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November 12, 2007

Skirting the Rules on Corporate Attire


Does a knee-length skirt – perhaps pleated, perhaps a yellowish plaid – qualify as business attire? Well, why wouldn’t it?


It might depend who’s wearing it. Then again, it might not.


I have yet to experience this in my own company, but on a recent visit to the local library, I encountered an employee dressed in a stylish bright yellow-plaid skirt, complimenting a solid black top. The employee was checking out books and restocking the shelves. Interaction with various library patrons made it clear that the employee is well-acquainted with library operations and was, consequently, very helpful indeed.


So, nothing out of the ordinary here, right? Yellow-plaid skirt. Black top. Professional competence. All within the realm of acceptability for our library employee.


The employee’s name was Jim.


You could not tell, if you viewed Jim from the back, that he is a man. The shoulder length hair and the skirt would certainly not sing an ode to manliness. From the front – well, that’s a different story. There’s shoulder-length hair on the front as well. I caught myself thinking, “It’s always unfortunate when a woman has to confront that little facial hair problem, but really, there’s no shame in using a razor if you have to . . . oh wait, this is a freaking guy!”


Perhaps coincidence, perhaps not, but Jim chose a skirt length just perfect to reveal the snake tattoos that cover – and I do mean cover – his calves.


A few friends doubted that I was reading the situation correctly.


“It must have been a kilt,” both theorized. That’s Scottish for “a skirt that’s OK for men to wear so long as they’re playing bagpipes.”


I’ve seen kilts. Sean Connery. Fat Bastard. Jim was not wearing a kilt. Jim was wearing a skirt.


I returned to the library two days later, and there was Jim again, this time wearing a pleated gray number with a blue top.


There is no mystery remaining here. Jim is a man who wears a skirt to work in the 21st Century United States of America. What’s more, he does so in a work setting that brings him into contact with a great many members of the general public.


Hey. Hanging out at the library is great fun just for the people-watching value. And when it comes to people-watching as freak-show entertainment, it doesn’t get any better than Jim.


I thought about Corporal Klinger from M*A*S*H, who wore dresses to try to appear insane so he could get a Section 8 discharge. But if Jim wanted to stop working for the library, I assume he could simply quit. It’s probably a scheme beyond the ability of my feeble mind to comprehend. It’s amazing how hard some people will work at not having to work.


So what does all this mean for the business world as we confront the many weighty issues of the future? Is it time for the HR Committee at the Very Big Corporation of America LLC to convene, develop guidelines and run them by Legal?


Perhaps my friend Colby the Consultant could put tiny skirts on a few flies and put them in front of some fish.


I think a few simple rules can make for smooth sailing here. First, no slits. The last things any of us need to see are Jim’s thunder thighs. Second, if a man decides to wear a full dress, no sweetheart neck lines. They just don’t rest well against the male torso. Third, absolutely no black patent leather shoes. They reflect up, you know.


I guess fair is fair. Women can wear pants. Why shouldn’t men be allowed to wear skirts? Especially if you’ve gone to the trouble of getting cool snake tattoos on your calves, it seems an awful shame to have to wear pants so no one can see them.


Maybe Jim has started a trend here. Guys, pull on those skirts and go about proudly, and good luck in the job interview! You can bet Sharon Stone doesn’t get told, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.” So I’m sure the same will apply in your case.


Yep. Really sure.


© 2007 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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