The dress code, like other clothing was invented a couple of centuries ago by the British. (The dress code, which simply standardizes what is to be worn, should not be confused with the uniform, which introduces drab uniformity to work clothing). All across the world, the rule is: the higher the rank of a civil servant, the stricter, more conservative, and better and more expensive the clothes, shoes, and accessories worn, and the tidier and more refined the persons appearance. However, the system fails there as well: one need only recall the dishevelled hair of former British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson or Donald Trumps provocative ties. In Russia, an attempt was made in 2015 to control the appearance-related whims of officials by adopting an appropriate dress code. As it turns out, however, not everything is strictly observed at all times and everywhere.
Representatives of creative professions and members of the Forbes list can afford to depart from the strict dress code, as proven by TV presenter Vladimir Pozner (left) and banker Oleg Tinkov
Each to his own
Civil servants are obliged to observe discretion, elegance, and stylishness in clothing, shoes, and accessories. There should be nothing wild. Colours need to be combined smartly (no more than two), classic suit colours should be used (dark blue, grey, beige, dark brown, olive, cream, ivory), with dark colours in the winter and light colours in the summer. An officials clothing must be, first and foremost, neat, restrained, and tidy: the suit must be ironed, the shirt must be fresh, and the shoes must be polished. A male civil servant should have at least three suits in his wardrobe, one for days off, one for work, and one for summer. The dress code focuses on jackets in detail, on which buttons to fasten and how to choose a tie. Next comes the shirt: long sleeve, preferably cotton, with cuffs peeking out 2 centimetres from under the jacket sleeves. A lot of attention must be paid to the shoes as well (for example, shiny shoes only work for tuxedo and dress suits).
It was decided not to provide such detailed explanations to the ladies, relying on the innate feminine flair for fashion and beauty. Some restrictions have been mentioned, however: there should be no bare shoulders, low necklines, transparent or tight dresses, mini-skirts or skirts with cuts, flounces, ruffs, or excessively large jewellery, as well as, of course, excessive variety in colours, bright makeup, or strong perfumes.
Everything was recorded in black and white in clear detail, though it would appear that not all officials were pleased. «It often seems that male civil servants choose suits to grow into or think that a jacket should provide them with shoulders. Among the ladies, one has to observe the other extreme a blouse or dress of too small a size, which, of course, does not make them look any slimmer. You can always find a well-fitting suit or dress of the right size for any budget and taste», Director of the RANEPA International Protocol Centre Gilana Mikhailova explained to SPIEF Magazine. «Of course, peoples tastes and means may differ. But a sense of proportion can serve like a magic wand. If you look in the mirror and see a person who looks competent in your profession, someone you yourself would entrust all your money and secrets to, youre ready for work. If not, however, you need to find a professional to give you a hand. Or copy the style of someone famous. In this case, two things are important: is that person engaged in activities similar to yours (it would be strange to dress like a rock star if you were a senior specialist in the regional government) and to keep that sense of proportion. Because Christine Lagardes style may not suit a lady with Angela Merkels figure, though we can easily see that they are both involved in politics.»
At the same time, Ms. Mikhailova would urge civil servants not to rush off to the other extreme and become a walking billboard. Bags from Louis Vuitton, suits from Brioni, dresses from Chanel, accessories from Rolex: «its bad if you can count them too easily». They certainly wont go unnoticed by the media.
The rich wear dresses too
In order to make it easier for domestic officials to pick out their business wardrobes, the National Association of Protocol Specialists has developed special recommendations to be published this fall on the dress code for civil servants. A draft of this work with whole page pictures of how to choose the right accessories and match colours was given to the editorial board.
Head of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde is a business style icon
Russia is by no means a pioneer in this endeavour: attempts are being made all over the world to teach civil servants to dress in accordance with their position and duties. In the Chinese city of Zhengzhou, in Henan Province, civil servants are not allowed to wear bright clothes or dye their hair unusual colours (red, green, blue). In addition, they are required to wear clothing produced in China.
In the United States, strict dress codes are violated daily only on the way to and from work: officials prefer to wear more comfortable and less expensive shoes while commuting. In Australia, you wont catch civil servants in the workplace in flip-flops, Uggs, T-shirts, jeans, or animal pyjamas. The business suits worn by Japanese officials are as multi-coloured as the rich palette of shades between dark blue and black.
There is no global consensus on what makes a business suit. An excellent example is the way the media reacted to an appearance by Brigitte Macron, the wife of the new French president. Representatives of different countries each pointed to something different, with some focusing on how thin the first lady was, some noting her well-chosen style, others singling out her ability to match herself to her husband, and yet others making a point of the length of her skirt. But the French were out of step: if a lady has slender legs, let her choose the dress length that suits her. And all because there is not and never will be consensus on what makes for beauty.
Herman Gref demonstrates the blue colour fashionable with Russian officials
And even so, the business suit remains a kind of identifying feature of that tribe known as civil servants and businessmen. Therefore, the demands made of it will always be strict. After all, the way employees look inspire trust in a company, corporation, or government structure. And it will continue to be so in the future, unless Providence intervenes... The anti-looking movement, which could put an end to the centuries-old history of business dress code, is gaining momentum world-wide. Looking is, in the broadest sense of the word, a requirement to look appropriate. But it gets blown out of all proportion when workers of a particular structure are required... to be beautiful. In the West, this has come to be considered a new kind of discrimination and a fight against it has begun. Time will tell if Russia joins the movement too.