Are You Wearing Undergarments?

Earlier this month my agency’s third executive director in less than 18 months arrived.  One of the perks of being top dog in the agency is that you can have it your way (just like at Burger King).

Our second director was European.  After he arrived, one of the changes he made was to require all agency correspondence to follow the European format. Phone numbers were written with periods (123.456.7890), not dashes.  The inside address is at the top right, not top left, of all pages after the first one.  (The new executive director is American, so we will probably return to the “American” correspondence style.)

The new director has lost no time in marking his territory.  He has promulgated a detailed dress code.

I’m acquainted with detailed dress codes.  My private prep school in Manila had one.  No jeans.  Leather shoes.  Shirts must have collars and buttons all the way down the front.  Skirts must not be more than two inches above the top of the knee.  Blouses must have sleeves.  And so on.

The agency dress code is fairly logical.  No jeans.  No flip flops, sneakers or athletic shoes.

But there is one requirement which I find…interesting.  Especially from an enforcement perspective.  It is this: undergarments must be worn but not be visible.

The conundrum is obvious.  If you must wear undergarments but they are not visible, then how is your compliance determined?  It is accepted that a law which is not easily enforced is a poor law.  Why should that principle not apply to a dress code?

Is it intentionally worded for enforcement against women who “flash” their lack of panties?  Why should men be allowed not to wear underwear because enforcement is practically impossible, short of an older worker forgetting to zip his fly and inadvertently letting his “junk” hang out? (I wonder if the “undergarments” requirement would exist if the director was a woman….?)

Then, there’s the “visible” issue.  Is a visible panty line a violation? (At least, it’s evidence of wearing underwear.)  If it’s not a violation, why not?  What does “visible” mean? (What does “is” mean?)

Is this a dress code violation?

A dress code violation?

And my enquiring mind wants to know: why was the word “undergarments” used instead of “underwear”? I believe the former was deliberately used because it has a broader scope than the latter.  “Undergarments” unquestionably includes bras, whereas it can be argued that “underwear” does not.  So possibly the real intent of the “undergarments” language is to require women to wear bras.

Maybe the dress  code is all about some young honey jiggling too much but because there was no specific “undergarments” policy there was no basis for demanding a bra.  After all, even in World War II we knew that “loose tits sink ships” and are we not at war?  (Huh? It was “lips”…?)  So for want of a bra, a dress code was born….

Maybe “Dateline” or “60 Minutes” will investigate what may be “bra-gate.” Because I think there may be something about this dress code that needs to be…exposed.

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5 responses to “Are You Wearing Undergarments?

  1. Sounds like a little “undercover” work may be in order. Just another vivid example of tax dollars being wasted. Isn’t there some real work for this guy to do? .

  2. Absolutely your best post ever. I’m in tears from laughing so hard. You brought up all the relevant issues, particularly enforcement. Let’s suppose you, as the manager person, suspect that someone is in violation of the rule. How do you prove it? All the ways I can think of are against the law 🙂 And the “in” thing for women is underwear that does NOT show a panty line. As you point out, this is quite a conundrum. If it’s invisible, is it present or absent? As we all know, there are women who have no need of bras. However, all the women I know wear them anyway in an office situation, in case it’s cold, and I don’t mean they wear them for warmth. Ahem. Too funny!

  3. I’m amazed that someone would go to the trouble of caring how employees denoted phone numbers.

    Is there anything in the fine print about management having the right to inspection to confirm that you are not some undercover commando?

  4. > how employees denoted phone numbers.

    No detail is too small. As part of our “branding” there are now many requirements which did not exist before.

    For example, e-mails. They MUST be in either Calibri or Garramond 11 or 12. No other font style or size allowed. Also, only “plain” background.

    All PowerPoint presentations must use only a single template; no other style is allowed.

  5. I’m with pt on this one. (Mark this day down on your calendars.) Is there no real work to be done here? I would wither in that environment. I’ll venture to make a generalization I think pt would agree with: When you nail down stuff this small, you stifle individual creativity, which is the very thing that makes business nimble. I absolutely cannot imagine my company going to this point, although frankly, I think the IT people would like us to. However, when they start making noise, we all throw a blanket over them.

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