Me: Do you know what “Norts” are mother?
Mother: Sounds like an alien’s venereal disease.
Me: They’re Nike athletic shorts.
Mother: You were named after Nike, the Greek goddess of war.
Me: I know. That makes it even funnier that the high school girls at Grimsley were called out for being provocative for wearing them last week.
Mother: What do they know? Their mascot is hot air.
It’s a debate that goes back as far as Adam and Eve and the fig leaf, but for my purposes, the Harper Valley PTA will suffice as a historical fashion police reference. It all began during Greensboro’s Grimsley High School’s first week and new Principal Charles Blanchard’s removal of the middle-finger rule. At first I thought this was a helluva smart rule. I mean, who needs teenagers running around gesturing rudely? They’re rude enough as is.
Then he explained to me that this is the middle of the finger “tip” rule as it applies to skirt and short length. “I tried to be more flexible because fingers fall on the leg differently,” says Blanchard. “Where I made my mistake was mentioning running shorts as an example and that’s when things blew up. It’s a good example of how difficult it is to clearly communicate when there are 1,700 students and 100 adults involved.”
Indeed. What he failed to mention was that those 1,700 kids were armed with social-media skills and not afraid to use them — especially when their monogrammed (or is that just Page High?) athletic-short form of expression is threatened. Or as one parent on the Grimsley Parent Group Facebook Page put it: “Well, the Revolt of the Suburban White Girls isn’t likely to go down in history with the Whiskey Rebellion or the Irish ‘troubles,’ but at least it was bloodless.”
My teen sources tell me that wha-ha-happened was this: Girl after girl got “dress-coded” after a fire drill that many of the students (according to Twitter) believed to be a ruse to vet their wardrobes. They were then forced to carry around purple sheets of paper with their violations inscribed on it — a veritable Scarlet Letter. And that’s when the real fire started. Twitter exploded, clandestine parking-lot meetings were planned, boys borrowed Norts from girls to wear the next day in solidarity. It was Nortsageddon. Scarily though hilariously enough one teen tweeted, “The white girls at Grimsley are about to make Ferguson look like the McDonald’s Play Place if they try to enforce this Norts ban tomorrow….”
Clearly, something had to be done.
“I went to my admin team and said the last thing we want to do is to pull kids out of class for this. We need to go to classes ourselves and see if the kids have questions,” says Blanchard. “We did a Connect Ed with parents to let them know that what we really meant to say is that this is all about using good judgment and being appropriate. At the end of the day, yes, Norts are allowed as long as they cover appropriately.”
One parent I spoke with believes that Blanchard is an evil genius in galvanizing these youths (it’s either that or Reese Witherspoon movies). “These kids have not been this unified in years. I think he’s teaching them how to organize and use their brains to make change — how to be thinking and participating citizens.”
Another wrote, “This is a generation of young adults we have all helicoptered so long all they hear are our voices advocating for them. Perhaps this is an opportunity for them to hear their own…. That said, I myself have been more aware. All of a sudden I’m awake and checking the Grimsley Page on Facebook.”
Cheerleaders, another long-persecuted group along with suburban white girls, also suffered through this traumatic first week of school.
“We decided that it would be inappropriate to let cheerleaders wear their cheer skirts to class and ask more from the rest of the students,” says Blanchard. “This is in keeping with tennis skirts and wrestling singlets not being allowed in class.”
Some students are still skeptical. One senior, using her mother’s Facebook Parent Page jumped in, “I just wanted to say that it’s funny that he is giving completely different rules to the parents. On his slideshow of what was not allowed and was inappropriate, a photo of Nike shorts showed up.”
Blanchard, who, despite this friction, is already widely liked amongst both the student and parental body if you read the social media feedback. He’s got a great track record (with all apologies) and is accessible and affable.
Me: Welcome back to Greensboro! Do you think Norts-Gate will be your legacy?
Blanchard: I sure hope not. But you never know, we might get a Nike commercial out of it.
The moral of this story is, don’t mess with Nike. She’s a warrior, she wears shorts, understands the power of social media and she has a helluva international advertising budget. Hmmm… I see London. I see France.