Male Swedish train conductors wear skirts to protest dress code

June 11, 2013

Swedish train driver Martin Akersten poses wearing a skirt. (Kim Jensen/Associated Press)

Many companies relax dress codes over the summer because of scorching temperatures. A group of male Swedish train operators, frustrated with having to wear long pants due to their company’s dress code, found another way to beat the heat: skirts.

A train driver named Martin Akersten told the Associated Press that he and more than a dozen other drivers and conductors started wearing skirts to work to protest the company’s ban on shorts.

(Stockholm doesn’t even seem that hot right now — by D.C. standards, anyway, as we look forward to highs in the 80s through the end of the week, while forecasts there call for highs in the mid-60s to low 70s in the coming days — but drivers have said temperatures could top 90 degrees in their cabins.)

Transit agencies in the D.C. region all have the one policy for the people operating the trains:  shorts and skirts are not allowed.

Metro train operators are required to wear long pants, said Morgan Dye, a spokeswoman for the transit agency, for safety reasons, because operators sometimes have to get out of the train and into the tunnels, she said. A driver who showed up wearing shorts or a skirt would be given a warning the first time and the discipline would escalate if they kept dressing that way. Metrobus drivers, meanwhile, are allowed to wear shorts from May through September.

The Maryland Transit Administration’s dress code says that conductors on MARC trains have to wear long pants, said spokesman Terry Owens. The same logic was offered: Conductors might have to get down on the ground near a train, working on rocks and rail lines, making it “a safety issue,” Owens said. Virginia Railway Express spokesman Mark Roeber also offered the same explanation for why engineers and conductors on those trains have to wear pants.

We also called Amtrak to ask about the dress code, and haven’t heard back. (You can be sure that if we do hear back, we will update this post immediately.)

In the end, it appears that the Swedish skirt rebellion did the trick. Arriva, the company that runs the Swedish train line in question, has decided to lift the ban. Shorts will be allowed this summer, according to a spokesman.

Of course, the drivers could keep right on wearing the skirts if they so choose. But at least soon they will be able to choose between skirts and shorts.

Mark Berman is a reporter on the National staff. He runs Post Nation, a destination for breaking news and developing stories from around the country.
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