Many, many years ago my hubby was briefly employed by the Bank of England in London as what might now be considered a runner. Part of the job was to dress the part and he tells a tale of wearing a suit and a bowler hat. His duties were varied but he remembers basements full of gold bars as well as hundreds of bags of old notes. I would like to include a story about his stealing a gold bar or two, but sadly he did not. Not even a paper-clip if truth be told.
Anyway, also back then, there was a tradition of being “chosen”. I’m not sure what you were chosen for, possibly to shine the gold bars or shred the old notes, but once chosen a new attire was required. It wasn’t just a case of “here you go mate, go and buy yourself a new suit,” no, it meant a ceremony and being presented with the official waistcoat, top-hat and tails.
How awfully British I thought and instantly googled it. To my surprise the top hat and tails still prevail, but only for employees such as door-men. But what makes it all the more interesting is the waistcoat is a rather nice shade of red and the tails are pink – a rather odd combination considering the somberness of the institution.
But while this all sounds rather quaint, I fell across this dress code, issued about a year ago to all female economists of the bank. This is not so quaint and they received a hefty bit of back-lash from women’s groups in general, as well as senior female staff. With most making mention of the referral to ankle-chains being worn for the profession of prostitution. Not to mention some sexism creeping in.
“Look professional, not fashionable; be careful with perfume; always wear a heel of some sort – maximum two inches; always wear some sort of makeup, even if it’s just lipstick. Shoes and skirt must be the same colour. No-nos include ankle chains – “professional, but not the one you want to be associated with” – white high heels; overstuffed handbags; an overload of rings, and double-pierced ears,”
Once this was made public, the Bank swiftly issued a statement maintaining they hadn’t suggested this dress-code, and then further deposited the blame squarely on an image-consultancy – who clearly forgot to run it by the HR department before distributing.
As for me, well I have a couple of questions for the image-consultancy:
- Are you suggesting I not wear shoes with a heel above 2 inches as I might fall over carrying those sparkly gold bars?
- If I don’t wear lipstick and make-up will I not be able to work a calculator anymore or answer the phone, or heaven forbid even talk to somebody face to face?
- Does carrying a overstuffed handbag imply I have stolen a bag of old used notes?
- If my shoes do not match the colour of my skirt, will you confuse me with a customer?
- Do my multiple-ear piercing and overload of rings cause a magnetic conflict with the vault?
- Do you think the bank would mind if I only wore my ankle chain during my lunch break while walking up and down the main road?