With blazing temperatures predicted into the indefinite future, discussions have begun in my office about appropriate attire for the summer.
More specifically, I wonder, is it okay for me to wear a sundress?
I work in a pretty standard office environment. We all sit at desks in front of computers, but in the parlance of the company, we’re considered a “production environment.” Even though many of us — I won’t name names — spend most of the day knitting and doing crosswords, with their “production” limited primarily to carbon dioxide emissions.
The air-conditioning in this facility is spotty at best. We’re basically a retrofitted warehouse, carved out of the corner of a cavernous storage room. If you’re lucky enough to sit under a vent, you stay cool. Otherwise, it may take a small fan blowing directly into your face to stay comfortable.
Women have an unfair advantage when it comes to clothing options. They can wear open-toed shoes, skirts and shoulder-bearing tops. They can wear pants of virtually any length, short of short-shorts. They don’t even have to wear socks!
Men are pretty much stuck with full-length slacks. One rebellious second-shift proofreader showed up in shorts the other day, but he was given a pass, probably because the shorts were a camouflage print and management feared he’d go commando if confronted. (I feared he’d “gone commando” in another sense as well, but fortunately knee-length britches prevented any unintended exposure).
My desire to show up some morning in a flowery frock doesn’t mean I’m a would-be cross-dresser. Just because I’d feel a lot cooler (temperature-wise as well as fashion-wise) in a sleeveless minidress doesn’t make me weird. In fact, I’d probably be covered by some kind of anti-discrimination statute.
I just want to be comfortable, to have fresh air swirling about my privates, to have nothing but a thin layer of cotton keeping me decent.
Why is our society stuck with these old-fashioned notions of what is proper clothing and what isn’t? We should look to the natural world and to indigenous societies for guidance.
Peoples who live in tropical jungles and whose “office” is the wild-running stream or the open savannah have the common sense to dress in simple thongs. Communities of the far north wrap themselves in layers of fur and blubber to protect against the cold. There are no human resources managers telling anybody they are not dressed appropriately. You’re not going to see bare-legged Eskimos unless you visit the CuteAleuts.com porn site.
I’ll admit that some advances in comfort have been made. We’ve come a long way from those Victorian times when civilized society was dressed head to toe in restrictive outerwear. But I want to see the progression completed. If shorts and T-shirts became acceptable in polite society as early as the 1960s, you’d think by now we’d be well on the road toward widespread public nudity. Especially when you throw in global warming.
But I see nothing in Company Policy No. HR-4-18 (“Dress Code”) that sanctions nakedness.
“Employees should present a professional image to customers, prospects, and to the public and their attire should be indicative of the type of work being done at each facility,” reads the policy. “Employees are expected to, at all times, present a neat and appropriate appearance.”
Can’t a person be neat and nude at the same time? Wouldn’t going “full frontal” eliminate the need to specify all that we can’t wear? “No tank tops; midriff tops; shirts with potentially offensive words, cartoons or slogans; halter-tops; torn or frayed clothing; see-through apparel; revealing slits; beach sandals are allowed,” reads Procedure D. Note that they didn’t mention togas, codpieces and raw animal pelts as forbidden attire. Does that mean they’re allowed?
The only potentially negative effect I see of working in the buff is that male employees may be inserting extra spacebands into their word processing files. But only when they first sit down and only if they’re fully aroused.
I do acknowledge that there may be safety issues that would be of concern in some of our production environments. The guys working in the pressroom, for example, are not allowed to have beards longer than four inches, lest they get caught up in the machinery. I agree that our clients have every right to expect they can turn to page 68 of their annual proxy statement and not find the lower half of Bob’s face imprinted atop the executive summary compensation table.
So I am willing to be reasonable. I understand that there are other societal forces at work that quite properly sanction 57-year-old men from coming to work in the altogether. And I know that I don’t really have the figure to do proper justice to all those kicky sheaths I saw in the Misses department while shopping at Target yesterday.
But I think I am going to see if I can get away with wearing shorts. Perhaps if I approach it incrementally, my manager will never notice. One day, I’ll wear standard slacks but it’ll be a pair I borrowed from my slightly shorter son that end an inch or two above my shoes. The next day, I’ll wear Capris. The day after that, it’ll be clam-diggers. I’ll let those sink in for a week or so, then make the next step to basketball shorts. Then, it’s just a short few centimeters up my leg to knee-length trunks, tennis shorts and, my ultimate goal, “Daisy Dukes” short-shorts.
If I’m going to spend this awful summer of record heat panting to catch my breath, I aim to do it panted appropriately.