Change could be on the horizon for Malvern’s dress code.
After a student proposal, Malvern has loosened the collar on its dress code policy for February as an experiment for future change.
The new dress code is modeled after a “modified business casual” look according to Dean of Students, Mr. Tim Dougherty. The normal policy for pants, shoes, and button-down collared shirts still applies, but ties and blazers are both optional.
According to Dougherty, there are four purposes of any dress code: to instill self respect in students, to ensure there is a serious purpose in school, to have a sense of unity, and to give a sense of responsibility and accountability.
Dean of Students Mr. Tim Dougherty plans to send out surveys to teachers, students, and parents to get feedback. He said that this feedback will contribute to whether the dress code will or will not change for the following year.
Dougherty said the old dress code fulfilled these purposes, but a question emerged of whether or not it was too restrictive on the students since they may have to get changed for gym, work with ceramics, or perform a chemistry lab throughout the day.
The next step for Dougherty was to stage an experiment to see if the modified dress code could work.
The main rationale for the experiment came from discussions that Dougherty had with members of the community, he said. However, the timing of the experiment also coincided with a proposal created by seniors Mike Morabito and Matt Pichola, following their work in Social Entrepreneurship class.
“People [were] looking sloppy around campus. They could wear a tie that was halfway undone and shirt barely tucked in and make it in dress code technically,” Morabito said. “We were thinking if we take away some of the sloppy elements of it, then we could make it a little more presentable. So, the less stuff you can mess up, the better.”
Morabito’s and Pichola’s plan was similar to what the current dress code experiment is. When Dougherty saw their proposal, he recognized that their statistics and plan were similar to his.
“[Dougherty] already had a proposal written up because he was planning on doing something like this further into the year,” Morabito said. “We kind of just took it a step further by doing it in Entrepreneurship Class, making all the surveys, and pretty much doing all the dirty work.”
Both proposals include “dress up” days. On dress up days, students have to wear ties and blazers for formal events. The experiment included the first dress up day on Friday, February 19. Dougherty said that he thought this first test was successful.
Dougherty said students should wear the modified dress code with respect if they want to keep it. This includes tucking in shirts, not wearing sweatshirts or flannel shirts, and buttoning shirts to the second highest button.
With the exception of the Hawaiian shirts, Dougherty said it has been going well overall. He observed that sweatshirts have almost completely disappeared and that more shirts are tucked in.
Dougherty has not yet received feedback from parents, but he plans to send out surveys to teachers, students, and parents to get feedback. He said that this feedback will contribute to whether the dress code will or will not change for the following year.
Dougherty is uncertain about what this experiment’s results will mean for the future of Malvern’s dress code. “I don’t know what success will look like. Maybe we’ll modify [the dress code] a little bit,” Dougherty said. “I don’t know.”
However, it is certain is that some students and teachers did have opinions on the change.
“I think it’s great, especially for seniors, like me, who weren’t going to be following it,” senior Nick Mensack said. “I think they’ll keep [the new dress code]. It’s just a good change for the whole school.”
Freshmen Brennan Robinson does not agree and says the dress code was one of the reasons he chose Malvern a year ago.
“I think [the new dress code] causes student to become unruly and unattentive in class,” Robinson said, wearing a rubber-duck patterned tie. “They feel more relaxed like they’re at home, versus in an environment where school is important.
Former Head of School and Spanish Teacher Mr. Jim Stewart still prefers suit coats and ties, and would like to see dress up days implemented if the changes become permanent.
“I think it’s a change for Malvern Prep to be involved in a change like this, but so far it seems like the students are cooperating and it’s going well,” he said. “They do look neat and clean. Very few have their shirt tails hanging out or not complying with the dress code.”
Head of School Mr. Christian Talbot appreciated the principle behind the dress code experiment.
“What I like about this experiment is exactly that: it’s an experiment,” he said. “So, whether it’s a good idea or bad idea to me is kind of beside the point. What I like instead is that we are continuing to build a culture in which we test out ideas and we try to learn from them.”
“Things that work we’ll scale them up, and things that don’t work, we’ll change,” Talbot said.