Let Them In
Jamaica is generally hot all year round; even in our so-called winter we still battle with temperatures from 28-30℃. Across nations, the clothing worn by the people usually suits the climate but in Jamaica our clothing is being made to suit the archaic whims of the government. Several ordinary members of society have been denied access from government buildings because their attire did not meet the outdated standards required. This denial has renewed debate about the purpose such rules serve.
The dress code required for entry into government offices is completely antithetical to anything that could be considered appropriate for Jamaica’s hot, humid climate, and with climate change on the rise and many of us already feeling the effects, it is interesting to see who will continue to defend these rules despite the great discomfort they cause.
There are several faults to be discerned from the mandatory dress code, the first of which is that it is annoyingly inflexible. Above all, a dress code should not be a hard and fast rule, but subject to the discretion of the enforcer. Banning all sleeveless attire is ridiculous in a tropical country and only seeks to uphold antiquated colonial values. Some argue that if we allow sleeveless attire, persons will show up indecently dressed. In reality, the large majority of people are still likely to be modestly dressed. Ideally, the small minority who aren’t modestly dressed shouldn’t even be condemned because our government exists to serve us and revealing clothes ultimately harm no one.
Secondly, there’s nothing to be gained from enforcing this dress code. It wastes the government’s time and resources; security personnel must be diverted to enforce the dress code rather than guard the premises. It wastes the citizen’s time; if one is unaware of the rule they will have wasted travel time, plus time spent waiting at the office only to be turned away and told to come back another day in the ‘correct’ attire.
It is also costly to the citizen to pay not only for their wasted travel, but for return travel as well as travel back to the government office for whatever services they originally required. It is a nuisance as well because working people often take the day off to visit government offices, which are already notoriously slow. This cumbersome rule must be brought down to ease the burden of visiting government offices and receiving the goods and services to which we are rightfully entitled.
Thirdly, this rule set has not been enforced indiscriminately. Several anecdotes have recounted that not all persons in breach of the dress code are actually reprimanded and that the rule seems to be enforced with discretion. What this discretion is based upon, we can only guess but the prime suspects are colour and class. Human rights activist Susan Goffe has rightfully pointed out that Lady Allen, wife of Governor General Sir Patrick Allen, attended the swearing-in ceremony of our current prime minister in a sleeveless dress. T-shirt vendors in front of government offices have noted that people wearing shorts are allowed entry somewhat arbitrarily.
The dress code to enter government offices is a relic of a time long gone. It does not suit our climate and will only become more unsuitable as climate change intensifies. It is nothing but a time and money wasting nuisance now and we should look favourably on abandoning it.