Hoodies in BC High?

An opinion piece on hoodies at BC High: pros and cons.

Max Bean-Tierney ‘24, Staff Writer

The introduction of hoodies to the permitted school dress code at the start of the 2021-2022 school year was monumental. Student council and individuals had been working tirelessly for years in an attempt to convince administrators and the Board of Trustees that hoodies would be a beneficial addition to the dress code. Yet, many teachers and some students can attest to the fact that the introduction of hoodies has had a more complicated and troubled beginning. So, with the likely prospect of BC High removing hoodies from the dress code for the 2022-2023 school year, what went wrong?

The problem originates with our school’s identity as a private, Catholic, preparatory school. During a meeting of the entire freshman and sophomore class with Mr. Miranda and Mr. Carty, we were told that our behavior when we ride public transportation stands out because of our unique “uniform.” While there are other students from private and charter schools who ride public transportation alongside us, none of them wear the strange combination of formal khakis and relaxed hoodies. This made me think about how the clothing that we wear is the first, most recognizable, and strongest impression that we make to passersby whom we encounter on our commute and after school.

When considered from the viewpoint of a longtime commuter to Boston who has seen many BC High students commuting over the years, our current dress code makes it seem as if our uniformity, professionalism, and prestige have been eroded. Hoodies (especially when one wears the hood up) look like clothes built for relaxing and weekends. When this hypothetical commuter sees the new look of BC High, the strong impression made by the clothing students wear is a bad one. For a school where the majority of teachers call students “gentlemen” and students are sent to elite colleges and go on to work in highly specialized jobs, hoodies starkly stand out. 

Hoodies have also created problems inside the school and classroom. Teachers have complained that students aren’t wearing belts underneath their hoodies or they are wearing their hoods over their heads. Teachers don’t want to waste their time telling kids over and over again to lower their hood or to remind them they aren’t wearing proper dress code.

My English teacher told me “I think students focus sharper when they are dressed sharper.” This is part of why hoodies reflect poorly upon our school’s reputation: they hold those who wear them to a lower standard. When a student comes to school each day with a rigid dress code, it gives them a sense of order and preparedness that is lost when those rules are relaxed.

Yet, hoodies have also brought good to the school. The main justification students provided to the administration for allowing hoodies was that they needed to stay warm. While this may only be half of the reason, hoodies have allowed us to keep warm in some classrooms where it seems the air conditioning is always on, even when it’s 20 degrees outside.

But, hoodies also allow for more individual expression. Trying to find a quarter-zip of your favorite sports team, in order to comply with dress code, is difficult; but with branded hoodies from so many different teams or places, the potential for individual expression is improved.

Furthermore, in a letter to the editor of the New York Times, Janet Giersche describes her experience with school uniforms. She says, “when clothes are no longer the vehicle for self-expression, children turn to expensive bags, the latest cellphones, and other accouterments to demonstrate their affluence.” BC High is a school where students come from many different economic situations. Some students’ families have no trouble paying the $25,150 tuition for multiple sons, while others stretch their budget paying tuition for a single son despite receiving generous financial aid.

When students feel they cannot express themselves through their clothing, they can turn to other ways of expressing themselves. Common ways of expression I see in the every day at BC High are stickers on the backs of iPads or laptops, unique hairstyles, and of course hoodies. These forms of expression help to prevent more detrimental forms of expression from developing in the community. I fear that with the absence of hoodies, the forms of economic class expression that Giersche mentioned may become more common.

Ultimately, it is not up to students or even student council whether hoodies will stay next year; the Board of Trustees is the main decider in the argument. The Board of Trustees is comprised of people who have seen the evolution of BC High over the years and help to plan for the school’s long term future.

Going back to the scenario in which a long time commuter sees the way in which the dress code of BC High students has deteriorated, a similar situation can be observed in the trustees’ perception of the dress code. The new generation of students fiercely desire hoodies, but the wider view of the Board of Trustees makes them not as thrilled.

A solution to this issue is going to require a reconciliation of image with functionality to find what is a suitable middle-ground. What I propose is a return to a dress code that does not allow hoodies, but frequent dress down days, such as 3-4 times per month. This would allow for individual expression for every week, but this also improves our school image by reducing the amount of times we are seen wearing hoodies. This also prevents teachers from telling students that they aren’t in proper dress code because there would be no belt that students would have to wear on dress down days.

It is important to reopen dialogue between the school administration and its students to find a dress code that works well for both groups for the future.

Citation if needed:

https://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/01/opinion/class-individuality-and-school- uniforms-919446.html