On April 7, the Bar Council of India sent a letter to law colleges recommending that they implement a uniform dress code in the institute, of white shirt and black, or grey trousers. “The standard of dresses by the students of law is gradually detracting and does not give impression of proper dress code discipline,” BCI noted. Notably the recommendation comes immediately after an entire third-year LLB class at NLS Bangalore wore shorts to a lecture in protest against a professor who allegedly shamed a female student for wearing shorts and passed comments on her character.
RMLNLU, an institution that has lately been in headlines for its partly successful Pinjra Tod movement against the sexist hostel rules, promptly reacted to these developments. RML boasts of proper written rules that require students to dress in white shirt, and black trousers on Monday and anything formal on other days. These rules are not that strictly followed and students can easily attend classes in casual clothes, even on Mondays. However, many a times students have been directed to leave the class, if they were found wearing shorts.
A third year student, who has been thrown out of classes time and again for wearing shorts, finds the practice terribly medieval. “Somehow, you wearing shorts is supposed to mean that you don’t care about your studies, and you don’t respect the class. Such notions are really ridiculous. The fact is that it’s hot and shorts are comfortable,” he adds. On similar lines, A student from second year argues that as long as he is not disrupting the class, he can’t be fed with any dress code directions.
Not everyone agrees however. Another student from second year fails to buy the argument that “it’s hot-so shorts” justification. “We have centrally air-conditioned classrooms and sometimes we have to tell them to lower the cooling,” he reminds us. He also rhetorically asks that if he sits in the class in a vest and boxers and doesn’t not disrupt the class, would it be proper for the classroom discourse. Another second year student, wonders that when no one would dare to go to a campus interview/a court/an internship office in shorts on the pretext of it being comfortable then why is there so much fuss on wearing them to classes.
Back in school, we were allowed to wear casual clothes on Saturdays. Then, one fine morning our principal father (convent school things) ended the tradition. Most of us were upset with the change. We often see uniforms as disciplinary measures and tend to disregard the most important aspect of a dress code. A uniform avoids all unwarranted competition about being dressed in the latest trend, which might put a great deal of financial pressure on many students and parents. When everyone is dressed the same, worrying about what you look like isn’t so important. At NLUs, it becomes a herculean task to mask all the different indicators of privileged students’ social & economic status. However, a dress code does effectively cover one such manifestation.
Under the garb of this discussion, one cannot however shield the sexism that is prevalent on our campuses. Girls and boys have been stalled and questioned for the choice of clothes they wear, even outside the classes. “We aren’t allowed to enter the library in shorts because it’s a ‘place to study’ as if wearing shorts would turn the library into some sort of orgy,” Ms. Sharma, who played a major role in the Pinjra Tod movement complains. Nevertheless, dress codes need to be seen independent of all the unjustified ‘moral policing’ that takes place in our colleges. Most probably, the entire class at NLS didn’t turn up in shorts to protest against the dress code of the institution, but they exhibited the feat because a fellow student was shamed and her character was questioned for wearing shorts.