The Great Shorts Debate

This post is more than 6 years old.

Posted at 11:00 on 26 June 2018

It's the height of summer. The Great British Heatwave is in full swing. People are questioning whether their office dress codes are fit for purpose. And this means one thing in particular: The Great Shorts Debate.

Now I work for a company where I am allowed to wear shorts to work whenever I like without anyone so much as batting an eyelid. However, not everybody is so fortunate. Far too many workplaces are still saddled with stuffy medieval dress codes that demand that office workers turn up to work in winter woollies long trousers even in a heatwave. It seems that every year we see news reports of men and boys wearing skirts in protest against such bureaucratic and pointy-haired nonsense.

Regardless of what you think of such protests, there is no valid reason whatsoever why office workers should not be allowed to wear shorts to work.

I'll just say it: corporate dress codes that do not allow men to wear shorts to work are discrimination, it's as simple as that. Long trousers are sweaty, uncomfortable, restrictive and stifling in warm weather. They make you feel grumpy and irritable, while increasing the likelihood that you'll spend the last hour of the day watching the clock for the minute you can get out the door and change into something more sensible. They lower productivity while contributing nothing whatsoever to the bottom line.

Nobody's asking you to adopt an "anything goes" dress code here, with ripped cut-off jeans, tank tops, socks and sandals, or bare feet in client meetings. Even if you think that cargo shorts are too casual, you can still look crisp and clean in a combination of chino or tailored shorts with a polo shirt or a button-down short-sleeved shirt, ankle socks, and tennis shoes. As for places that require jackets and ties, they figured that one out in Bermuda a century ago. Besides, when even the BBC allows its weathermen to appear on national TV in shorts, what makes you think you have an excuse?

The only legitimate reason why shorts should be off-limits in hot weather is health and safety. If you're working with dangerous chemicals in a laboratory, for example, you may need that extra protection. But in an office, you aren't working with dangerous chemicals, so these constraints do not apply. By all means insist that your staff are clean, tidy, professional and sharp in their appearance. But insisting that they turn up to work dressed for winter in the middle of a heatwave is just silly.