A Mormon college’s skinny jean ban (not)

The Internet soaked up a skinny jeans story yesterday when some writers thought Brigham Young University had banned the tight pants. It turns out that the confusion revolved around rules at BYU’s sister school in Idaho over those really tight pants the average Americans can’t fit into.

The story revolves around student who said that that a testing center employee told her she couldn’t take the test because her pants were too tight. Later reports reveal that there was confusion between departments, but the school ultimately does not ban skinny jeans.

Outlets like The Atlantic Wire to ABC News picked up the story. The Huffington Post another outlet that caught on with a post titled “BYU-Idaho Dress Code Prohibits Skinny Jeans: Report.” Adding “report” somewhere in your headline means that the writer thinks he or she can get away with posting just about anything and be absolved, I think.

If you read through the post, you’ll see an evolving story–seven paragraphs into the story.

But Kevin Miyasaki, BYU-I Student Services and Activities Vice President, clarified that there is not a skinny jeans ban per se. In an email to Gawker, he wrote, “We have not identified ‘skinny jeans’ as a specific violation of the dress and grooming standard.”

He added, “The Testing Center has not made any new standard, nor has there been a ban of a particular piece of clothing.”

So no ban. Butttt it still seems like those slim-cut J. Brands you’ve been hiding under your lofted BYU-I dorm bed are a no-no.

And then a correction at the bottom.

CORRECTION: Previously, this article incorrectly stated the university in question to be Brighman Young University, not Brigham Young University-Idaho. We have corrected the error.

It’s interesting to see most of the posts jump off of a story from Gawker, considering the writer admitted she wasn’t 100% sure the story was true (95% yes, but still). She did, however, do some follow-up by emailing school leaders.

Thanks to the confusion, the Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News wrote on the policy to clarify the spreading rumors. From Peggy Fletcher Stack:

…[T]he school has no policy against these popular pants, BYU-Idaho spokesman Andy Cargal said Wednesday.

“The testing center had chosen to make their own adaptation of the policy,” Cargal said. “The sign was up for about a week. When the university found out, that policy was discontinued.”

The school expects students to dress modestly, he said, but “we leave it up to them to use their own agency to figure out what’s modest and what isn’t.”

BYU-Idaho clarified the issue on its Facebook page, responding to an article in the student newspaper.

Wondering if skinny jeans are allowed on campus? They are. BYU-Idaho’s longstanding dress & grooming standards promote principles of modesty and restrict formfitting clothing, but skinny jeans are not singled out or prohibited. In addition, the Testing Center issue reported in Scroll has been corrected and is no longer in force.

So the Internet gets a field day over some pants. Less speculation and more clarifying with school officials could easily clear things up.

Skinny jeans image via Shutterstock.

Print Friendly

  • Karl

    I don’t think anyone seriously considers skinny jeans immodest nowadays.

  • Sarah Pulliam Bailey

    Karl, maybe. What about jeggings? :)

  • http://www.reddit.com/r/exmormon Jason Echols

    “The school expects students to dress modestly, he said, but ‘we leave it up to them to use their own agency to figure out what’s modest and what isn’t.’”

    Bollocks, Andy Cargal. What utter nonsense. Anyone who has studied at either BYU-I or BYU-Provo knows that isn’t the case. “We leave it up to them…”? Oh, please.

  • Jon

    Since they don’t allow shorts, flip-slops, etc., Mr. Cargal’s statement is an outright lie.

  • Jettboy

    Here you go for for the standards that any newspaper worth their salt, and doesn’t look like any of them are, could have quoted:

    The following supplemental information provides general guidelines for students, staff, faculty, and administrators in determining appropriate attire and grooming. Because of the constant change in dress and grooming styles, some trends, fads, or fashions common in the world may be determined inappropriate. The President’s Council reserves the right to determine whether a specific style or fad is inappropriate and thereby unacceptable at BYU-Idaho.

    Clothing is to be modest in fabric, fit, length, and style. It should also be appropriate for the occasion. Men and women’s dress should be reflective of their gender, and excessive or extreme styles should be avoided. For women, wardrobe selection should reflect modesty and femininity appropriate for a Latter-day Saint woman. For men, clothing should reflect good taste and masculinity appropriate for a priesthood bearer.


    A clean and well-cared-for appearance should be maintained at all times. Clothing is inappropriate when it is sleeveless, strapless, backless, or revealing. It should not have slits above the knee or be formfitting. Dresses and skirts must be knee-length or longer (even with leggings worn).

    Pants, slacks or jeans should not be patched, faded, frayed or torn and must be ankle length—no capris or shorts may be worn on campus. Hairstyles should be clean and neat, avoiding extreme styles and unnatural colors. Caps or hats should not be worn in buildings. Excessive ear piercings (more than one pair) and all other body piercings are inappropriate. Shoes should be worn in all public campus areas. Flip-flops and other casual footwear are inappropriate on campus.


    A clean and well-cared-for appearance should be maintained. Pants, slacks, and jeans should not be patched, faded, frayed or torn and must be ankle length—no shorts. Hairstyles should be clean and neat, avoiding extreme styles or colors, and trimmed above the collar leaving the ear uncovered. Caps or hats should not be worn in buildings. Sideburns should not extend below the earlobe or onto the cheek. If worn, moustaches should be neatly trimmed and may not extend beyond or below the corners of the mouth.

    Men are expected to be clean shaven; beards are not acceptable. Earrings and other body piercings are unacceptable. Shoes should be worn in all public campus areas. Flip-flops and other casual footwear are inappropriate on campus.

    Dress Standards for Men and Women at Campus Events

    Activity and Recreational Attire

    Dress standards for each event will be specified prior to the event. If no standard is indicated, the minimum standard will be campus attire. Modest casual attire may be worn at certain activities and events. Shorts and other pants ending above the ankle are inappropriate for campus. Shorts are only allowed at playing fields and must be modest in length. Traveling across campus to activities in shorts is not appropriate.

    Event Attire

    The minimum standard for men will be shirt and tie. Jeans are not acceptable. The minimum standard for women will be a dress (or a skirt and blouse or sweater). Casual dress or clothing will not be permitted.

    Semiformal Dance Attire

    Men: A tuxedo is optional, while church attire such as a sports coat or dressy sweater is recommended. A dress shirt and tie, formal half-collar shirt without tie, or turtleneck with a sport coat and dress slacks are acceptable. Dress shoes are required. Athletic shoes, t-shirts, kilts, jeans, and grubby attire are not acceptable.

    Women: A formal dress is optional; Sunday dress is recommended (a modest dress with the hemline or slit at or below the knee). Dress shoes are required. Athletic shoes, sleeveless dresses, spaghetti straps, low-cut necklines, unlined see-through materials, and open-back dresses below the shoulder blades are not acceptable.

    Special-Theme Dances
    Dress should be consistent with university dress standards at all events. Appropriate dress will be specified in the publicity prior to the dance.

    There are not that many differences between the school’s honor codes, but you can (unlike the reporters) easily find the information on the University websites.

  • BYU-I dad

    As someone who has a son at BYU-I (and who is not using the name I usually use when commenting on this blog, because I don’t want to take the risk of embarrassing him), I found it interesting to see how this story developed over the past few days.

    As far as I know, the story broke on The Student Review, an independent BYU student newspaper produced off-campus. Unfortunately, the Review article had some sloppy wording, and the headline reinforced the idea that what was happening was some sort of an official ban. Instead, the “ban” was apparently the not-specifically-authorized act of an overly zealous school employee. In the end, the resulting hubbub forced the school to clarify its policy in a way that probably wasn’t comfortable for school officials.

    What was interesting to me — although I’m not sure how newsworthy it would be outside LDS circles — was the reaction among church members in various forums of discussion, some public and some private. On the one hand were those (including at least two 20-somethings I personally know) who saw mere criticism of the supposed ban as a sinful act of disobedience to church authorities, and on the other side were those (also faithful members) who labeled supporters of the purported skinny-jeans ban as a bunch of Pharisees. I can’t tell what percentage of the church falls where, although I will say that I myself found disturbing the wording of the poster at the testing center. (And I have to agree with Jason and Jon above; any real journalist would not let Cargal’s statement about BYU-I students being given agency on their attire to go unchallenged. I can’t call it a lie if it was sincerely believed, but it’s still blatantly false.)

    Although this incident didn’t become much of a mainstream-media story, I think that at some point a good story for someone to do would be to examine how well the “I’m a Mormon” campaign — which features numerous people who couldn’t attend BYU-I without altering their appearance — coincides with the reality of the LDS church. I love the Church and I appreciate its expansive theology, I really do, but the emphasis we place on how people dress and groom themselves is, to be polite, often over the top. That aspect of the ad campaign just doesn’t coincide with reality, and incidents such as this one show it.

    (By the way, despite my disagreement with portions of the dress code and enforcement thereof, I think BYU-I is overall a great school. My son so far has had quite a positive experience there.)

  • Dave S

    You said, “Adding “report” somewhere in your headline means that the writer thinks he or she can get away with posting just about anything and be absolved, I think.”

    In a later, unrelated post, tmatt says, “So, once again, here’s the crucial info: Reporters write news stories; copy editors or designers write the headlines. It is very rare for a reporter to be consulted on the contents of a headline.”

    If tmatt is correct, and that has always been my understanding, then perhaps you were too hard on the reporter.

  • solomon kane

    I wonder if these dress and grooming codes aren’t a leftover from the 60′s and 70′s church reaction to the hippie counter-culture and the mainstream reactions to personal appearance. Where would we be if we resorted to judging a person’s worth by their personal appearance? What about the concept of agency? I beleive there was a war fought (pre-existently) over being compelled to conform…versus the freedom to choose.

  • Widemouth

    What’s underneath the magic Mormon underwear? – Exposed http://www.squidoo.com/mormon-church

  • John Pack Lambert

    I think another good angle would be to ask intensive questions of people affiliated with the university about why the policies exist.

    While some of them reflect concerns about modesty, others reflect a view that good grooming and dress habits promote more positive interactions on campus. Up until the 1960s there was an expectation of a certain level of formality in dress on most university campuses. This is not just about modesty, it is about presenting ones self in a professional manner.

  • John Pack Lambert

    The Deseret News article both quotes the policy and discusses its relation to the pamphlet “For the Stength of Youth”, which is approved by the First Presidency. While BYU and BYU-Idaho go beyond general LDS Church teaching on dress and grooming standards, it is possible to find recent General Conference talks not only for modesty, but against a sloppy appearance.