, Derry, New Hampshire


October 24, 2013

Column: Pinkerton dress codes have changed with the times


While knickerbockers and long dresses went out of fashion during the 1920s, the academy kept in place much of their ancient dress codes. Boys were still required to wear ties unless they sported a turtleneck or crew sweater. My circle of misfits in the 1960s wore V-neck sweaters in the winter. The tie they wore underneath was in truth sliced off about 3 inches below the knot. While the school’s administration thought we were wearing a full-length tie, we had the satisfaction of knowing we weren’t. Dungarees were strictly forbidden.

The boy’s shirt tail had to be tucked in and their hair couldn’t touch their collar. Sideburns could extend only to the ear lobe. In 1970, mustaches were OK but only if they were deemed to be “neat and clean.” Beards were not allowed by either students or faculty, even if they were well trimmed and free from last night’s supper.

The PA girls were required to wear dresses, skirts or culottes. From Oct. 15 to May 15 girls had to wear either socks or nylons. The young ladies could wear slacks while going to and from the school but they had to change into the approved attire before coming to homeroom. Backless dresses had been on the no-no list since at least 1940.

These time-tested clothing regulations would pass into history in the autumn of 1970 when the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled that public schools could no longer mandate a strict dress code. (Bannister v. Paradis, 1970) Pinkerton’s administration decided to allow its student council to vote on whether or not to keep the dress code. For most it was no surprise when the kids voted to scrap the dress code. The neckties came off immediately. Soon skirts were replaced by slacks. Blue jeans quickly became the uniform of youth at the academy.

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