Fashion Policing

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Ruthann Robson ,professor of law and university distinguished professor at CUNY Law School and the author of Dressing Constitutionally: Hierarchy, Sexuality, and Democracy from Our Hairstyles to Our Shoes (Cambridge University Press, 2013), looks at the places US laws intersect with what people wear, from strip searches to strip teases.

Have you ever gotten tangled up with law enforcement over your fashion choices? Call 212-433-9692 or comment below.


Ruthann Robson

Comments [21]

Gerald from Tokyo

I'm surprised the discussion did not include any mention of the controversy over the naked men in San Francisco. As I understand it, in and around the Castro District, men (not sure how many) regularly hang out in a square, walk around the neighborhood, even go into cafes and restaurants nude. The city has had no power to do anything but pass an ordinance that the nudists must bring towels to sit on. Attempts by the supervisors to pass any stricter regulation has led to recalls, protests.... San Franciscans (including police and legislators) are divided as to whether these men are legitimately expressing free speech or if they are violating others' natural desire to see other people normally clothed. I'd be surprised that a book could be written on how the law deals with enforcing dress codes and this issue was not mentioned. San Francisco is obviously so far out in its own world on this. (and I'm a former San Franciscan)

Aug. 22 2013 06:26 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Fashion Police for "Chelsea" AKA Bradley Manning.

Bradley Manning: I want to live as a woman named Chelsea

Note that it's NOT The Onion, but the Chicago Tribune.

Aug. 22 2013 12:26 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

You wanna see REAL Fashion Police?

Try Egypt, the parts of Afghanistan terrorized by the Taliban, or the Islamist Regime of Iran.

Aug. 22 2013 12:20 PM
eleniNYC from Jackson Heights

The Security Guards in my school are beginning a quiet campaign to end sagging pants. How are they doing this? By educating the students who haven't been to jail, that the sagging pants is jail culture. partly because they can't have belts in jail, but usually meant for easy access for anyone who tries to rape them & has less of a struggle to face / or an offer to swap sex for other favors / protections while in jail

Aug. 22 2013 12:04 PM

Kudos to the Hempstead HS student who wore a picture of a hemp leaf, with the logo "Hempstead Pride". The school objected, and he retorted that raising hemp was part of Hempstead's history.
Hempstead - a stand of hemp.

Aug. 22 2013 12:02 PM

I was issued a written warning for being nude on a "formerly" nude beach, that was changed to clothing required. I found out that nude bathing has always been Illegal in the state of new york, but was never enforced on fire island. but now, after the park service got Sandy money, they are enforcing it on federally owned beaches.

Aug. 22 2013 11:58 AM
Julia Wagner from Highland Park, NJ

I went to high school in the early 70's, to a school in Berks County--farm country, heavily Mennonite. I say this because, for some reason, our school had a very liberal clothes policy at that time. Mini skirts, short shorts, anything. Really--anything. I remember one student who appeared on my bus late in the school year wearing a bikini covered by a long t-shirt. We were wondering if this would finally be the last straw, but no--she went through the day completely ignored by students and administration.

Aug. 22 2013 11:57 AM
Barbara from NYC

In the mid-80s, I was wearing jeans, a Lacoste-style shirt with a collar and 3-button placket (sp?), and had a flat-top haircut, and was shopping at Brooks Bros on Madison Ave in midtown. I was in the elevator and a man got in and said to me, "Are you a boy or a girl?" I replied: "Well, unless you're going to try to f*ck me, what's it to you?" He shut up.

Aug. 22 2013 11:55 AM
pliny from soho

have you ever seen the WalMartians

Aug. 22 2013 11:54 AM
Robert from NYC

That shorts story in the village in the 70s is just a homophibia story. The cops were VERY homophobic then was right after Stonewall. I had that problem all the time in the Village.

Aug. 22 2013 11:53 AM

Please talk about "saggy pants laws," perhaps the epitome of racist pearl-clutching.

Aug. 22 2013 11:51 AM

"See Topless Woman? Just Move On, Police Are Told" via NY Times:

The ruling referenced by the above article:

Aug. 22 2013 11:51 AM
Elsie from Brooklyn

This new dress code is nothing more than the furthering of a corporate fascism that has taken over all industries. The caller who said she was criticized for wearing orange at a job interview (to be an adjunct) is indicative of how this corporate ethos has infiltrated everything, including professions like academia which used to be defenders of individuality and critical thinking. This corporate ethos wants a world as colorless and soulless as itself, and from the look of things, they have gotten their wish. NYC is officially a city of bland corporate zombies.

Aug. 22 2013 11:50 AM
Bob from NYC

Women topless is legal in NYC:

Aug. 22 2013 11:50 AM
Adam from NJ

What about pants hanging below one's butt? Some towns are starting to legislate against this style.

Aug. 22 2013 11:47 AM

Recommend ERS Theater's "Arguendo" on this exact topic

Aug. 22 2013 11:44 AM

it seems like all the rules and measurements for clothing codes are only for women.

Aug. 22 2013 11:44 AM
Clif from Manhattan

My high school district was very conservative (circa mid-late 1980's). I was very much in to punk rock and had a t-shirt from a band called Ludichrist that said "Most people are dicks" on the back. A teacher would always harass me about about it and one day actually got right in my face screaming idle threats. I laughed and tried to get him to hit me, but he didn't. I think he came really close though. I was also accused of being a drug dealer by the principal (which I never was) who called my parents in from work, with no real evidence, to make this accusation. My parents almost sued over it.

Aug. 22 2013 11:44 AM
Dan from Morristown, NJ - USA

Just to note that the law regarding what is legal varies from place to place, sometimes is a state thing and others a local town/county thing.

The law is absolutely NOT unclear about topless equality in NYC. Your guest really needs to get up to speed on this. In NY women can be without a shirt anywhere a man can.

In San Francisco nudity was allowed and only recently ( last Feb. ) did that change, but various events nudity is allowed and that is not a speech issue, its one of the exceptions in the Feb. law.

Aug. 22 2013 11:44 AM
Frank from Lindenhurst

What are the rules for tolerating nudity at specific state and town beaches and not others?

Aug. 22 2013 11:42 AM
John A

You'd be remiss if 'Slut walking' and 'Slut shaming' weren't covered.

Aug. 22 2013 11:39 AM

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