The Sin Of Skinny Jeans

On Monday, a story came out of controversy surround a testing center at Brigham Young University in Idaho, which forbade students to wear skinny jeans into a testing environment.  A posted flier echoed what a testing center administrator told a student as she prepared to take a test;

“If your pants are tight enough for us to see the shape of your leg, your pants are too tight.”

The posting goes on to explain that shirts are too tight, if the shape of a belly button is visible.   BYU in Provo, Utah has no specific limitations regarding skinny jeans, or tightness of clothing.  The flier, again:

“If you don’t understand the Dress and Grooming standards, we invite you to go to the Lord ‘and ask in faith, nothing wavering’ for approval of the clothing you wear. The Spirit will tell you whether what you are wearing is appropriate or not.”

Clearly, Brigham Young University has religious priority in presenting this sort of requirement (to be precise, BYU itself hasn’t imposed this; only the testing center has).   But it does convey a wider message of a few things: they wish to uphold a certain standard of modesty, perhaps they want to remove any possibly “distractions,” especially in a testing environment, or they value controlling the student body to maintain some sort of dress-code-like consistency.

Modesty and appropriateness are surely to be acknowledged and upheld, but are they going too far in overtly branding it as a spiritual issue only?  Seeking God’s direction in decisions big and small is a clear biblical mandate and a joy for a disciple of Jesus.  Why wouldn’t someone organizing her life around Christ want to follow and obey him?

My concern is this: there must be standards and action based upon personal conviction and relationship with God.  When institutions impose on a personal conscience issue, does it promote blind obedience, heartless rule-keeping?  My legalism-o-meter is going off a bit here.

This reminds me of my experience in a Christian college (although not a Mormon institution, such as BYU), wherein we were required to sign a “Lifestyle Statement” to affirm that during our collegiate tenure, we would neglect use of alcohol, tobacco or drugs, promise to dress modestly and use discretion when choosing entertainment options, and of course, not partake in any “dancing” other than wholesome, formal wedding reception dances.  While I appreciate the “safe place” mentality and not providing offense to other well-meaning Christian students, I had personal disagreement with their imposition of these convictions on ALL students.  This leaves out the Christian’s individual choices based on the conscience issues which Paul discusses in 1 Corinthians 8-10 and elsewhere.  What does it say about the institution’s trust of students and their decisions as God’s Spirit personally leads and works in them?  Paul reminds us to love each other, deal with each other in grace, because we’re all rough around the edges.  Although, in modeling a life after Jesus, we are called to holiness (which goes far deeper than a dress code or outward actions).

For further consideration, BYU’s mission statement:

  • Build testimonies of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and encourage living its principle.
  • Provide a quality education for students of diverse interests and abilities.
  • Prepare students for lifelong learning, for employment, and for their roles as citizens and parents.
  • Maintain a wholesome academic, cultural, social and spiritual environment.

By allowing the testing center at BYU Idaho to impose this ban on skinny jeans, doesn’t it short-circuit the opportunity for students to “prepare students for lifelong learning…and their roles as citizens and parents”?  Doesn’t it deny students the chance to make their own actions based on their testimonies of the gospel of Jesus and, for themselves, “living its principle”?

Would you ban skinny jeans?

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6 responses to “The Sin Of Skinny Jeans

  1. i would like to bring up the reference of Mark 9:43 “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out”, as I think this is where lifestyle statements come into play. The goal of a lifestyle statement is to help create an environment where anyone is able to avoid the things that will cause them to stumble. Granted, each individual will almost inevitably stumble due to things within their control, but the idea is to avoid things beyond their control: like what people wear to classes and the presence of alcohol and drugs in dorms, as well as other things involved in a lifestyle statement. Now as someone who easily stumbles based on the way girls dress, I can understand how a conservative viewpoint would support a dress code of this nature: no dude can avoid going to the testing center, therefore if seeing a girl in skinny jeans sends him down a road of lewd and inappropriate thoughts, then by all means! Help the poor bugger out! Yet, this is an extreme ideal and I don’t think it should be imposed in the middle of a school year, OR upon any that have already signed a previous lifestyle statement. I imagine that if, during my time at one of those cozy christian colleges, they had decided to make chapel attendance mandatory (or some other such change in the bylaws of our particular lifestyle statement) i would have been very upset, simply because that was something i considered in my choice of that college. Granted, I usually attended chapel, but i appreciated the fact that it was my choice. This is a long tangent, but I’ll bring it back to the point in this: I agree that the school has the right and the Biblical basis to make this decision (provided there are those attending who stumble as a result of skinny jeans), and i believe that the testing facility should be permitted to make a rule forbidding them within its bounds, but if they change their dress code and retroactively impose it throughout the campus on those who have already made the decision to attend, then I believe they have gone to far. Anything short of that, I believe, is within the University’s right.

    • The Mark passage reminds us to be aware of and “cut off” the part of ourselves which causes repeated and potentially unavoidable sins for that individual, given the particular environment or vehicle through which the “stumbling” may occur. If one recognizes he has a problem with alcohol abuse, he should make the personal conscience choice to avoid bars for his own well-being. Unless Scripture labels something a sin, we should be wary and hesitant to go further than God’s law mandates, so as not to minimize new covenant freedoms. Students in an educational environment must make personal conscience choices on skinny jeans and the like, because to impose stricter regulation would be a direct trespass of Christian liberty in general, and specifically of BYU’s officially stated mission of cultivating students to learn and grow in independent and godly life choices. Individuals must be honored with freedom to make decisions (although consequences are inevitable in all spheres of life, no matter the good or bad choice). In addition, the testing center’s statement asked for students to “seek the Lord’s direction,” or something of the sort, in their consideration of what clothing to wear. Perhaps students did listen for God’s direction and still considered skinny jeans appropriate. Furthermore, it doesn’t seem that skinny jeans are a common point of stumbling for many people, and legalism always seems to stem from the convictions of the few being imposed on the many. I consider this a personal conviction vs. widespread mandate.

  2. While I do have a problem with legalism (I would include some of what is on the “lifestyle statement” at the cozy college in St. Paul to be legalistic), I don’t have a problem with such rules on attire. As a man who has many female friends, I’ve noticed that much of the time that they dress immodestly, they don’t actually know it. They don’t always understand that wearing things like tight jeans will not only cause their brothers (context is for weenies) to stumble, but it will also send the wrong message out about them personally. If a Christian community has healthy communication among male and female leaders, they can point out to the community what is immodest dress.
    I hope this makes sense.

    • Perhaps conversations on personal levels between friends could make such unwittingly immodest dressers aware of this fact. Hopefully those in leadership roles are already among these students and leveraging healthy influence and encouraging personal responsibility.

  3. I would ban skinny jeans for men… but that’s just cause it’s weird… and so I digress. I wonder if they consider jeans that are too small on a large person to be “skinny jeans”? Are they checking labels? Could a person just use the excuse, “No, these are my normal jeans. I just put on a few pounds over the holidays”?

    I tire of the pettiness among believers.
    Good thoughts, John.

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