The working man’s right to bare legs

For men, “professional attire” is pretty straightforward. Unless a job requires a uniform, a man’s work wardrobe typically falls into one of these classes: suits and ties if the dress code skews formal, dress pants with button-downs if it’s semi-forma, slacks with crisp shirts if it’s laid back,  and finally, jeans and t-shirts if it’s a work setting with very young men or older men who say “fuck it!”

If only the rules of dressing for work were so simple for women!

But with this simplicity comes a catch—a lot of employers expect their male employees to dress this way all-year round, even during the times of year when the heat and humidity seem to physically assault you the moment you step outside.

Shorts (or really anything summery), aren’t permitted for a lot of men in their workplaces because the exposed male leg (even just the calf!) is deemed unprofessional.

And so, every summer something peculiar happens in areas with a high concentration of office workers. Half the population roams the streets with their arms, calves and toes liberated, while the other half remains swathed in oppressive-looking long-sleeved shirts, slacks, and socks with dress shoes.

Of course, for a few lucky men this isn’t an issue. That’s because they’ve somehow mastered the art of rocking the suit without the sweat. I’ll see them— on the metro, at crosswalks, waiting in line at a food truck—always turned out in suits without a drop of perspiration in sight, while I melt in a sundress and sandals. “How does he do it?” I always think.  Other times, I’ll see men trying in vain to make the best of a crappy situation. These are the men who undo their top buttons, roll up their sleeves and carry their jackets. They look fine until they walk by and you see the backs of their shirts are drenched in sweat.

It’s not fair, but hey, life isn’t fair.

Well, some men and boys are rejecting this idea and they’re donning skirts and dresses to illustrate the dress code double standard.

“If women can wear skirts/dresses at work can I wear smart shorts like so?”  a man named Joey Barge captioned a picture of himself heading to work.

But alas, he was sent home for being dressed inappropriately, despite the fact that he works in a call center and doesn’t come face-to-face with customers. That’s when Barge decided to call attention to his workplaces’ sexist dress code by heading back to the office in a work-acceptable pink and black dress.

In the end, his office relented. A memo was sent out stating that the “gentlemen in the office” were now allowed to wear ¾ length shorts in black, navy or beige.

“Partial win?” Barge captioned a screengrab of the memo.

But some wondered if you could really call the right to wear ¾ inch shorts a win.

While others mused about the somber color code.

The boys at Isca Academy in Exeter, England pulled a similar stunt to protest their school’s rule that boys wear long pants, even in summer. They showed up to school in skirts borrowed from their sisters and female friends and soon their gender-equality activism earned a nickname—the “box-pleat rebellion.”

The “box-pleat rebellion” caught the attention of people around the world and eventually the school loosened the rules.  Next school year, the boys will be allowed to wear shorts instead of tartan trousers and the boys involved in the protest won’t be punished, the guardian reports.

But while the “box-pleat rebellion” might be over for now, I believe its spirit should carry on.

So, to the men I see every summer roasting in your office-appropriate getup, I support your struggle and submit this inspirational logo.

Fist and shorts

Now, put on some shorts and go fight the good fight!

Header photo courtesy of Uqbar is back via Flickr
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