On Uniforms and Shorts in Law Schools

Background here.

Tanuj Kalia

I agree with the fact that uniforms add a sense of ‘belonging’ to a profession. Many a litigator see their black robes with a sense of immense pride.

And I have no issues with students being asked to wear a uniform, say, once a week. For that sense of belonging, pride.

But lets take the argument further: Why do we study law? To become a lawyer? A litigating lawyer who dons black robes or a law firmite dressed in impeccable formals?

What about a law journalist? What uniform does he wear? Lets give him a jhola , shall we? What about an academician? What will she wear? And well, a would-be judge? What should we prescribe for her/him? A wig?

Given the various options a law student has, I think it will be very restrictive to dress her up in an attire.

can’t imagine a law student in this? i can.

A law school is not meant to fit you into a profession; it exists to give you myriad skills: the skills to reason, to argue, to defend; to be a free thinking individual.

And you know, what a free thinking individual should wear? Shorts, will be my answer (kidding).

And that’s the issue here. Prescribing a uniform for a day is alright; restricting a student’s choice to wear something pretty decent (shorts), an authoritarian act. Till a student dresses decently and does not offend anyone, no one should have a problem.

PS 1: the best academic at NUJS is known to go into staff meetings, in, you guessed it right, shorts.

PS 2: a uniform may add a sense of belonging to the profession, but its not a pre-requisite to being a competent professional. No potent rays are emitted from the combination of a white shirt and a black pant which makes you a better lawyer.

I can very well be nude and be the most diligent student in class. Decorum and sanctity of a classroom do not come from the dresses its students wear but from their conduct.

You must of course not offend anyone from what you wear. Do shorts offend anyone? I don’t think so. And what is offensive? Like porn, you know it, when you see it.

Have a counter-view? Send it to [email protected] We’d love to publish that too.

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Comments Till Now

  1. Waseem Ahmed says:

    Tanuj, you said: “A law school is not meant to fit you into a profession; it exists to give you myriad skills: the skills to reason, to argue, to defend; to be a free thinking individual.”

    Brilliantly put, Tanuj. And the basic issue is this: what purpose is served by insisting on a dress code at law school? None, except protecting the peculiar sensitivities of some people who want to impose their moral standards on other people.

    Regarding someone’s comparison of this RGNLU Regulation with that of the Army’s Regulations concerning uniforms, I would say that there are many objects behind armies requiring their members to wear uniforms. They are: Identification, Instilling the feeling of Unity among soldiers, etc. You do not need these at law school.

    As to whether uniforms create the feeling of equality among law students, I would say that I never felt unequal or discriminated against on account of my dress at NUJS. Equality exists when everyone is treated equally, and not that everyone becomes equal by virtue of wearing the same dress.

  2. Protik Prokash Banerji says:

    Do we have to be regimented to feel equal? Dreamer and Common Man being a Bengali and thus by definition an Eastern Woody Allen, nervous, highly strung, cynical and with pretensions towards being an intellectual, feeling that after Tagore, Jibonanando, Bishnu Dey and Jyoti Basu (and now Didi) nothing more needs to be done, I keep on asking myself: when I wore cheap terylene shirts and cheap black terrycot trousers to school, and saw a friend from a family of merchant princes wearing a Colore Italia handmade silk shirt (white) and slacks by Gucci (black), did I feel that he was my equal? Did I even wonder about it, when we tumbled in the sandpit or mucked about after the monsoon in the playing field? No my friends, it is not the clothes that wear that taint our mentality…it is our mentality that taints everything else.
    If you come from a family where you are not content with what you have, you look around and feel jealous, inferior or aggressive. If your family is insecure about what you have, and you subscribe to that view, you tend to make up for it by snobbery and arrogance. If you are happy with what you have and thank God or whoever you believe in for the gifts you have, you accept everyone else as he or she is. When I look back now, I recognize that my family, particularly my father, gave me the gift of contentment. He taught me to be happy with what I really needed to have, and what was given to me. God will take care of the rest, if there is anything left.

  3. Alumnus of a National Institute (non-Law) says:

    If this (http://www.google.co.in/imgres?um=1&hl=en&biw=1366&bih=643&tbm=isch&tbnid=Gu6PLX4Y8NgaAM:&imgrefurl=http://www.asos.com/Badlands/Badlands-Studded-Denim-Hot-Pants/Prod/pgeproduct.aspx%3Fiid%3D2530479&docid=geId6fSY1Xu86M&imgurl=http://images.asos.com/inv/media/9/7/4/0/2530479/image2xl.jpg&w=290&h=370&ei=JLh7UNL7BsW8rAf2rIGQBg&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=642&vpy=223&dur=695&hovh=254&hovw=199&tx=102&ty=107&sig=103823011658783594250&page=2&tbnh=142&tbnw=106&start=19&ndsp=29&ved=1t:429,r:16,s:20,i:179) is what is sitting / standing / strutting in front of you, I guess it becomes a tad bit difficult to concentrate on what is being taught… It might even be difficult to ‘teach’ when facing such a ‘sight’… If the ‘students’ have rights to ‘wear’ what they wish, shouldn’t others have the right to not get ‘distracted’? If the rule of dress codes is removed, and teachers decide to avail the benefits of removal of this rule, would we like the fat-bald-hairy-ugly professor standing in front of the hall in a tight fish-net vest and shorts with all his hairy-glory in public display? Or for that matter, if an obese-hairy class mate decided to avail of this right, wouldn’t we feel disgusted at the sight? Is the rule being protested by those who do not actually wish to ‘dress’ but ogle at the ‘dressed’? Just a thought!

  4. 2nd Yr RGNULite says:

    Were there not some 90-or-so comments on this post? Don’t tell me they’ve been taken down. :\

  5. in my opinion – frank attitude towards student, good teaching etc helps you to get to your goals…not your hairstyle or long beards or shorts or mini-skirts
    it’s all about realization of your dreams and not your uniform
    #their shouldn’t be a uniform according to me…a poor kid seeing a rich kid coming to college can draw inspiration from it to do better….it’s all about perspectives.

    the age we are entering now is where we blossom and try and nurture our talents, teaching that to us, spoon feeding us by providing us with uniforms is just disgusting, in my eyes experience teaches you more then any thing. experience which comes out of bad judgement
    and i mentioned jeans so that we can be connected with our college era!

    p.s. some people wanted a bigger view, here it is!

  6. Pissed off RGNULite says:

    Why is everybody arguing over uniforms or no uniforms in colleges/professions/military?
    The post nowhere says that the uniforms be abolished or that it sucks or infringes freedom. Wasn’t the whole issue supposed to be regarding the ‘non uniform days’ dressing mayhem at RGNUL !?

  7. common man says:

    Dear Mr. Dreamer you mentioned in your first comment that “everyone is just equal (the very essence of law) everyone is a law student.. there is no one comparing his clothing.. you can not figure out who is a top businessman’s or a hot shot lawyer’s son and who is a clerk’s or a peon’s daughter.. *no one feels miserable of his clothing or flaunts his brands*..” i replied to that perception of yours. My point was no one in the law school gives a damn to what brand of clothes other people wear. What people here are concerned about is food, making best use of the opportunities and good internships and later fat pay job.
    your view “Uniform at least rules out this ‘other sort of comment in class rooms’.Uniform minimizes such social comparisons.” According to my viewpoint, your perception is fallacious as you dont seem to understand that one cant create unity among people by making them wear same clothes. If your argument holds substance then we should make every Indian wear uniforms to bring out long lost unity.

    And your argument “the prestigious Uniform of Indian Army is an Authoritarian Act!!”. I think you should understand the difference between a law student and a professional. I am not saying that Judges and the lawyers should be allowed to go to Court wearing shorts. I am just trying to say that till the time a student dresses decently, that’s enough. Imposition of uniform should not be there.
    In furtherance of the same, those who join law firms have a dress code, thus like uniforms in any other trade.

    I think letting people wear what they wish to, provided they dress decently, is a wider perspective as compared to imposing uniforms on everyone.

  8. Dear common man, first of all thank you for taking time to read my opinion and expressing yours.

    Your whole disagreement is with regard to just one of the many points I expressed. I never said that people are always judged on their clothing! I hold the same opinion you have expressed regarding that. Thank you for enlightening me but I too believe that intellect is what that matters.

    If you haven’t read my previous comment carefully enough(which seems the case), then let me remind you that I have clearly mentioned in my previous comment that “..I m not saying that this comparison always happens..”. What I meant by this point was that (as I said in my previous comment)” Uniform at least rules out this ‘other sort of comment in class rooms'”, that is, ‘IF'(and i stress on “if”) in case of such a situation, Uniform minimizes such social comparisons. It was an additional point(like a conditional plus point!) and NOT the soul of my argument! I never said this ALWAYS happens, but Uniforms rule out this possibility to an extent….which is..emm.. GOOD.. RIGHT???..!..or Not?

    Your words:”imposition of uniforms”.. Tanuj’s words:”an authoritarian act”..”restricting a student’s choice to wear something pretty decent”…..!!!
    You might as well argue that the prestigious Uniform of Indian Army is an Authoritarian Act!!..restricting their choice to wear!!..imposition of uniforms!!.. this kind of “perception” makes me laugh! You really need to learn whats authoritative in a law school and whats not!..what things you should stand up for and what to encourage and respect!

    The fact that Uniform does create a sense of Equality, Uniformity, Unity in our Psychology can not be denied by any rational being. A great way to create a sense of “We all are equal!”.. is Uniforms. Disagreeing is your ignorance I would say.

    PS 1: UNIFORMS ROCK!

    PS 2: People who think Uniforms are an authoritarian act really need to widen their vision and stop being so “pessimistic”.

    PS 3: PS 1! 🙂

  9. common man says:

    Mr. Dreamer I completely disagree with you on this note that wearing uniforms brings equality among students. The sense of imposition of uniform bringing equality is nothing but a perception. What you are trying to say is that people judge others on the basis of their clothing. I am a student of one of the NLUs. I can assure you one thing- people do not judge others or look down upon them on the basis of clothing. Nobody gives a damn about it. What matters here is your intellect and making good use of the numerous opportunities available. Many of my seniors, who I look up to, do not wear something that distinguishes them. Its their intellect that distinguishes them.

    I think wearing decently should be the requisite and imposition of uniforms is completely absurd. Till the time a person is dressed decently, I dont think anybody would have a problem with that.

    PS: even in NLUs, people from different economic background are there. No everybody comes from well off families.

  10. Tanuj, I completely disagree with you here! First of all you have quite narrowly understood the purpose of uniforms. They are not “just” meant for the purpose of adding a sense of belonging to a profession. The purpose of uniforms can itself be understood in the word UNIFORM… ‘equality’..’evenness’..’nondiscrimination’…..(and so on)..
    Students in Law School come from all sorts of backgrounds, some are well off others are not.. But we all are equal in law school or any other educational institution. Uniform gives us A SENSE OF EQUALITY, BROTHERLY-HOOD,’UNIFORMITY’,UNITY (and NOT sense of belonging to litigation!!!)..
    The concept of uniform just impresses me. We are not here to compare our clothing…uniform at least rules out this ‘other sort of competition in class rooms’!
    We should look this thing positively…and well.. in fact it has more positives than negatives if you see it! I even think that not just law schools but every educational institution in India should have a uniform.
    Let me explain this with a practical example. I am not from an NLU. My school has a minimal fee structure which is quite reasonable. So we have many students who are financially not so sound and can afford to study here. We have a uniform which we respect and follow regularly. When we all are in uniform.. everyone is just equal (the very essence of law) everyone is a law student.. there is no one comparing his clothing.. you can not figure out who is a top businessman’s or a hot shot lawyer’s son and who is a clerk’s or a peon’s daughter.. no one feels miserable of his clothing or flaunts his brands.. I m not saying that this comparison always happens..But what I am saying is Uniforms help in building up equality among all..THAT IS MY POINT. And uniforms are NOT..as you said..”a restriction in one’s ‘choice’ to wear” for every one..everyone is not that fortunate! Being a senior law student and being looked up to many law students in India you should encourage Uniforms in law schools.

    PS: Our topper never attends his lectures in shorts 😀

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