Slob or suave. Your call!
Do your co-workers look like they just stepped out of a fashion magazine? Or a Seattle grunge police lineup?
Where does the sloppiest group of feds hang out from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.?
Different spin: Which agency is home to the overall best-dressed crew? We're not talking big bosses with the biggest bucks to spend. We are talking about the majority of workers in an agency. And not about $5,000 suits (Are there such things?) and designer dresses. Just making the most of what you have.
Do the folks in your building look like they put some time, thought and money into their attire?
Or do they appear to have just been fired out of a cannon full of clothes?
Why do we ask? Consider the following:
Item: On Dec. 10, USA Today reports that the Boyd County, Ky., school district is considering a dress code for its employees. "Spandex, sweat pants, tank tops and miniskirts would not be allowed to be worn" by any school personnel.
Item: In her Sept. 6 Full Court Press column, Washington Post reporter Joan Biskupic tells of the Supreme Court's tough dress code that applies to lawyers and journalists (typically a scruffy lot). Both groups are expected to wear suits or other business attire. "The rules are strictly interpreted and strictly executed. And then some," she writes. For example, Justice Department lawyers appearing before the court must wear dark gray morning coats and tails (something like an old Fred Astaire movie). A New York Times editor, Elizabeth Becker, was once told to put on a jacket or leave the courtroom. More recently, ABC's Jackie Judd ran afoul of the supremes by wearing her press pass around her neck. The chief justice, Biskupic reports, doesn't like business casual in court and can't abide a press pass flapping in the breeze.
Item: A Dec. 6 e-mail from Bethesda that says: "Is it possible to institute a dress code in the Federal Diary? I am a contractor at the General Services Administration and am tired of seeing all of these federal employees walking around in short-sleeve dress shirts and ties that are eight inches too short. Is it also possible to ban pocket protectors?"
The answer is no, no, a thousand times no.
But it does raise an interesting question.
Do Justice Department attorneys dress the same as, better than or worse than their K Street counterparts?
Can you tell a high-grade civil servant from a salesman or lobbyist by the cut of his--or her--jib?
Are some federal agencies Paris on the Potomac while others are Dogpatch U.S.A.?
Full disclosure: I write this as the owner of three suits (one of which I can't find) and nine blue dress shirts (two missing) and one white shirt, which is also among the missing. I have never been in the running for Washingtonian Magazine's Washingtonian of the Year Award, which goes to our town's best, and often well-dressed, citizens. I could get into the Supreme Court without getting arrested (except maybe after this column) but wouldn't be mistaken for the solicitor general of the United States. At the same time I could blend in with a group of GSA guys whether they were heading for a fitting at Armani's or a feeding at Arby's.
I put the question of best-dressed/worst-dressed federal personnel to a fed who works for the Justice Department. He has also worked for the Agriculture Department, Customs Service and the Office of Personnel Management. He's not a clotheshorse but does the coat and tie thing every day.
After some thought, he said that people at the Drug Enforcement Administration (especially the men) were the best-dressed feds he has seen. He put Customs (another operation with lots of law enforcement personnel) close behind. He rated the Agriculture Department, especially the headquarters team of its Food Safety and Inspection Service, as very well turned out. At the bottom of the duds for dudes pit, he said, it was between two former agencies, the Defense Contract Audit Agency office in Chicago and the Office of Personnel Management at 1900 E St. NW.
But what does he know?
And what do you think?
If you have nominees for best- or worst-dressed agencies--and a brief theory as to why--drop us an e-mail at the address below. Our survey--should anybody participate--ends Wednesday.
Praise and shame, based on readers' perceptions, will be shoveled from this space later in the week.
Mike Causey's e-mail address is email@example.com