So-called sexist air-conditioning – the tip of the iceberg in dress code discrimination!

Although there are claims in the media that women suffer from cold due to air-conditioning, the truth of the matter is that most dress codes still allow women much more freedom than men when it comes to dressing comfortably at work.

The simple fact is that men’s dress codes lag behind women’s in terms of flexibility and comfort.

A woman can always put on a jacket or cardigan if she is cold, but a man is still often forced into dress shirt and tie (and, of course, long trousers)


In today’s lopsided, politically correct world, we are used to hearing claims of sexism, always with the woman as victim, coming from every direction. The recent nonsense in the media about air-conditioning, though, defies all logic and flies in the face of any concept of fairness.

I first read about this in a blog in the UK Daily Telegraph. The female blogger made an astonishingly thoughtless comment, which (almost literally) made my blood boil.

“In summer it’s even worse. If you’re a woman in the middle of AC wars, you can’t just put on a summer dress sans tights like the lucky women who work in AC-less offices.”

I would like to welcome her to the world of men – and I hope she won’t expect a great deal of sympathy! Men have no choice but to wear long trousers. Many are still, shockingly in our supposedly gender-equal times, forced to wear ties no matter what the weather. They are usually obliged to wear heavy dress shoes, whereas it is perfectly acceptable for women to wear open sandals. Women should be grateful for the huge flexibility they have in workplace dress codes when compared to men. If they are cold, they should put on a jumper and pity the men who have to sweat in ties in “AC-less offices”.

1950s businessman

This recent so-called sexist air-conditioning nonsense is, however, just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to dress code unfairness. Over the last 40 or 50 years, both men’s and women’s fashions outside the workplace have moved on significantly. In our leisure time, we dress more casually and more flexibly than we did in the past. However, while acceptable workplace clothing for women has moved in parallel to the “outside world”, very many men still find themselves limited to the same hot, uncomfortable dress codes as their fathers, or even their grandfathers. The 1950s businessman pictured left is indistinguishable from very many of his sweating present-day counterparts.

There is sometimes a thin line between opposing sexism and aiming to support and extend female entitlement. This issue is on the wrong side of the line. Women are not entitled to wear as little as they want to at work, have the air-conditioning attuned to their skimpy frocks, and leave the men sweating due to the relative strictness of the male dress code. Any woman not convinced by this argument should, perhaps, be forced to wear a suit and tie (properly done up, of course) to work every day for a month in the middle of summer. Perhaps then she will appreciate her privileged position when it comes to choice of clothing.

Although women already have much greater choice of work clothing than men, anything that prevents them having complete freedom to wear what they please is branded as sexist. This is well illustrated by another case in the media recently concerning a female JP Penney employee, who was sent home for wearing shorts and is crying “sexism”. In fact, shorts are banned for both men and women and, unless male employees are allowed to “get away with” shorts, then there is not the slightest issue of sexism here. My personal view is that smart, tailored shorts should be allowed for both males and females in hot weather, but banning them for both is certainly not sexist. It would be interesting to see the entire dress code: I would be willing to bet that the men have no more flexibility in how they dress than the women – probably the reverse. There is an interesting trend on Twitter at the time of publishing this post, concerning wearing shorts at work: take a look at #freetheknee.

The real villain of the piece in all this is the ineffectiveness of equality laws when it comes to giving men and women the same freedom to choose how they dress in the workplace. Countries with so-called “equality at work” laws should simply ban gender-specific dress codes.