Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

10 Rights the First Amendment Absolutely Does Not Grant


1
The Right to Dress Funny
Back in 1922, women were arrested for defying a Chicago edict banning abbreviated bathing suits on beaches. © Bettmann/CORBIS
Back in 1922, women were arrested for defying a Chicago edict banning abbreviated bathing suits on beaches. © Bettmann/CORBIS

Fashion is a wonderful example of free expression. Although the First Amendment doesn't mention "freedom of expression" by name, the courts often lumps together the freedoms of speech, religion, press, assembly and petition as forms of expression [source: ACLU]. So if you're free to express yourself through your clothes, what about clothing that's offensive, revealing or nonexistent?

Here again, our First Amendment freedoms are limited by location. The Supreme Court has ruled that private property owners can kick people off the premises for wearing an offensive T-shirt or no shirt at all [source: First Amendment Center]. For instance, a restaurant is within its rights to put up a sign saying, "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service." Similarly, individual states and cities can set their own public nudity and decency laws that dictate what people can legally wear or not wear in public.

In a 1991 case, the Supreme Court affirmed that states also have the right to restrict nude dancing in adult clubs. The justices ruled that public nudity laws apply even during private shows. It's not a restriction of the freedom of expression, justices concluded, because the dancers are still free to express themselves erotically wearing a "scant amount of clothing" [source: LII].


More to Explore