The XX Factor

UBS’s Dress Code: In Case Mom Forgot to Mention It, Underwear Should Stay Hidden

UBS AG is trying out an extensive dress code at five of its branches in Switzerland. It’s lengthy. It’s detailed. It offers not just your standard direction to dress in a manner appropriate to your work environment, with simple pointers towards leaving the jeans and flip-flops at home, but a full-on style manual for the young banker who wants to dress for success. Here, from the WSJ, is a little sample advice that our own Dear Prudence would no doubt have offered, had you written her regarding your tendency to roll out of bed in the morning, throw on the clothes from the nearest pile on the floor and stumble off to your day job as an UBS retail banker: underwear should “be of good quality and easily washable, but still remain undetectable. Black knee-high socks are preferable as they prevent showing bare skin when crossing legs.”

It’s refreshing to see a dress code so thoroughly target the male transgressor, with advice ranging from frequency of haircuts and suit storage to the sage recommendation that hair dyes not be incautiously used to “mask … approaching age,” as the “artificial color contrasts excessively with the actual age of your skin.” UBS even includes some advice I’d never heard regarding tie knots, which should apparently not be in some way out of line with your face or body shape. Women, too, are cautioned against hair dye re-growth, too short skirts and advised to use light make-up to “enhance your personality.” Nail art is not considered a personality enhancer.

You can enjoy the entire 43-page epic here , courtesy of John Carney of CNBC and via HuffPo, but you’ll have to read French to truly enjoy it (or benefit from it). It’s amusingly fussy (mandating everything from suit color to nail length, down to the millimeter), but for all that, it’s striking for one other thing: it’s remarkably non-sexist. Yes, women are encouraged to wear make-up and men, presumably, are not-but there is no mandate that women wear skirts over pants, that they wear their hair in a particular way, or meet any standard of height or weight or do, in fact, any more than is required of their male colleagues. That’s a nice change from the usual dress code controversies.

If you’re of a certain age, and particularly if you’re from the South, you’ll feel the familiar comfort of once more being under the control of a sartorial authority that may be maddeningly precise in its dictates, but at least gives you the confident feeling of being ready to dress the part. You may even get that delicious urge to rebel (perhaps by slipping on a pair of distinctly non-flesh-colored panties, still carefully hidden). But how can that be anything but a good thing? One much-commented-on fault of an anything-goes society is that there are so few remaining ways to push the boundaries. But as to whether the UBS bankers will be permitted to wear white after Labor Day, there’s no word. So maybe there’s work left here for mom, after all.