Newsroom dress code 2009: Pants remain mandatory

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by Jay Gabler | 5/17/09

We may have come a long way from the days when journalists did their work in three-piece suits—and, thank God, from the days when theater critics were expected to wear tuxedos—but beachwear is still not appropriate for the newsroom. So deems Aiesha D. Little, vice chairwoman of the Gen J Committee of the Society of Professional Journalists. “Gen J” is SPJ’s initiative to connect with young journalists still earning their notepads, and in her column in the May issue of the SPJ magazine Quill, Little gives advice on how to avoid “wardrobe malfunctions.” (Putting stale pop-culture references in headlines should also be a newsroom no-no, but unfortunately the Quill editors are in copious company there.)

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In a world where, Little acknowledges, t-shirts, cargo shorts, and combat boots may be considered acceptably professional attire, where does one draw the line? In the body of the column and in a pull-out table, Little cites these sartorial sins:

• Backless dresses.
• Leggings sans pants or skirt.
• Visible thongs (presumably, any visible items of underclothing are pushing it).
• Old t-shirts.
• Droopy pants.
• Omitted bras.
• Paint-splattered jeans.
• Muffin tops (if you have to ask, it’s probably not an issue).
• Ratty baseball caps.
• Sports jerseys.
• Excessively low necklines.
• Excessively high skirtlines.
• And last but not least, for both men and women, flip-flops.

Do these standards apply to those of us who work in virtual newsrooms? I hope not…I don’t even own a bra.

Photo: New York Times newsroom, by Sean (Creative Commons)

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