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Business Suits Beat Fatigues in the Battle of Work-Place Dress Codes

April 22, 2010

Top military officers in the Pentagon have worn their fatigues to work at Donald Rumsfeld’s request since the days after September 11, 2001.

Clothing is so representative of an individual’s, or group’s, attitudes and personality.  Why else would so many businesses have ‘professional attire only’ dress codes, if not to make their employees look, and feel, more professional and efficient.  And why would schools ban gang-related styles if they didn’t think that it would limit gang-related activity.

So, it seems clear that Rumsfeld’s request to have his work-force in military uniform in the days after 9/11 and through the subsequent operations in Afghanistan and Iraq is representative of the Bush Administration’s military focus.

And, just as representative is Robert Gates’ call to put the Pentagon back in business suits.  No matter how the Pentagon denies it:

“I don’t think the secretary believes that how they dress connotes whether they are on a war footing within this building,” Geoff Morrell, a Pentagon Spokesman said.

Don’t get me wrong, though.  A dress code is only a symbolic gesture (whether or not it is billed as one…).  There hasn’t been a turn-around from how the military acted in December to how it acts now… particularly if you’re a civilian in Afghanistan.

But it’s a small turn away from relying heavily on military force and the beginning of a step towards a focus on diplomacy.

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