“The mission of Morehouse College is to develop men with disciplined minds who will lead lives of leadership and service. A private historically black liberal arts college for men, Morehouse realizes this mission by emphasizing the intellectual and character development of its students. In addition, the College assumes special responsibility for teaching the history and culture of black people.” Morehouse College is dedicated to the total development of young men. As such, we strive to instill in the hearts and minds of every young man the foundational principles of appropriate conduct and attire. This commitment is designed to achieve an important objective of the Morehouse mission: “to develop men with the values, knowledge, and skills essential to impact the world as leaders.” Some policies include the ideal attire for different settings at Morehouse; including modest, casual, or business attire for social and recreational activities.” -from Morehouse College Office of Student Conduct
Growing up, like some of you, I heard comments like “your skirt must be finger-tip length”, “no spaghetti straps,” “no sagging,” and “wear a belt.” Although there are many differences in dress codes regarding females and males, both can put constraints on self-expression. Growing up, I often saw how some girls were judged or frowned upon for wearing shirts or dresses with spaghetti straps. Or if boys didn’t wear belts, they were seen as thuggish for “sagging”. From elementary school all the way up until high school, dress codes have been enforced and, in most situations, there were consequences if that dress code was not followed. Now, as an adult, professional attire has been implemented as a sort of “dress code”, but many arguments have been made about how this takes away from one expressing themselves.
Although student uniforms have been imposed throughout many schools across the U.S,. Morehouse College has taken steps to keep students in what is considered “appropriate” clothing. Even though Morehouse doesn’t have uniforms, they still implement policies to keep students in what they consider “appropriate” clothing. They limit certain accessories so that self- expression is decreased, and everyone conforms to the same standards when it comes to clothing. No du-rags (head wrap) and no slides (type of sandal), and if you’re a college student, you understand the constant struggle of pulling all-nighters and rushing into your 8AM class in pajamas. That’s not allowed.
Through many conversations, I’ve asked the question of many students as to what they think the motives behind the dress-code being enforced upon the men of Morehouse could be? Some straight men feel as if their blackness is being limited, and they’re being constrained from expressing their true selves based on what they cannot wear on campus. However, I posed a question to those I spoke too, and asked how those apart of the LGBTQ+ community felt about the dress-code. Many sat back and pondered how the dress code restricts those students who are non-binary/gender-fluid or how they may feel. Although, dress-code and professionalism are both important and necessary, the world is shifting in the way we view gender roles and sexuality. As we are evolving many are becoming aware of issues such as expanding the use of pronouns and creating a safe space for those who identify as LGBTQ+. However, a safe space isn’t possible when one who may identify as non-binary wants to wear a dress one day but realizes that’s not possible due to the dress-code. The question I’m left wondering is “how can we create a space for students on all campuses when they are being limited in what they are allowed to wear when leaving their dorms?”
Morehouse’s effort to get back to its legacy makes me question what direction they’re going in. Times are changing, and in my opinion, the visual representation of a Morehouse Man shouldn’t look the exact same from when Martin Luther King graduated in 1948. Personally, I believe the dress-code needs work. College is a time where many find themselves and they do so by exploring their inner self which can include their style, especially being away from home and entering a new environment. Self-expression is important and can show up in many ways. Taking that away and policing students can negatively impact a student’s experience on campus. Modifications can be made to the dress code, so that self-expression is implemented without taking away from being “professional or business casual”. For example, jeans can be worn with a button-down shirt so that it’s still casual and it also allow for students to express themselves more and not feel so confined. I hope to see more modifications made to the Morehouse dress code that allow students to show up fully expressing themselves the way they want to everyday.