The current SFU gym dress code isn’t working

When your dress code is overly restrictive, not being followed and held in negative regard by students, maybe you should consider changing something.

Eva Zhu / The Peak

Written by Victoria Lopatka, Peak Associate

The SFU Recreation Dress Code, as outlined by posters in the gym, dictates that students must wear clean clothing, closed-toe shoes, shirts or tank tops that cover the nipples, lower back, stomachs, and waist, and shorts or tights that cover the buttocks. Students are asked to avoid wearing heavy scents/perfumes, open-toed shoes (like Crocs or sandals), high heels, cleats, crop tops, “cut-off” shirts that expose the torso, tank tops that expose the nipples, and sports bras (assumedly just a sports bra, with no shirt on top). Students are also expected to avoid jeans, jeggings, shorts that expose the buttocks, as well as anything with obscene languages and images.opinionsop

Now, I understand why some of these policies are in place. Obviously, you shouldn’t be wearing high heels on the treadmill, or wear jeans while operating workout equipment — do you even need to be told that explicitly? With other rules, I can stretch my imagination to think why they’re in place. As far as some of these policies go, though . . . I have some questions.

Specifically, I’m a little confused as to why crop tops, cut-off shirts, sports bras, short-shorts, and tank tops that expose the nipples are no-nos. I’m not sure how three or four inches of my stomach and back, or some extreme v-neck tank top, pose a risk to the health and safety of myself, other gym attendants, staff, or the gym equipment.

It should be pointed out that not all university fitness centers have restrictive dress codes like SFU. UBC’s Recreation dress code can be summed up quite simply: proper footwear must be worn at all times, athletic attire is “strongly encouraged”, and a shirt must be worn at all times.

A short history on dress codes

A dress code, for those who may not know, is a “set of rules or guidelines regarding the manner of dress acceptable in an office, restaurant, etc.” The first school dress code law was established in 1969, when the US Supreme Court dictated that schools could enforce a dress code in order to limit disruption in the classroom and prevent students from feeling uncomfortable.

Today, many elementary and high schools have dress codes, and there are many people that have a problem with them. Dress codes are often critiqued for being sexist, unfair, and/or unnecessary.

What do SFU students think of the dress code?

I caught up with some regular gym attendees to see if other students felt the same way about the dress code as I do. A resounding number of gym-goers I spoke to felt the dress code was unnecessary, juvenile, and almost insulting to the intelligence and maturity of students. Many students weren’t even aware of a dress code at the gym and were frustrated with it when I explained it to them.

“I was completely unaware of [the dress code]. I think it’s unnecessary. Completely. There are no children at SFU. Everyone is an adult and can decide to wear whatever makes them comfortable,” says Aidan Brown, a regular male gym-goer.

“I just don’t think they should be policing what we wear, I thought we left dress codes in high school,” another student, Charity Ywaya, adds.

Other students, such as Faisal Atif, pointed out the fact that the dress code doesn’t seem to be heavily enforced or followed: “I am aware that there’s a gym dress code, but no one really seems to care about it. At any particular time, there’s at least a couple [of] people who aren’t following the dress code.”

“Even CAs who are supposed to be role models or whatever to students, you know, people who are supposed to follow the rules, don’t really care that much about it,” Atif claimed.

When I entered the gym on a Monday afternoon around 12:30, I could immediately spot six or seven students who were breaking dress code. None of the violations stemmed from improper footwear or wearing jeans in the gym — all of them were instead related to the ban on crop tops, cut-off shirts, and tank tops that do not fully cover torso and chest.

Students overwhelmingly expressed that they would like to able to just wear what they want. Multiple female students said that they wish they could wear crop tops or cut-off shirts since they feel most comfortable in those types of tops.

“It’s really hot and sweaty so I don’t think it should matter if I wear a crop top or cut-off shirts. I’m not exposing my tits or anything,” says Laurie Solkoski, my fellow female student and new hero.

Despite the dress code seemingly not being strictly enforced, some students still get dress-coded. I spoke to a second-year criminology major who had experienced what happens when you violate the dress code.

Despite the dress code seemingly not being strictly enforced, some students still get dress-coded. I spoke to a second-year criminology major who had experienced what happens when you violate the dress code.

“I went to the gym in the morning wearing a shirt with cut-off sleeves, and one of the girls at the front desk told me that it was against dress code. She asked if I had a shirt on me that I could change into, but I did not, so she told me it was OK for today but that I can’t wear it at the SFU gym in the future,” the student said.

She described the top she was wearing, a T-shirt with the sleeves cut off, with armpit holes that show the sides of her sports bra and a small strip of skin. She also describes how, at the time, the dress code signs had just been put up, so the reprimand seemed “very out of the blue.”

“I think that the dress code as it is at the SFU gym is very juvenile. I would expect such rules at a high school gym, but not at a gym for adults. I personally do not wear crop tops or just sports bras at the gym, but I don’t think they are problematic apparel for a gym. They do not impede other gym-goers from exercising, so it seems like an arbitrary restriction.”

Not all students felt completely negatively about the dress code, though. “I believe it is somewhat necessary as the gym is a part of the professional learning space, the university,” Maryam Saffarzadeh says. When asked to elaborate, she continued, “It’s possible that the gym dress code is there because of safety reasons. There are guys who go there solely to creep on girls and I believe this could’ve become a bigger safety issue for girls if they wore more revealing clothes.” Sigh.

“The way I look at it, you’re there at the gym to get your workout done and leave, and not there to show off your sick chest, abs or butt,” Atif adds to his previous statements.

Other students, such as gym-goers Joseph Cameron and Celine Ho, felt that the dress code was acceptable, since some of its regulations were for hygienic purposes. “I think the dress code is alright as long as the reason is because of sanitary reasons, not for gender or biased reasons. I do not think it is necessary to have a dress code; however, I am willing to accept and abide by it,” says Ho.

None of the students I spoke to felt overwhelmingly positive about the dress code.

Speaking to fellow students confirmed for me that I am not the only one who thinks the dress code is unnecessary and downright silly. The passionate dislike for the dress code I was met with made me more and more curious: why do we even have a dress code, then? I decided to take my questions straight to those who make and enforce the rules: SFU Fitness Center staff and administration.

Stay tuned for part two.