Do federal workers get kicked around because of the way they dress?
Would civil servants command more respect if they became slaves to fashion?
Normally, we don't deal with fashion notes in this space. It is reserved for more serious items such as pay cuts, abolishing sick leave, the White House work-until-you-drop retirement plan or the proposal not to give anybody in government pay raises until everybody in government quits thereby proving the need for pay raises.
But since many of us are coming off a three-day weekend, let us be a little less serious just for today.
Friday's mail brought such an interesting, off-beat letter that I wanted to share it with you. Tomorrow we will get back to the serious stuff. But for today, check out this letter from a fed:
"It came to me during a lunch-hour walk along Connecticut Avenue: A Devine as in Donald revelation, so to speak, which I am pleased to share with you and your readers.
"Do you know why the administration treats career feds like we're a bunch of schleps? It's because we look like a bunch of schleps! I mean, you walk around Connecticut Avenue and K Street and you see the lawyers and the guys from corporation and association offices wearing nice suits, proper going-to-the-office overcoats and topcoats, neat shirts with silk ties, dark socks, leather shoes, everything nicely color coordinated.
"Then, you walk through the Federal Triangle, Crystal City and the Pentagon and it's polyester heaven. Guys wear baggy green plaid trousers with a totally different baggy green plaid jacket. Plastic hooded zipper jackets, like the kids wear to play in the snow, serve as outercoats. Even Foggy Bottom is no great shakes for sartorial splendor, although it ranks perhaps a few notches above the other areas where feds hold forth.
"The situation is quite apparent on the buses. Federal agencies open and close earlier than other downtown offices. What a difference between the guys you see on the 4 p.m. bus and the ones on the 6 p.m. Civil servants whom you know earn $40,000 per year and up look like something out of a World War II newsreel about displaced persons.
"The political appointees generally look pretty sharp. The current crop might not break any records for brainpower, but at least they know to wear their poplins in the summer and tweeds in the winter. How can they be expected to have any respect for their lifer colleagues who come to work in plum-colored leisure suits and Hush Puppies? True pants and jackets that don't match may have little to do with the wearer's competence, but -- let's face it -- they don't inspire a lot of confidence either. 'If it looks like a schlep, walks like a schlep, and quacks like a schlep, it must be a schlep.'
"How to deal with this problem? A number of solutions come to mind, but my suggestion is this: provide each federal employe with 2 percent of his/her compensation in merchandise certificates good only at Brooks Brothers, for the men, and Lord and Taylor, for the women, or equivalent stores.
"P.S. I say 'guys' because my eye for men's clothing is much better than for women's, although I believe that my observations are applicable to both sexes."
Signed: Very, Very Anonymous.
If you have any comments on VVA's letter let us know, preferably by letter. If you must call, however, make it later this afternoon. I have an early morning fitting at the drip-dry menswear section at K mart.