Every time I go anywhere on base, there it is, staring me in the face. The dress code. I check it out, every single time. At the commissary, the PX, the on-base post office, the shoppette (or Class Six for non-USMC folks).
And I smirk/cringe a little bit every time.
It’s Time for an On-Base Dress Code Update
Let’s be honest, the on-base dress code is a smidge, well, old fashioned and out of date.
Yet, I still 100% get why we need a dress code. I definitely understand the ban on shorty-shorts and midriff-baring tops. Ditto for sports bras worn as tops.
Let’s Talk About Spandex
Gym attire used to be just for the gym. Put it on, get sweaty and then shower up.
Today? Almost everything I own is a spandex blend of some sort or other. Leggings, jeans, tops. Yeah, it’s all stretchy.
Take a look around today. Go to any military base and visit the commissary or the PX. I’m willing to bet that more than 50% of female patrons will be wearing pants or tops that might be considered “gym” wear. Why? Because they are tight, stretchy, spandex-based athleisure.
And everyone is wearing them, every where.
If the on-base retailers want to spend their time kicking folks out over athleisure-style leggings, that’s totally their prerogative. I get it, I’m technically breaking the rules by wearing leggings. But I’m definitely not going to stop wearing leggings just to shop on base. I’ll go elsewhere.
Flipping Out Over Flops
Know what else technically isn’t “allowed” at on-base retailers? Flip flops. Which I, and almost everyone I know, wears almost exclusively all summer long. For those of us located in year-round warm climates, like SoCal or Hawaii, sandals are a way of life.
I know that patrons have been kicked out of the commissary or the Exchange just for wearing flip flops. It’s definitely more likely at East Coast duty stations, particularly hubs like Quantico.
Let’s be clear: flip flops are not shower shoes. Not even close.
Shower shoes are typically cheap rubber or plastic things, really thin. They break easily, too. You can pick up a pair for under $5 at Old Navy, Target or Walmart.
Now flip flops are more sturdy, with thicker fabric or leather straps. My personal flip flops have embroidery on the strap part. And I’ve had them for about three years or more because they last. These aren’t some throwaway footwear. These are quality. And I would never wear them to shower. Ever.
Over the Top On Tanks
Now, this is kind of a grey area – tank tops. I have some sleeveless tops that are definitely work-appropriate. But, technically, I can’t wear them to shop on-base. Why? Because they are sleeveless “tank tops.”
I get that the dress code really means tanks that were meant to be worn as underwear, like camisoles or sleeveless undershirts for men. But the language is so vague that anything without sleeves or with thinner shoulder straps is included.
My silk sleeveless top? It’s a tank top.
The language of this one needs to be revisited: tank tops covers everything without sleeves that can be worn as a shirt. And that leaves a lot of wiggle room for interpretation.
Revise the On-Base Dress Code
Sure, the posters might be laminated and feature models from the late 1990s or early 2000s, but we all know that these dress code rules are way older.
The language just doesn’t match how modern military families live. Plus, the rules are not applied universally. It seems like every single base has their own little quirks and rules, some things that are more tightly enforced than others.
It’s time for our on-base civilian dress code to catch up to the 21st century, a time of leggings and flip flops. Where tank tops in warm weather is typical for men and women.
I understand the need to discourage folks from going straight from the gym to the commissary or PX. It’s smelly and sweaty! But keeping athleisure-type spandex as a “banned” items? Please, that’s ridiculous.
I get the desire to maintain modesty. After all, the military does maintain high standards! Discouraging short shorts and peek-a-boo undergarments is absolutely understood, and much appreciated.
Personally, I like to shop on base. Prices are reasonable for many items and it’s tax-free. Plus, for many years, it’s been convenient for my family, an easy way to save a little on our food bills. I also don’t reveal a lot of skin or really skate too far outside the lines – other than my leggings, flip flops and
Bottom line: it’s time to check the dress code rules against accepted civilian attire worn by a majority of military spouses and off-duty troops. It’s out of date and restricts the ability of patrons to shop on-base (when enforced).
Do you think that the on-base dress code needs an update for the modern era? Comment below with your thoughts!
Slider image Photo Credit: © Yury Zap/Adobe Stock