As I am writing this it is the morning of a day that is predicted to be 111 degrees. That’s just about as hot as it ever gets here and I’m glad of that. I know there are other hotter places like Phoenix, but this is plenty for me. For some time now it has been my belief we continue to make our lives a little tougher than is necessary and for no good reason.
I spent 20 years as a judge of the Kern County Superior Court. I always felt it was proper to honor appropriate dress codes while on the bench so I always wore a dress shirt and tie under the robe we are required by state law to wear. There were also dress codes for others in the courtroom. Staff were to wear business attire. Jurors couldn’t wear shorts or tank tops. Attorneys were also required to dress consistent with the occasion.
For male attorneys, they were required to wear a dress shirt, tie and jacket or suit. Female attorneys had a less clear requirement, but it was to be business appropriate and, for the most part, there was never any problem or much pushing of the boundaries.
Once in a while the air conditioning in our aging courthouses went out. On those occasions, court went on, but the requirements were relaxed and male and female attorneys were permitted to remove their coats, etc. It seems rational to me to permit something similar on a more permanent basis.
Bakersfield is not the fashion capital of the world, but I think we should start a dress code revolution right here in hot old Bako. Why is it still considered proper business wear for a man to have a long, slightly distinctive piece of cloth tied around his neck? Especially in the summer? Many businesses now have casual Fridays and, indeed, for some the normal working wardrobe has changed to a collared polo shirt when not in a meeting with clients. But the suit and tie continue to be expected then.
Other cultures have gotten smarter. Kern County has a large number of people of Philippine heritage. They are smarter than the rest of us. In the Philippines, a formal occasion calls for men to wear a linen or cotton white, short-sleeved collared shirt, often with a subtle weave or pattern. The shirts are beautiful, comfortable and nothing could be more formal. While I’m not sure of the history behind this tradition, it’s clear it is consistent with the climate and temperature of its origin. And it is smart.
Perhaps even in the Philippines the creeping illogic of suits and ties is beginning to become common, but I hope not. Rather I think it better for Bakersfield to start a new fashion trend in this country by extending the logic of the Philippines to a dress code that makes sense here as well.
Maybe that’s a step too far. Perhaps judges and fashion mavens would blanche at the total loss of suits and ties. How else would we know who is president of the United States unless he wears a blue suit and red tie. I have no idea how we will identify the first woman president when she is elected since she might look a bit odd in a blue suit and red tie. So let’s try an experiment. Let’s declare the period from Memorial Day through Labor Day in Kern County as a period of solidarity with Philippine heritage and decree that for that time period the formal dress for males will be a white, short-sleeved collared shirt in the Philippine style.
Men all over Bakersfield will rejoice. Makers and sellers of ties will not. Our inventory of ties can be shipped to another, less steamy, climate.
Here’s my modest proposal — Let’s change the summer dress code for men by eliminating suits and ties and declaring that male formal wear consists of a white, short-sleeved collared shirt in the style of the Philippines.