Cincinnati Mall has a dress code and other rules

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 27, 2004

Cincinnati Mall has a dress code and other rules. No baseball caps on sideways or groups larger than three. Mom and Dad want to take their 2 kids shopping? One of the little buggers needs to stay in the car.

Reader comments

Chuck WelchAug 27, 2004 at 11:20AM

I'm just down the road in Louisville. I can't make it there this weekend, but it sounds like a road trip is in order for Labor Day.
I would like to see if the conservatively dressed man and his family are cited for Reds caps worn too low or sideways..

Yes, I do always have to poke at a scab to see if it stings.

MarcAug 27, 2004 at 11:30AM

I'm sure skin color will be a primary determinant of just how rigorously these rules will be enforced.

MarkAug 27, 2004 at 11:32AM

Maybe this is just a midwest thing. I've been to plenty of malls where a "no large teenage groups / gang colors or apparel" rules were enforced. I think my first experience was around 8 years ago, somewhere in Iowa.

Sure, maybe the fears are a tad on the irrational side, but I can see the purpose. It's bad enough being at a mall, without having to worry about a few immature egos clashing getting you shot. And some of you may scoff about there being gangs in the midwest, but I seem to remember that there was an increasing gang problem in Omaha in the 80s-90s.

Now whether or not there's discrimination happening ... I'd have to say that yes, non-white youths in large groups would be targetted more often than the clumps of Rich White Britneys - but if you had to make a common sense decision, who would you tag as more potentially dangerous? SUV driving notwithstanding.

Maybe this is my own bigotry peeking through, but being one who has found himself in between two converging groups of not necessarily well-behaved youths at a mall without any of the 'rules' in question, I couldn't help but feel the back of my neck tingling.

Oh well though. Maybe it's just the rent-a-cops trying to justify their positions.

Chris AndersonAug 27, 2004 at 11:33AM

I'm in Dayton so I'll stop by as well when I can. I may even bring my wife and two kids just to be a rebel! Although...to be fair to the mall wardens - I mean managers - Donnie was wearing a seriously gangsta golf shirt. Poppin' some caps in the Pro Shop after our round Biff?

MarkAug 27, 2004 at 11:37AM

If I lived a bit closer, I'd have to stop by with my wife and 3 (soon to be 4) kids. They'd probably stop us before we got out of the van.

Robert UhlenbrockAug 27, 2004 at 11:51AM

I live less than 15 minutes from Cincinnati Mills (formerly Forest Fair Mall). With a discount movie theater
and large arcade, the demise the original mall was the hordes of unruly teenagers. The ownership seems to be
taking an active role in preventing a repeat of history.

RichardAug 27, 2004 at 11:52AM

My guess is that other malls have similar rules although not publicized. I hope anyone here who tests this will come back and let us know what happened (Chuck).

I agree that it's probably not colorblind yet the larger issue is interesting to me: if I owned the mall and wanted to make a pleasant atmosphere for people spending money there, do I "disneyland" the place (can this be done legally?) or what? How much control is too much control, both legally and ethically and socially?

The tension between shopping atmosphere and the legal use of a mall as a covered, warm hangout (with a bit of shopping tossed in I'm sure) is fascinating.

I've been in malls that were tough to navigate and it was huge gaggles of giggling teenage girls that made it so.

MattAug 27, 2004 at 11:53AM

Hooray for standards and rules. God forbid people agree to a certain standard of behavior and appearance for the use of a commercial service. Kant would be applauding, I think.

MylesAug 27, 2004 at 11:55AM

As a Miami Alum like Donnie, I have to say that all he would have had to do was show his Miami ID to mall security -- that should have been enough to prove that there's no way his real gangsta.

MylesAug 27, 2004 at 11:56AM

Damn. "he's a real gangsta"

Prefer to be anon sorry still go to singapore !Aug 27, 2004 at 1:49PM

I grew up in singapore and always hated rules on mass gatherings; as they seem to stifle normal life arc for young people.

Now i live back in the uk and you should all be glad that your malls just throw you out of the mall. The police forces in the uk can now deport you back to your home if they dont like the look of you; and its not a published dress code its behaviour ...

Remind who won the cold war ?

Wayne BurkettAug 27, 2004 at 3:06PM

There are similar rules in place at the Union Station Mall in St. Louis. The rules got some press a few years ago when the rapper Nelly was thrown out of the mall for wearing a "do rag."


The mall specifically prohibits "wearing or showing a bandana or do rag of any color, a hat tilted or turned to the side, a single sleeve or pant leg pulled/rolled up and flashing gang signs."

GeneAug 27, 2004 at 6:10PM

Richard above asks about "disneylanding" the place -- the ironic thing is that Disneyland has no such rules. You're free to wear your cap backwards, forwards, and sideways (especially the kind with ears) and you can bring as many friends with you as you want.
Unless, of course, you work there.

jojoAug 27, 2004 at 8:00PM

Here's the best part:

If you don't like their rules, don't give them your money!

America. What a country!

markAug 27, 2004 at 8:22PM

Here's the best part:

If you don't like their rules, say about not serving black people or making 'different peopole' sit in the back of the bus, don't give them your money!

America, what a country!

MattAug 27, 2004 at 11:54PM

If you are incapable of differentiating between government-mandated inequality and the right of a business to pick and choose whose money they take based on whatever criteria they want, then.. I'm sorry. The educational system has failed you.

MattAug 27, 2004 at 11:57PM

p.s. It's not illegal to be a racist.

markAug 28, 2004 at 1:08AM


All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, and privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, as defined in this section, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.

(b) Each of the following establishments which serves the public is a place of public accommodation within the meaning of this title if its operations affect commerce, or if discrimination or segregation by it is supported by State action:

(1) any inn, hotel, motel, or other establishment which provides lodging to transient guests, other than an establishment located within a building which contains not more than five rooms for rent or hire and which is actually occupied by the proprietor of such establishment as his residence;

(2) any restaurant, cafeteria, lunchroom, lunch counter, soda fountain, or other facility principally engaged in selling food for consumption on the premises, including, but not limited to, any such facility located on the premises of any retail establishment; or any gasoline station;

markAug 28, 2004 at 1:27AM

Denying people access to public facilities based on assumptions of "gang like apparel" seems like a slippery slope to me. Defining this practice as a limit to freedom of speech, as the salon article about nelly referred to above states, feels a bit dubious as well. The owners and mangers are claiming this as a a first amendment issue, and in that case the Supreme Court has upheld the ability of private institutions to suppress peoples right to freedom of speech.

1972, the Supreme Court ruled in Lloyd vs. Tanner that shopping centers were considered private entities, and could therefore limit speech activities on their premises.

MattAug 28, 2004 at 8:56AM

I understand your meaning. However, it is not illegal to discriminate about who you let through your doors, whose money you accept as payment for goods and services, for whatever reason. It is illegal for the government to sanction it.

This goes along the same lines as "hate crimes", which are essentially punishing thought along with action. Though the argument gets made that we do that concerning premeditation, being punished "extra" for premeditation does not equate with being punished for being racist/bigoted etc.

It all boils down to that the mall owners and proprietors should be free to disallow anyone they wish from entering their doors. That is the slippery slope.

PhilAug 28, 2004 at 9:07AM

I think there is a difference between discriminating based on race
and asking people to adhere to a set of standards for dress or behavior,
as long as those standards are applied equally. I teach school, and have
heard ad nauseum complaints that dress code policies target certain
"cultures". I don't buy it.
I do agree that the policy needs to be applied across the board.

Josh WilliamsAug 28, 2004 at 11:53AM

That is simply unreal.

And I have to disagree with Phil above. Targeting those who wear their hat sideways is definitely a cultural sting. In this situation, Security knows exactly who they are trying to distance from the mall. Sure, it's a private establishment, and they can try to do what they want...

However, if the problem is truly crime and unruly conduct, this is a halfass bandaid for much deeper issues. If this is what we are resorting to in order to "control crime," we as a society have even larger issues we need to address ourselves.

TomAug 28, 2004 at 4:00PM

Josh wrote:
And I have to disagree with Phil above. Targeting those who wear their hat sideways is definitely a cultural sting.

Riiiight. Because minorities are the only ones who wear their hats sideways. Until (as usual) the elite white males co-opt the trend and make it acceptible for middle-class suburban boys everywhere to turn their 'lids 30 degrees off-center.

As you can see, we've got a long way to go.

BobbyAug 28, 2004 at 6:56PM

Amen Matt, amen Phil.

I feel like everyone is dancing around the real issue here because they are so afraid to state what is painfully obvious but politically incorrect, and that is that visual profiling WORKS! Oh my god I said it! Someone call the ACLU. Thinking that we live in a world where visual profiling is obsolete and inherently wrong is simply being naive to reality.

Short of handing everyone a survey when they walk in, the only way to weed out the bad news from the rest is by eyeballing them with educated criteria in mind. If malls were government buildings, I would say "for shame!" to this practice, but the fact is that they're privately run businesses, and it's about time for goverment to stop crawling down business owners' throats and let them run their damn businesses however they please. If you don't like it, don't shop there! How's that for capitalism at work?

You don't walk into a Korean home with your shoes on, you don't walk into a Temple eating a pork chop, and you don't go damn near anywhere butt naked. So if you want to talk about cultural respect, what about respecting the culture that the private business is trying to adhere to via its own rules on its own premises?

Steven MarshallAug 29, 2004 at 3:52AM

Gives me another reason to not shop at the mall

GiaSep 04, 2004 at 3:29PM

After reviewing all points above, I can simply state that I see where everyone is coming from.
I find Bobby's statement to be very funny but seriously very true. What I find interesting is the
statements about cultural targeting. Welcome to being a teenager. At the mall near my relatively
normal sized (1500) public high school, there are rules about size of groups and dress code specifically
applying to teenagers. It's completely bogus because a large group of 20 year olds could walk in and
not be bothered; but teenagers in groups of 4 or more "need to separate or leave" as a security guard
once said very rudely to my group of 4 girlfriends. One of these days I should have 15 groups of three
walk around near each other but not "together". :)

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.