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Man straight­ening his tie | Unsplash

Forget groufits, crocs, and socks and sandals: For Hillsdale stu­dents in 1955, “all freshman men who eat at East Hall must wear a white shirt and tie for the evening meal.”

According to “Formal Dress For Dinner,” an article pub­lished in The Col­legian on March 10, 1955, “The main reason for the ties is that the Saga Food Service requires that their cus­tomers be attired with white shirts and ties for the evening meal. At all other schools where Saga is employed this pro­cedure is in practice.”

While white shirts and ties defin­i­tively enhanced the Saga dining expe­rience, there was a greater purpose in cre­ating this dress code. The Col­legian stated, “The big reason that shirts and ties are a must for evening wear is because Hillsdale has a chance to get a new quarter of a million dollar dining hall. The people that are going to support the new hall are judging the dining room by the people who eat in it, and if everybody looks sharp, they just might think that we’re worth it!” I guess the phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover” hadn’t quite gained its pop­u­larity yet.

The Col­legian reported, “The new rule for dress proved very unpopular with the stu­dents. A petition was drawn up and signed by all the freshmen men. It was then taken to the dean and a com­promise was made. The new agreement is, that shirts and ties will be worn on Monday, Friday and Sunday only. At all other evening meals, only a jacket and a closed shirt are required.”

By 1970, the student’s unhappy feelings regarding the dress code had changed very little, and on Feb. 26, 1970, The Col­legian reported that “The Feb. 18 meeting of the Hillsdale College Fed­er­ation saw some lively dis­cussion of the dress code between stu­dents and Pres­ident J. Donald Phillips.”

The article con­tinued, “The opinion was expressed that stu­dents had come to Hillsdale because of its size and per­sonal attention, not because those enrolled were neatly dressed.”

I, for one, can attest that the dress of stu­dents did not draw me to Hillsdale. If any­thing, it was some­thing I had to grapple with for hours before making my decision: Could I handle seeing teenagers running around in shorts and Hawaiian shirts in minus 55-degree weather? I’m still waiting to see if I will survive wit­nessing this epi­demic.

According to The Col­legian, “Pres­ident Phillips lis­tened with patience to the stu­dents. He explained that ‘a private college must depend on the giving of other people to exist.’ Because of this, the appearance of every Hillsdale College student is important when a potential bene­factor visits the campus.”

The sus­pension of the dress code in 1970 had some imme­diate, unseen, and unfor­tunate effects. In a Letter to the Editor pub­lished on May 14, 1970, a student ques­tioned a fashion faux pas, asking,  “Is there any­thing wrong with sitting in front of Central Hall with a sheet on your head? I thought the dress code here had been abol­ished.” Maybe the dress code wasn’t such a bad idea after all.