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Boys Turn Tables On Traditional Dress Code Debate


In a unique twist on dress code protests, boys wore private school uniform skirts during a heatwave in Devon, England. The school had rejected the parents’ and boys’ advance requests to allow boys to wear shorts—essentially daring them to wear skirts—and then complained about how much of the boys’ legs were showing when they arrived wearing skirts.


When authorities issued a level three heat-health warning for Devon County, boys and their parents from Isca Academy in Exeter requested the boys be allowed to wear shorts, rather than pants as required by the dress code. Toward the 20th of June, temperatures were climbing above 30 degrees Celsius—hitting more than 80 degrees Fahrenheit and beyond—which is abnormally hot weather for June in the UK.

In fact, the school said the students would be put in isolation if they wore shorts.

One mother said, “My 14-year-old son wanted to wear shorts. The headteacher told them: ‘Well, you can wear a skirt if you like’ – but I think she was being sarcastic. However, children tend to take you literally, and because she told them it was OK, there was nothing she could do as long as they were school skirts.”

While the dress code requires boys to wear long pants, girls may wear pants or tartan skirts. On Wednesday, five boys attended school in the uniform skirts they borrowed from their sisters or friends, worn over shorts. The boys hoped their dress code protest would urge school officials to change the policy against boys wearing shorts.

In response, the school told one tall boy to remove the skirt because it was too short and he was showing too much hair.

But one boy commented, “We wear shorts for sport and it doesn’t matter if we have hairy legs then, so that’s not a real reason. Another boy was told to take his skirt off because it was too short but he had his shorts underneath.”

By Thursday, the skirt rebellion had grown, with 30 boys wearing the uniform kilts over shorts. Some boys even stopped to purchase razors at the One Stop shop on Burnthouse Lane on their way to school and shaved their legs.

While the school denied this accusation, boys stated that many who protested by wearing skirts were put in isolation.

One student said, “Loads of them have been put in isolation for stupid reasons because the school doesn’t like having no control over them.”


Beyond their intent to protest the dress code, the boys experienced practical benefits to shedding their long pants. While one male student described the skirt as providing a “nice breeze,” another found wearing his kilt “quite refreshing.” Another boy who participated in the protest said, “We’re not allowed to wear shorts, and I’m not sitting in trousers all day, it’s a bit hot.”

Many of the boys said they might continue to wear skirts because they found them significantly more comfortableMeanwhile, a boy from at least one other school in Wiltshire—about 100 miles away—wore a skirt to school, but his fellow students were not as supportive.

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  • Amy McElroy is a contributing editor and writer for Rewire Me. She has written for print, radio, and online publications such as The Bold Italic, The Billfold, Noodle, Cosmopolitan, BlogHer, and others. Her website, amyjmcelroy.net, lists her editorial services. She’s on twitter at @amyjmcelroy. Amy balances her work at the computer by teaching yoga and fitness.

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