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Are Remote Learning Dress Codes Fair?

Some schools require students to wear uniforms or ban PJ pants for virtual learning. Does what you wear affect how well you learn? Two Choices student advisers weigh in.


As long as I’ve been going to school, I’ve followed a routine: wake up and put on my uniform. Now that my school is remote, my routine’s the same. It may feel like more of a hassle to get dressed than to just roll out of bed and log in to class wearing the same thing I slept in, but the effort is worth it. I’ve found I’m more attentive on days when I wear the full uniform than on days when I wear just the required shirt with pajama pants. That’s why I believe dress codes for online learning are useful: They create a sense of formality, keep students connected, and help us stay focused.

Dress codes preserve a sense of normalcy in a world where so much has changed. According to Northwestern Medicine, having a routine helps with stress management and can improve sleep and overall mental health. Limiting our clothing options to either a uniform or just a few outfits that adhere to the dress code gives us one less thing to worry about each morning.

Dress codes also serve as an important visual connection with our classmates, especially if some students are at home while others are in school. It can be hard to meet new people or get to know a person better when you are not face-to-face with them in the same room. Being required to dress similarly creates a shared connection between you and your classmates, the same as it was in person last year— even if that connection is just commiserating about how dorky the dress code is!

Opponents of dress codes for online learning might argue that they interfere with a student’s comfort while they adjust to a new learning environment.

However, having no dress code whatsoever takes the idea of comfort too far. In our online classes, we already get to enjoy being in a more relaxed setting and not having to wake up as early as we normally might. Dress codes can serve as a counterbalance, a subtle reminder that even though we aren’t in our usual school environment, we still have to keep up with our classes. Overall, having a dress code for virtual learning benefits students, even if it means taking a bit more time to get ready each morning.


Imagine this: It’s a chilly morning, but you’re cozy in your pajamas, sipping hot chocolate in bed as you wait for your online class to start. Sounds great, right? For me and a lot of students this winter, this fantasy will be a reality. Remote learning during the Covid-19 pandemic is far from perfect, but being able to be cozy while you do it is one of the few silver linings. That’s why I don’t think there should be a dress code for virtual learning: So much is different about this year, students should be able to take comfort wherever they can find it.

Many aspects of the current situation may feel stressful for students, and physical comfort can help foster emotional comfort in an unfamiliar situation. For me, that means sweats and pajamas—not stiff, structured clothes or uniforms. If a student is comfortable in more formal clothes, they should be free to show up to online class in a tuxedo. Obviously, there should be limits: No one should be logging on in their underwear. But we need the freedom to choose our own outfits, not have them dictated to us.

Another reason I believe students should not be required to adhere to a dress code for remote learning is the economic implications for families. According to a survey by the Urban Institute, one-third of the people surveyed said their families were having trouble affording basic necessities like food, rent, and utilities as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. If parents are struggling to feed their children, the last things they should be spending money on are uniforms or fancy new clothes just to comply with a dress code.

Finally, I think dress codes are a bad idea because they are too hard to enforce. What is a teacher supposed to do if a student shows up on Zoom wearing a T-shirt instead of a button-down? Kick that student out of the virtual classroom? Send them to the virtual principal?

Teachers have enough challenges these days making sure the technology for online teaching is working and ensuring their students are learning the materials. They shouldn’t also have to be the online fashion police.

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