This amazing 1969 article asks: should women be allowed to wear slacks?


Amid the chaos and upheaval of American life in 1969, a monumental shift occurred. No more would a large group in a Southern city be forced to conform to a stereotypical image. No longer would the comfort of the many be withheld to appease the few.

Yes, that’s right: In February of 1969, Furman University in South Carolina decreed it was acceptable for female students to wear slacks on campus.

And the February 21 edition of student newspaper The Paladin was on it.

“Recently the Furman administration passed a ruling that coeds can wear slacks on campus. Girls responded with everything from shock to shrieking glee.”

Wouldn’t you?

“Other schools have expressed curiosity as to Furman’s official policy on this matter and what the results have been.”

Furman is located in scenic Greenville, which is the Austin of South Carolina—the trendsetter label is apt. Also, with the 20/20 vision of hindsight, we now know that Furman University continued to exist after letting its women wear pants.

“There have been those on campus who objected, some to the authorities.”

“Hello, 911? I’m on the Furman campus and I’d like to report a lady walking around in pants. Send backup.”

Conflict on campus! Slacks-gate! Slacks Strife ’69! Why isn’t anyone who supports the new rule telling Dean Chiles how good this rule is?

Also, this sentence:

“The ruling was passed on the basic theory that college students are old enough to dress themselves.”

…sounds like some proto-shade.

“The situation hangs in balance, suspended by the old, unanswered question of what is the “Furman lady” and what is her image?

That old chestnut.

Continuing on, you learn that Furman’s “style” had been one of conservative dress and well-groomedness but was creeping towards being more fashionable. It was the 1960s, after all.

“It seems to appear that the same meticulousness and care for style and grooming have applied to slacks as did to skirts and dresses. That is, each girl seems to apply the same the same rules for her personal dress in pants as she does in a skirt.”

Amazing to think that the women of Furman who took up wearing slacks did not immediately turn into slovenly, ankle-covered, belt-loop-using monsters.

“In the more immediate future lies spring.”

More accurately, spring in South Carolina which can be a lot like “summer in most places” aka “the slackless times.” Can these women responsibly manage their personal dress while the mercury rises?

“If individuals are thoughtless in their dress…they can cause the image of the Furman girl and of the whole individual institution to suffer.”

Wait, I thought this whole thing was about prioritizing comfort over appearance.

“The question of individual one of responsibility to our school and fellow students.”

We’re beginning to suspect that article writer Melissa Metcalfe really prefers to wear slacks and would prefer her fellow female students not screw this up for her.

“Others are watching us.”

And they most-likely were dressed like this.

Thanks for the progressive, well-reasoned piece, Paladin. And congratulations to the ladies of Furman, who were able to dress themselves in the clothes they wanted without causing the immediate ruination of a 150-year-old university.

David Matthews operates the Wayback Machine on—hop on. Got a tip? Email him: [email protected]

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