Dress codes read like the fantasies of middle-aged men

It is the extraordinary intimacy in the detail that makes the “reception service provider” Portico’s 2016 dress code feel almost pornographic. Here is a sample from its “what we want to see” list: “Regularly maintained hair colour (if individual colours hair) with no visible roots.” No flower accessories. “Makeup at all times (unless for medical reasons) with a minimum of light blusher, lipstick or tinted gloss, mascara eye shadow, light foundation/powder.” And of course heels, of between two and four inches.

A dress code is certainly legal and, I reluctantly concede, up to a point understandable. All that money on huge arrangements of exotic flowers might feel wasted if it was accessorised by young women who had minds of their own that were reflected in the clothes they wore. But these “what to wear” lists don’t read like dress codes, they read like the fantasies of middle-aged men who need a chorus of pretty minions to sing them to their desks.

This code has now been updated, and little wonder. Still, it is hard to envisage the person who would sit down and compile such an explicit description of what he wanted to see (and wanted his clients to see) when he arrived at work in the morning, and who – or what – is it actually a description of? The answer to the second question can only be some kind of sexily submissive female. The answer to the first appears to be almost anyone hiring for a job that involves contact with customers or clients.

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