Only In America . . . TM

Copyright © 2002 Frank G. Van Atta. All rights reserved.


More and more corporations are following the lead of Consolidated Consultants of Topeka, Kansas, and throwing all existing dress codes out the window. At the Consolidated Consultants offices the only dress code is "don't come to work naked."

"We started out like everyone else," company President Alan Ford says, "requiring white shirt and tie for the men and 'business attire' for the women -- but it didn't work out at all."

"The employees were always wanting a 'casual day' where they could wear blue jeans, shorts, tennis shoes, or whatever else. So we started out with one 'casual day' a month," Ford said, "and the employees liked it at first. But after a few months it wasn't enough -- they wanted more 'casual days.'"

So last year Consolidated Consultants started a policy of 'casual day' every Friday. And still the employees weren't satisfied.

"Why do I have to wear a stinking business napkin?" Gerald Waterford wanted to know (referring to a tie). "I spend my whole day behind a typewriter, and nobody sees me except the people I work with -- so why does it matter how I dress?"

The women had a different complaint -- nobody could define 'business attire' for women. Some thought it was a women's suit, some thought it was just a dress and blouse, some opted for pants suits, some wanted to wear mini-skirts, some wanted to wear 'skorts,' and some wanted to wear granny skirts.

The only time anybody seemed to be happy was on a 'casual day.' So management decided to make casual dress appropriate every day. But even that had its dissenters.

"Why do I have to come to work looking like a construction worker?" Paul Grantz, a graduate Systems Engineer wanted to know. "I spent a lot of time and money getting my degree because I wanted to work in a professional atmosphere," he said. "Then, the next thing I know everyone is coming to work looking like a dirt biker from hell and the only 'profession' that would fit in this atmosphere is a street walker."

Grantz, and more than a dozen other engineers, felt so strongly about the casual dress regulations that they found jobs with other companies.

"It seemed like no matter what we did we couldn't make everyone happy," Ford complained. "So it seemed that the best thing to do was let everyone do whatever they wanted. So we scrapped our dress code entirely and told employees that they could wear anything they wanted to work -- as long as it wasn't indecent."

Believe it or not, that got the company in trouble with the ACLU.

"Consolidated Consultants' idea of 'decency' was considerably different than some of the employees," Emmet Dagger, a local ACLU lawyer said. "What they were doing was denying individuals the right to be different," he said, "and we just couldn't stand by and let them do that."

So the company adopted what has come to be known as the Arrest Code: If you can get into work without being arrested, your dress is acceptable.

Copyright © 2002 Frank G. Van Atta. All rights reserved.