YDN Columnist Argues For Dress Code, Fellow Students Say “Get A Life”

Yale Berkeley College 1957

My how things do change. Yesterday we posted a photo of JFK as a college freshman in 1935, wearing jacket, tie and collar pin. Meanwhile in 2016, America’s best and brightest continue the practice of wearing hooded sweatshirts on national television in the “Jeopardy!” college tournament.

Well one Yale student has finally taken to protest, and not the kind of protest that grabbed headlines last Halloween. Yesterday Yale Daily News columnist Cole Aronson published an essay entitled “For an optional dress code,” in which he argues that showing up to class in sweatpants and flip-flops is unprofessional, and that while students wrangle with adult issues such as the renaming of buildings, perhaps they should dress like adults, too, like the guys in the 1957 photo above.

Aronson writes:

Wouldn’t it be nice if, when all the dignitaries who visit our fine school look around, they see students who appear to take what they do so seriously that they dress like adults? And wouldn’t it serve the purpose of reminding us that we’re here not just because it’s sort of fun or useful, but because we’re part of a great tradition of learning going back to the folks who started this place 300 years ago?

How did Aronson’s column go over with his peers? So far there are three comments:


Cheers to Aronson: there’s something tragically noble in fighting a battle that’s already been lost. — CC

41 Comments on "YDN Columnist Argues For Dress Code, Fellow Students Say “Get A Life”"

  1. I’ve been harping on this very fact for awhile now. While I believe people are basically free to act as they please within the letter of the law, I am free to associate with and support those I choose. There is no place in my life for some of these little slobs that have no class. If they are so great and know so much, let them prove it based on their own abilities, not on the backs of others!!!

  2. A few highlights from a particularly remarkable comment:
    “daddy’s .1% country club old boys” (10% of the nation’s wealthy 1%. A remarkable sample.)
    “I would encourage him to diversity his crowd.” (This person seeks a verb. Or do they?)

    If people don’t care enough to think, they probably won’t care enough to wear some decent pants.

  3. Oh, but there IS an “unofficial dress code”: jeans, hoodies, sneakers, etc. Try to dress differently, and wait for the constant commentary.

    BTW, I think the “Jeopardy” students have to wear sweatshirts with school names on them.

  4. The twattery, it burns. Does the snark come from a place of deep self-loathing and acidic envy, or do kids like habitualjoker really associate dressing well with bone-tired clichés they saw on tv?

  5. Many years of after school TV programming has raised them to be independent of adults and that “Kids Rule!”. Why would anyone think that they would want to look or act like dull-witted, dis-empowered grown-ups? Adults are comic relief at best, and villains at worst, as far as they’re concerned.

  6. I must add that kid’s heroes have changed and the ones today dress poorly as a whole. Look at Frank Sinatra, Cary Grant and Joe DiMaggio vs. today’s actors, musicians, and sports figures. Today’s politicians are some of the best dressed citizens yet, the least respected.

  7. “Oh, but there IS an ‘unofficial dress code’: jeans, hoodies, sneakers, etc. Try to dress differently, and wait for the constant commentary.”

    This is a near-fact at a great many universities, and not just for students. I taught for awhile at a small Midwestern college, and was nearly the only person I ever saw in a jacket, much less a necktie.

  8. Well, I gave up on actively trying to get my friends to actually dress well a long time ago. They can have their sneakers and sweatpants. I’ll hold my boat shoes(no pennies yet, my boys) and oxfords close to my chest.

  9. Charlottesville | February 16, 2016 at 3:27 pm |

    I wish more younger men still knew (or cared) how to dress, but it seems to be a dying art. In my office, while sport coats and even suits and ties can occasionally be spotted, generally sweaters and khakis are considered standard business wear. I was at a black tie birthday party on Saturday night where the average age was such that even an old man like me was considered part of the younger set. I have been an annual attendee for the past decade or so, but the tradition started back when the guest of honor was in college, and he just turned 62. One of his former classmates was wearing his grandfather’s Savile Row dinner jacket from 1948. It was a delightful evening, and I am sorry that today’s college men are missing out on the fun of dressing up. But now a blazer is about as dressed up as it gets even for a wedding, and a hoodie and cargo shorts seems to cover everything else. Still, it is encouraging that some of our fellow commenters are in their teens and 20s, so all is not lost.

  10. Chewco L.P. (Offshore) | February 16, 2016 at 4:48 pm |

    The problem is most college students don’t know how to dress. Period. So giving them the carte blanche to wear a jacket and tie or any combo would end up making them look like dimwits and worthy of ridicule anyway. “Look at the guy over there in the quadruple windsor-knot with matching pocket square.”

    The guy who wears the ill-fitted jeans and hoodie will wear an ill-fitted polyester jacket from Express just as well.

    Let us divorce ourselves of the illusion that these kids are aware of style but choose to ignore it for more “comfortable” alternatives like jeans.

    The few who are clued-in DO dress well and look great and get plenty of compliments if for nothing else for the fact that the clothes fit well and are flattering despite departing from the hooded-baggy-jeans norm.

    Christian, your comment section is rather capricious in its denigration of people like KJP (the ‘last hope’ to inspire kids to dress better) and its bewilderment with why kids don’t dress better.

    • John Bracken | February 16, 2016 at 7:12 pm |

      In all due respect, I find chinos more comfortable than jeans. Jeans feel heavy and binding to me. I wear them, but less and less. I am considered slim and not overweight by any stretch by the way!

  11. Marc Chevalier | February 16, 2016 at 6:31 pm |

    Meanwhile, the YDN column’s essay still has attracted just three comments, and it’s doubtful that more will come. The only effect was a collective yawn.

  12. At UC Santa Cruz in the 1980s, replete with tie-dye as you might imagine, my comrades certainly stood out in plus-fours and bow ties. It was, in the parlance of the times, punk as fuck. Sad to know that kids today have little interest in bow ties, being the aforementioned punk as fuck, or (having met some Yalies) education in general.

  13. @Eckener

    Go Banana Slugs… but please clean up your language. No need…

    Cheers, BC

  14. Dress codes. Here’s what I used to tell my high school students, and still do as an occasional substitute, on uniforms, dress codes, style, fashion, fitting in, etc. Step back a few paces both in distance and time and realize that almost all human group behavior is codified in one way and extent or another. . “OK, if you won’t wear a full-on get up from another part of the world for a day, then the homework assignment is to do a half-hour’s worth of thinking on the following quesiton: assuming all your needs are met (food, water, shelter) what if you were the only person on the planet for one year. How much of your total behavior, dress included, but also music, speech, etc., is driven by what you want others to perceive about you? Is there any longer a difference between a Mustang and a Camaro? Pepsi or Coke? Slim Whitman or Twisted Sisters?” If you find this exercise interesting, go into advertising and you’ll do very well. Now, go ahead and do as _you_ please, not what you think will impress others.

  15. Seems to me the 2016 version of preppy is thriving, but mostly among, well, preppies. Barbour jackets, Bean Boots (back with a vengeance), sweaters, and either jeans, khakis, or, among the fairer gender, tights. The 70s-80s incarnation of preppy will be with us over the long haul. Appears to be going strong on at least one Ivy League campus.

    Aside: the khakis and jeans I’m seeing look normal–minimal taper. Thank God. About time the hipster element faded away.

  16. I have to agree with @S.E. here–

    Every time I come home from college on breaks, it’s almost comical how similarly some, and I repeat, some of my old school friends and I dress to catch up over lunch, i.e. chino shorts, Lacoste shirts, and untucked oxfords with sockless boat shoes, etc.

    Even though this is restricted to casual wear (I tend to be more sartorially adroit when I wear dressier clothing), I’ll admit that it’s nice to fit in a bit more than when I’m the only guy in a lecture hall of 250+ people wearing a sport coat (albeit, with jeans) or an oxford and a shetland sweater. In short, from a current college student’s perspective, “prep” style is alive and well, but chances are you’ll more likely find it on a “preppie” than that hipster kid from Seattle.

    …on the other hand, I’ve seen an explosion of Bean Boots, Barbour jackets, oxford shirts, and khakis on campus. I suppose how you find the dress of students today depends on what circle you’re observing…kind of like The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton.

  17. Very casual dress at places like Yale is discordant because it mixes very poorly with the architecture and overall “feel” of the campus. Wearing sweatpants or shorts and T-shirts in formal dining halls, stately libraries, etc., simply looks very odd, as if children or tourists have suddenly taken over these spaces. I guess some day colleges and universities will be designed that match casual clothing better, but till that happens, baggy shorts and a tank top in a wood-panelled “hall” will continue to look strange. Not rebellious, mind you, just strange.

  18. Some things that I think have been missed: why is it that almost everyone who wears bonafide natural shoulder/ivy/trad clothing buys vintage and/or from a handful of specialist shops? Because the vast majority of smarter clothing for sale today is outsourced, does not last particularly well and most importantly features such delights as visible logos, minuscule short collars, undersized sports coats and, most degrading of all, trousers with a rise so low as to be verging on indecent exposure. Such features are ubiquitous outside of vintage or the likes of O’Connell’s, Press and Mercer and Co. And despite being made in China or similar, such items often don’t come cheap. Is it any wonder that most people aren’t tempted by them?

    Of course wearing an undersized suit jacket with trousers falling off the butt may be better than sweatpants and a T shirt, but it’s still no surprise that many people prefer the latter. At least it’s no effort and little outlay.

    The days of the high streets being full of elegant, long lasting and affordable men’s clothing are long gone.

  19. Chewco L.P. (Offshore) | February 17, 2016 at 10:18 am |

    >> The days of the high streets being full of elegant, long lasting and affordable men’s clothing are long gone.

    Theory #2:

    Do you know why no one dresses well nowadays? Because back in the days, kids could walk into J. Press and get a whole outfit for maybe $10 (adj. for inflation this would be approx. $100).

    Nowadays clothes cost one million dollars and that’s just for the jacket. Now tell me you want an authentic natural shoulder, undarted, hook-vented, blah, blah, blah, you’ll definitely need to pay more.

    Look at BB’s new OCBD for example. It costs the same as a brand new laptop. So the kid would skip the OCBD, get a laptop and use the change to clothe himself (maybe a $10 hoodie from the Gap?).

    Maybe when Comrade Sanders imposes free tuition for all kids, they’ll use the saved $ to invest in $300 OCBDs and $2,000 sport coats.

  20. You’re absolutely right. The shops are full of reasonably-priced, elegant, long-lasting and well-made men’s wear. In fact, it is far easier and cheaper to buy a pair of trousers that are not low rise than it has ever been before in the history of Western civilization. Why off the top of my head I could name you over 2 and half shops selling men’s trousers that are not low rise – and that’s just in the USA. God bless neo-liberalism.

    (Note to self: must stop hanging round with Stalinists so I don’t lose touch with reality again.)

  21. If he agues too much he may need to see a doctor.

  22. Marc Chevalier | February 17, 2016 at 11:25 am |

    I won’t ague that.

  23. I think they can all use a tour of duty in the military/Iraq to straighten them out.

  24. Worth noting that one can get a collared shirt, khakis and a cotton V-neck for a song at Old Navy, which if sized correctly, still looks better than most of what is worn on campus these days.

  25. I am witness daily to the deplorable dress on today’s university campus. It extends to faculty and staff ranks as well, and perhaps is simply symptomatic of the general decline everywhere. Specifically, everyone dresses in black, as if in perpetual mourning, but worse, in tech gear and shabby bargain basement garments. And no, you don’t have to spend a lot to look like you know how to dress well–that is a tired excuse for the laziness of not making appropriate personal appearance a matter of common courtesy. It’s a matter of priorities.

  26. If you find something that fits at Uniqlo the prices are unbeatable.

  27. Charlottesville | February 17, 2016 at 2:29 pm |

    Oli – So true. I just rode in a university elevator with someone, and found myself wondering whether he had picked out the truly hideous athletic shoes he was wearing on purpose, or if they were simply the cheapest pair on offer at Walmart. As MRS, DCG and others have pointed out, one need not spend a fortune, and I really don’t expect the average guy to seek out traditional Ivy clothing, but a wool or cotton sweater, khakis and leather shoes should not be beyond anyone’s budget. I could dress better shopping at a Salvation Army or Goodwill thrift store than the mass of students and many faculty and staff. As suggest above, it reflects a lack of courtesy and a focus on unfettered self, as well as a pervasive fear of standards as being exclusionary. Pictures of the crowds at ball games in the 40s or 50s shows a sea of jackets and ties, and even a couple of decades later when I was a kid. ordinary working stiffs used to dress better than today’s professionals. Simple pride in appearance is in no way elitist.

  28. One of the important tenets of Ivy/Trad/Preppy was its effortlessness. The look always struck a balance between appropriateness and irreverence. Unfortunately in today’s society, even an oxford and chinos (not too mention weejuns) has the appearance of “trying to hard”. It’s the old argument of clothing vs. a costume. A student today following “the rules” to a T will look like a walking gimmick. While it will always be disappointing that the level of sartorial awareness has eroded on campuses, it should not come as a surprise that students are reluctant to reintroduce it. Furthermore, in today’s highly charged campus climate, the connotations of what the look represents might make targets out of students simply trying look good. Christian touched upon this here “http://www.ivy-style.com/cast-your-vote-is-trad-politically-incorrect.html”. I hope things will change in the near future, I just would not bet my house on it.

  29. Simply a question of whether one wants to dress like a civilized human being or street trash.

  30. I hear you, Charlottesville. I work on a large university campus, and I stick out like a sore thumb, even though, essentially, I am wearing nothing better than what I wore when I was in college a few decades back, e.g., crewneck sweaters, OCBDs, casual sport coats and the occasional tie, chinos, Weejuns. I get strange looks from every kid who passes me, and I swear, some of the looks are even hostile. Perhaps I resemble/represent the repressive parent, or some arch-conservative authority figure they’re rebelling against? Perhaps they simply don’t like how I match my colors, or the width of my pants cuffs? Here’s the thing, though–next fall I’m returning to the classroom, as a part-time student. I’ll be recognized not only by my graying temples but also the hooked vent of my jacket!

  31. Marc Chevalier | February 17, 2016 at 8:13 pm |

    Several more comments have been posted at the YDN site.

  32. I honestly never fully understood the “get a life” saying.

  33. Marc Chevalier | February 18, 2016 at 6:45 pm |

    Not to worry. You’ll live.

  34. Henry Contestwinner | February 20, 2016 at 1:14 am |

    “Get a life” is a way to dismiss another person’s concerns as trivial, regardless of whether or not they are. It is a disrespectful expression, and arrogant, too, because it assumes that the speaker’s priorities are the only correct ones.

  35. It’s a fact that clothing is a form of communication, just like the written word. Your clothing choices communicate to the world how much you respect yourself and others. When clothing choices are poor, so too is the message being conveyed by their wearer. I would challenge any Yale student that thinks holding clothing to a standard is frivolous to tell me that holding the written word to a standard is also frivolous.

  36. Maybe if these Yale guys wore a jacket to class every now and then they would understand percentages. And they say THESE are the well educated ones.

  37. Vern Trotter | March 25, 2018 at 9:48 pm |

    Several years ago there was talk of a poll of Yale freshman that revealed the majority could not come within 50 years when asked to give the dates of the American Civil War, unable to differ between Herbert Hoover and J. Edgar Hoover but regardless, thought he invented the vacuum cleaner and thought Manual Labour was a Mexican bandito.

    I never knew if it was a legit report but it even now rings true and brings a smile.

  38. I am reminded of the fact that when I was at Yale, my friends and I debated whether it was 80% or 90% of the students who were complete idiots.

    There to make money and there to market their privilege…one is reminded of the responses of old Geneva.

  39. Andrew K. | May 18, 2020 at 10:28 pm |

    Interesting that some of the people who complain about students dressing like slobs, are the ones who think it is somehow cool to wear boat shoes held together with duct tape, threadbare jackets, white bucks never cleaned, etc. Guess what, that was the heyday version of the stuff you are complaining about today!

  40. Andrew K. | May 18, 2020 at 10:31 pm |

    Intentionally scuffed OCBD collars in the 60’s = torn jeans today

    Not saying you should walk around like all your clothes were just removed from the shopping cart, but never understood the desire to look like a slob.

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