Ric Dressen @EdinaSuper
The music for the sixth-grade orchestra concert was unexpected and interesting. The playing was polished. And you can read here about how professional, inspiring and compassionate the orchestra teacher is. But the real performance of the evening? Getting dressed.
I remember when it was fun to get my son dressed each day. As a toddler, he really rocked the cozy, washable English Professor/Tennis Pro look, with little corduroys and plaid pants, zip cardigans and v-neck vests.
Fast forward to middle school. It’s all I can do to make sure that he doesn’t wear the same sweatpants to school that he wore to bed last night (most days). We watch Project Runway together, and the judges are always talking about mixing “hard and soft.” I have tried to make up some similar rules about what he wears to school, like, “You need to mix loose and structured. If you wear sweatpants, wear a shirt with a collar. If you wear a t-shirt, wear some pants with some stitching or a zipper.” We’ve had many conversations about how what you wear might affect how other people perceive you, and it might even influence how you think about yourself. But in the end, he wears what he wants, because I don’t want an itchy tag or a irritatingly-placed pocket getting in the way of learning how to add and subtract negative numbers or where to find Djibouti and Togo on a map of Africa.
For the orchestra concert, though, there was as dress code, or really more of a uniform. Boys were required to wear black shoes, black socks, black pants, a long-sleeved white shirt with a collar, and a tie. Quite a stretch for my guy, and it took a fair amount of work and expense on my part as well, as these are not wardrobe basics for him. The shoes were the biggest challenge. He did own one pair of dressier shoes, but they were brown. Once I located a reasonable pair, I bought them a size too big, hoping that they still fit the next time he puts them on, which I am guessing will be the spring orchestra concert. Of course, we couldn’t actually locate the new black shoes when it was time to get dressed for the concert, so there were a few dicey moments when I thought he was going to have to choose between the pirate boots from his school play costume, or the humiliation of my black clogs. But at the last minute, we found the new shoes where I had stashed them after snatching them from the jaws of our puppy.
Did the students perform better because they also put time and energy into looking their best? Maybe. There is conflicting evidence about the influence of dress codes and uniforms on student success; read more here. Would they have played just as well if the policy was simply to wear nice clothes, without the requirement that they be black and white? In any case, they certainly were a handsome group on South View’s very professional stage, and I'm sure that the students felt connected to the world of professional musicians.
After the concert, we stopped at the grocery store for some celebratory ice cream. I thought for sure that my son would rip off his tie and strip down to his t-shirt, but in fact, he strutted around that store in his too-big shoes and bow tie, along with his brother--who, in a gesture of solidarity, donned a tuxedo t-shirt and sport coat. I had little glimpse into the future, my boys grown into young men. I breathed a little sigh of relief when we returned home: the sweatpants slipped on, the tie and shoes and pants crammed into the back of a half-open drawer.