Children attending school in the U.S. usually have to adhere to at least a nominal dress code; those in private schools may even have to wear prescribed uniforms. One group largely exempt from dress codes to date has been school teachers, but this is changing in some districts, for a number of reasons and with varying results.
Are Staff Dress Codes Necessary?
Parents and school administrators sometimes have different views than their children’s teachers about what is appropriate classroom attire. Clearly certain aspects of the job — keeping up with active youngsters, overseeing messy art projects, going outdoors for recess — support more relaxed dress requirements than professions such as banking or law. But views differ on how to strike the right balance between comfort and practicality, on the one hand, and professionalism and appropriateness, on the other. Some schools are adding staff dress codes to codify this balance.
Public School Teacher Dress Guidelines
Dress codes for teachers share some commonalities. Male teachers should wear collared shirts with tailored pants; shirts must be tucked in. Ties and jackets are usually not required unless meeting with parents or administrators. Female teachers may wear tailored pants or skirts with coordinating blouses or sweaters. Clothing should be modest, not too tight and appropriate to the season. Exceptions typically are made for P.E. teachers, who may wear polo shirts, comfortable pants and sneakers.
Private School Requirements
Private schools may impose stricter dress codes on both teachers and students than do public schools. In religiously-affiliated schools or those private schools where students wear uniforms, staff often are required to wear traditional professional attire in neutral colors. Female teachers in these settings typically must wear knee-length skirts or tailored pants with a white or pastel blouse. Male teachers wear dark dress pants, button-down shirts and a tie. Some private schools do allow more leeway, with dress codes similar to those currently being adopted by some public schools.
Handling Casual Fridays
Because daily attire for elementary teachers is already more relaxed than in many professional workplaces, the concept of casual Fridays takes on a whole new meaning. Typically, teachers’ daily attire is what would be considered business casual attire in other workplaces. Some schools do permit their teachers to wear khakis or jeans on dress-down days, often with a school polo shirt or tailored casual shirt. Others still prohibit jeans but allow pullover or polo shirts instead of more formal tops for both male and female teachers on casual Fridays.
What Not to Wear
Whether your school has a teachers’ dress code or not, some clothing choices are never appropriate. T-shirts and sweats don’t belong in the classroom, nor do shorts. Tight jeans or pants and short skirts are not appropriate, nor are sleeveless or skimpy tops or anything torn. Baring your midriff or showing too much skin is never OK. Newly minted young teachers must make what can be a difficult transition from the comfy, casual clothes they wore in college and the trendy, eye-catching styles they wear in social settings to add a third category of clothing to their wardrobe: tailored, perhaps more conservative attire in keeping with their new positions as professionals and role models for young children