The First Amendment Encyclopedia

Presented by the John Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies

Case Categories: Dress and Hair Regulations

Dress codes are typically implemented by school districts and employers to promote learning, safety, and image. Although such regulations face First Amendment challenges by students, parents, and employees, the courts generally support the schools and employers.

Likewise, employers generally may set standards for their employees’ personal appearance, including their hair length and style, if the regulations are related to legitimate business or governmental objectives. Employers, school officials, and prison administrators have given a number of reasons for regulations determining hair length and hair styles; among them are identification, safety, hygiene, and appropriateness.

Nevertheless, such regulations have led to First Amendment battles, with litigants in several cases challenging these policies for being discriminatory or for violating individuals’ rights to freedom of expression or the free exercise of religion.

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