Dress codes can often be racist, the Waterford bar just said the quiet part out loud


  • Morgaen Jazziette/Facebook
A Waterford bar got in hot water last week after a guest posted a photo of its dress code, which banned "ghetto gear," among other items, like "wife beaters," sideways baseball hats, and baggy clothes.

"It felt like a modern-day no colored sign to me," Morgaen Jazziette, who took the photo and shared it to Facebook, where it was shared thousands of times, told WXYZ.

CJ's Upper Deck Bar & Grille responded, saying that was an "aged" dressed code, and their intention was to "create a respectful environment."

Now, it's one thing for a business to implement a dress code to create an "environment" or "atmosphere." Dress codes make sense at fine-dining establishments, or upscale nightclubs. CJ's appears to be neither.

Yet CJ's dress code is no anomaly. Many bars and clubs enact similar policies that seem targeted at policing Black bodies, including bars in Chicago, Baltimore, Sacramento, Portland, and Rochester, New York.

Dress codes start in schools, which have been criticized for not just being racist, with Black hairstyles like dreadlocks being banned, but also sexist, with girls being disciplined more for wearing clothing that "distracts" boys, like short skirts and spaghetti straps. Meanwhile, transgender and gender non-conforming students have also been disciplined for wearing clothes that don't conform to what is expected. In recent years, there's been pushback, with students protesting by releasing viral videos, circulating petitions, and staging walkouts, prompting some schools to reevaluate their dress codes.

Perhaps it's time for some bars to reevaluate theirs.

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