Thursday, July 02, 2015

Hot in the city...but only for men!



Yesterday at Waterloo


So, it was the hottest day in London for nearly ten years yesterday and it highlighted yet another inequality between men and women in the workplace. 

In every job I have had, it has been a requirement for men to wear suits, long sleeved shirts (my friend Bill wears short sleeved shirts to work in the summer but he is an actuary) and ties. Now, admittedly, people in my new office are not wearing ties during this hot spell but as soon as we have a meeting with external clients, inside or offsite, the tie has to go on and the jacket has to be worn. So we trudge out onto the baking streets this week to find what? Women dressed as if they are off to the beach! Now, I admit that I am now across the river from the City but hot pants and cotton vests (tanks for North Americans) as appropriate work wear? Thigh, shoulder and back revealing sun dresses? Plunging necklines? It is not only inappropriate it is, much more importantly, not fair! 


Episode 3 of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.  The first depiction of the Peninsula War on TV since Sharpe


Why can’t I wear shorts to work instead of sweltering in wool trousers? Except I would not, as shorts should not be worn by any man over the age of 25 and by no men with really hairy legs, on account of the fact it looks disgusting. As a wargamer I often look at the clothes soldiers used to have to wear in hot climates in the past and think: What on earth made their leaders think that this heavy clothing would contribute to an efficient fighting force? But a suit, shirt and tie is, in effect, the uniform of many men working in Britain. Not IT people, of course, who seem to have managed to gain an exception on the basis of being the possessors of arcane knowledge. They are like your curiously dressed wizards in your otherwise conventionally clothed fantasy army. Yet women, somehow, have managed to get an even more relaxed exception, merely by dint of being women.

Women are quite capable of wearing a suit to work, although I will even grant them an exemption from wearing a tie, which really is a ridiculous historical throwback. Interestingly, when I worked in a City law firm it was notable that the more formally dressed the woman was the more junior she was likely to be. Lady lawyers tended to wear plain skirts and blouses. If you saw a woman in a pinstripe suit (sometimes with trousers, sometimes even with a tie) she was almost certainly going to be junior support staff. But the point is, if men are expected to wear suits then women should do as well! 


Lloyd's Underwriting Room


When I worked at Lloyd’s of London, the Underwriting Room had a strict dress code of suits and ties. One summer, just after moving in to the new building in 1986, we had a particularly hot spell. The Room, at the heart of Richard Roger’s iconic building, was, to all intents, a greenhouse in design. There was a problem with the air conditioning. It got hotter and hotter. Now, of course, instantly, all the lady brokers (known as brochettes) appeared at work in tiny, wafting dolly dresses. The lacy tights (then very much de rigeur) all disappeared and we were presented with acres of bare legs. As an aside, how is it that women always know when the weather is turning hot, and adjust their clothing for work accordingly, even if the heat suddenly comes on half way through the day? The answer, of course, is that they look at the weather forecast on a daily basis. I don’t look at the weather forecast because the result makes absolutely no difference as to what I have to wear. Anyway, back at Lloyd’s a memorandum from the Chairman was circulated immediately, reporting complaints from Underwiters (all male at that time) about the abbreviated clothing and pointing out that the Room had a dress code which was, and I quote, “suits with ties for men and the equivalent, whatever that is, for women.” The Chairman was totally baffled about how to define what women should wear. It should have been clear. Suits for all. Case closed. But, no, women got away with it again. The next day a few flimsy jackets or lightweight cardigans appeared over the tiny sundresses but the bare legs and (often) low cut tops remained. At the time I wondered to my girlfriend (who also worked at Lloyd’s) why anyone would complain about underdressed women? Her answer was that it depended on the women; some of whom (like her) looked better underdressed than others. Really, though, I feel the reason was jealousy by the male underwriters. Jealousy caused by women being able to wear much more temperature appropriate clothing which happened to be business inappropriate.  Also, it is not so much the situation regarding what they wear at work that gets men frazzled so much as what they can wear to work as we struggle in 100 degree heat on the Underground, slogging along baking streets and overcrowded trains on the way home.  Having walked the one mile from my office to London Bridge station last night I found it had been closed due to a fire alarm.  I then had to walk nearly another mile to Bank Station when the temperature was still around 34 degrees (94F). Waterloo station (which has a glass roof) was appalling too but not for women in tiny shorts and tops.




The corollary of all this is, of course, that women say: “Well it’s easy for men you just have to wear a suit you don’t have to choose different outfits every day for different seasons.” Just wear a suit then! No one is forcing you to carry on having to put yourself through aesthetic agonies every morning. You do it because you want to. You can choose to wear a tiny pair of shorts, sandals, or a sundress to work. Men cannot. IT IS NOT FAIR AND IT IS SEXIST!

29 comments:

  1. Dude - still wearing a suit and tie? - Well I used to be a banker and once donned those garments on bondage daily until I made the jump to the Venture Cap world and threw off the regalia of servitude. Jeans and a knit shirt are the garb of the enlightened. Suits and ties are the drab costume of the conformist.

    On this upcoming July 4th make your declaration of "sartorial independence" (OK that last part was a bit over the top)

    Fight the Power, Fight the Power!

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    1. Sadly, this is not an option in London. Quiet words would be had!

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    2. "Quiet words" is the language of oppressors - This is your moment for greatness - strike a blow for freedom by showing up to office in a tank top, pair of cut-off jeans and sandals. Sure there's a risk you'll be sacked but that's a risk I'm willing to take. Despite the chance of dismissal, think of what you can gain - Immortality! Years from now, people with gather in bars and one will remark to the other "Do you remember that chap who showed up in that outlandish garb..."

      Your courage to act is your pathway to becoming a legend

      You can trust me, I'm a financial services professional!

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  2. Well I had my shorts on today at work, if I didn't I'd have died from heat exhaustion!! Hairy legs or not!

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    1. Ray - given that some of us have seen the "budgie smuggler" pic, I'm sure there must be some law against you wearing shorts ;)

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  3. Legatus Hedlius,

    When I worked for Coutts in the late 60s I had to wear a three-piece suit whilst in the back office and had to change my jacket for frock coat when customer facing. I also had to wear a stiff collar that had to be starched and laundered. It was a hot outfit to wear in normal weather ... and unbearable in hot weather.

    My female colleagues had to wear long-sleeved blouses, but were allowed to wear mini-skirts!

    Things don't seem to have improved much since then, do they?

    All the best,

    Bob

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  4. I laugh out loud every time I hear someone say the UK is hot. You should trying living in the colonies.

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    1. But the problem is that it is getting hotter but we are not equipped for it. I met a lady yesterday who had just been to an event in the Dorchester the day before last. It has no air conditioning. The Ritz has no air conditioning. My office has no air conditioning. The London Underground and most of our trains have no air conditioning. Certainly British homes don't have air conditioning. Just as we don't have equipment for snow it is not considered worthwhile to put in air conditioning for the few hot days we have every year!

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  5. I do feel for you, suffering in suit & tie. Working in a university, the dress code is much more relaxed, but my job does mean I have to wear trousers even in the summer. Well, I could wear shorts or a skirt in theory, but then my legs would get pretty mucky.

    Oh, and there's also the fact that I'm a natural redhead so my skin is either ghostly white or thermidore red when we have this sort of sunny weather (sometimes a honey brown once the thermidore red fades!)

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    1. Redheads then have to worry about sun screen on all the bare skin too!

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  6. That is a good rant! We are experiencing a heat wave too in the NW USA. It hit 105F while I was out on the bike this afternoon.

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  7. Excellent rant. Ever since the firm I work for merged with/was reverse taken over by a US firm about 10 years ago we've had a permanent dress-down policy. It began as just Friday's but then became all week and I only ever wear suits for meetings these days. It's more comfortable on days like this and you save money by not having to buy new suits. Of course the downside is that I'm too tight to buy a new suit, given that I have about 1 meeting a week on average, and I can't really fit into the one I have anymore...

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  8. An excellent rant good Sir! Having been to London during one of your brief hot spells no air conditioning anywhere was a pain.

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  9. Legatus Hedlius, Ave!

    It distresses me that at the seat of Commonwealth there is such an inability to learn from one's colleagues in warmer climes. When in Bermuda some years ago, the fashion of a number of men going to business was quite noticeable and sensible. Two men were wearing shirts and ties, Bermuda shorts, dress shoes, bowlers and toted an umbrella as well as their attache case. They made a statement of sartorial splendor which apparently has not been picked up in Londinium.
    Notably the North American branches of The English Speaking Peoples recently celebrated Canada day and, tomorrow the folks in the United States will commemorate the public declaration of political separation from the Empire. As I am wont to point out, all's well that ends well. So tomorrow, you might want to turn on the television, catch a bit of Wimbledom or the British women's national soccer team play Germany for the FIFA third place trophy, and lift a pint. We can definitely share our dedication to democracy, well spoken English, and a mutual faith in the value and goodness of people in our countries - and that certainly includes our Canadian brothers and sisters.

    And remember - late spring and summer is a time to rejoice as young women become willing to don all manner of summer wear. Dea bless the wearers of short shorts, mini skirts, bikinis and tank tops.

    Salve,
    Gerardus Magnus

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    1. British people would never dream of 'learning' anything from the colonies!

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  10. Good Rant...Can I suggest you invest in some linen suits sir...!

    I did a few years ago and have never looked back

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    1. Unfortunately, looking like a character from a Graham Greene novel does not cut it in the City!

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  11. I wear shorts as much as I can at 35. I really couldn't give a rats ass what anybody else thought to be honest. I feel your paint though as a mobile IT Engineer working between short hops in the car a shirt, trousers and tie sucks ass big style even short sleeved.

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  12. Legatus,
    That last young lady looks in need of a good meal - I'm surprised you didn't offer to buy her dinner sometime!

    At our company we were supposed to wear "dress appropriate to the client" so that they wouldn't feel uncomfortable at us turning up overdressed for a meeting. This led to a number of lengthy discussions about what was "appropriate" for a particular client - as this was the wine trade the question most of the time was just how slobbish we could get away with.

    But wearing jackets and ties for the days that our French owners visited always seemed rather ridiculous to me - but not as ridiculous as our MD and Sales Directors turning up for work in lycra cycling gear before changing in the bathroom.

    Malc

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    1. She also has to wear built up shoes bless her.... :-)

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  13. I may be one of the few men left who still enjoys dressing up smart and wearing a jacket and tie. Mind you my working dress is a military uniform so my opportunities to go in civvies are rare. I do however think the Army should resist tropical kit. Smartly pressed knee length shorts and short sleeved shirt would look terrific, but only in bygone khaki. Now everything must be cammo pattern so cammo shorts would just look wrong. :(

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    1. Sorry, meant to say "Army should reconsider tropical kit". :)

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  14. New Zealand had it right in the 1980s: https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7593/16469921224_016e61da2d_n.jpg ... or did it?

    I remember wearing walk shorts and walk socks like this,including the tie, back in my first job. it was the basic summer dress for business people for several years in the late 70s and early 80s. It continued as the common dress for male teachers well after business realised how odd it looked and had gone back to the British way!

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    1. I remember seeing that in Perth in the eighties.

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