New Fort Irwin Dress Code Irks Spouses

A new dress code for off-duty servicemembers and family at Fort Irwin, an isolated California Army post, has raised the ire of military spouses who wonder if the military really has the right to tell them how to dress.

The dress code, which is illustrated on the poster below and has been placed on buildings around Fort Irwin, bans things like ripped jeans, backward hats, pajama pants, very short shirts and shorts and sagging pants.


“While one could certainly make the argument that some of these are common sense, I could just as easily argue that backwards ball caps and tank tops, not to mention ripped jeans which are very much a style right now and I continue to wear mine around post, are pretty benign,” spouse Ame Esterline commented on the Fort Irwin Facebook page. “The fact that so many of you continue to accept these small lapses in personal freedoms is not evidence of your positivity, but instead shows how willingly we are as a society to give control over to another simply because a given issue does not affect us.”

The Facebook post included a long message of explanation, which has been attributed to the post’s senior enlisted official, Command Sgt. Major Dale Perez.

“When it comes to off-duty attire, what might be offensive to you may be just normal clothing to some. It takes discipline to be a professional, and to be a professional it’s a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week way of life,” he said. “Bottom line – this was the right decision to make.”

He wrote that they hadn’t made the decision because of any one incident.

Fort Irwin, which houses the National Training Center, is home to about 9,000 people and is located in the middle of the Mojave Desert. Units use the training area there for predeployment dress rehearsals.

Because the post is so isolated – about 40 miles from the nearest real town – most families feel they don’t have any option but to live on post. If you’ve ever been to Fort Irwin, or even to Barstow, you know how in the middle of nowhere it is.

The new policy gives programs and facilities on Irwin, such as the commissary, the right to deny service to anyone not meeting the dress code.

Some characterized the new policy as being unfair or discriminatory. A few were especially annoyed by the “house shoes” and “pajama pants” prohibition.

“So would you tell an eight-month pregnant woman to take off her pajama pants? Just wondering. I never wore pajamas around post until I was pregnant,” wrote Crystal Knapp. “The concern being that if you allow it for a pregnant woman (and you should), you can’t really tell everyone else not to … Personally, I’d rather spouses be forced to color their offensive looking clown-colored hair. That’s a lousy example for children, too.”

“The rest I agree on, but PJs and house shoes?!!! I take care of myself, but if I have to run to the commissary in its opening hours, I’m not getting dolled up,” wrote Rose Natividad. “House shoes and PJs are okay with me.”

Of course, not everyone commented that this was a bad policy. Spouse Heather Ann wrote that she is “sick of seeing butt cheeks hanging out, men’s underwear from sagging pants, girls wearing shirts that are semi see-through with no bra, and, my favorite, bikini top with a open front shirt over it and thong hanging out!”

But even some who were OK with the policy are not OK with the poster displaying it. They said the graphic images posted all around Fort Irwin were more offensive than the people wearing the banned clothes.

“I don’t see why this poster has to be on every building. The only time my young boys see a girl in a thong or “booty shorts” is when go ANYWHERE on post and they see this poster,” wrote Megan Studdard. “I personally could care less how people dress; it’s their choice and honestly I have not seen anyone walking around Fort Irwin wearing a thong or bikini. Did ‘The Commander’ proof this poster before it was plastered up on every building around post?”

Fort Irwin is far from the only installation, Army or otherwise, to have a dress code. Navy bases in Japan enforce a strict dress code that prohibits active wear, such as running shorts, from being worn in the commissary and elsewhere, among other things. And the US Army bases on Hawaii prohibit items such as see-through clothing.

What do you think? Should every base have a policy like this one? Should pajama pants be banned from public places on every installation?

About Amy Bushatz

Amy is the editor in chief of Military.com’s spouse and family blog SpouseBuzz.com. A journalist by trade, Amy also covers spouse and family news for Military.com where she is the managing editor of spouse and family content. An Army wife and mother of two, Amy has been featured as a subject matter expert on CNN.com, NPR, Fox News, NBC, CBS, ABC and BBC as well as in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. Follow her on twitter @amybushatz.


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