are one of those small things on which big things depend. Obedience brings the blessings of heaven, to you individually and to the whole campus community.
Well this reason seems sort of silly. According to Sam Brunson posting at bycommonconsept.com:
The dress and grooming standards can’t be about modesty, ankles and toes [flip-flops are banned] and beards, oh my! And if all they’re about is obedience, well, that’s stupid.
So if they’re not about modesty or obedience, what could they be about? Here are a few ideas:
- According to Nate Oman, these standards allow for a virtually costless rebellion (because the harm of violating those standards–and thus becoming a rebel–is far lower than the harm of things like smoking or drinking.
- According to Brunson, since BYU-I has low tuiton and a universal acceptance policy, a ridiculous dress and grooming code is a rational way of keeping attendance at reasonable levels.
- While I was at BYU-P, the theory was floated around that the rules were there to impress potential ultra-conservative donors. (Remember, I was there during the flower-power era.)
- The BYU-I Prez’s apparent obsession (wasn’t the university also concerned about skinny jeans) with the rules might also have something to do with his background at the Harvard Business School. Doesn’t MBA training sometimes encourage appearance (or form) over substance?
Anyway, why do I think BYU-I continue to put the LDS Church in a bad light with its ridiculous dress and grooming standards? That’s anybody’s guess.