Contrary to the impression most passengers might get, New York City taxi drivers do in fact have a dress code. This isn’t to say that drivers dress poorly — just that their dress seems about as regulated as whether or not they’ll actually let you pay with a credit card.
The dress code was first introduced in 1987, when it included bans on sandals, sleeveless shirts, and any shorts shorter than mid-thigh. (Who wears short-shorts? Not taxi drivers. Ha.) The code was softened a little later — but not by much. According to the New York Times, page 23 of the 62-page taxi driver manual reads: no tube shirts; no tank tops; no bathing trunks.
But there’s good news for those taxi drivers — male or female — who might want to wear a tube top for their next 12-hour shift: the Taxi and Limousine Commission is issuing a new and more generalized dress code which they hope will make it a little easier for drivers to follow. The rule, singular, is simple: all drivers must “present a professional appearance.”
Now, anyone — particularly those of the female sex — who has ever worked in an office will know that the definition of “professional” varies to an astounding degree. Try asking a group of people to define business casual and, depending on their industry, you’ll get at least five different answers. The idea of “professional dress” becomes a little more nebulous when your office is a car and when your passengers range in category from an Upper East Side billionaire to a vomiting NYU student en route to a warehouse party in Bushwick.
The new code is expected to be approved next month but we’re not sure what sort of difference it’s going to make. Who exactly is going to call into the Taxi and Limousine Commission and complain that their driver is inappropriately dressed? And considering the bureaucracy involved in any taxi-related complaints — ever try to submit a roadrage complaint via 311? — we can’t imagine how the Commission will actually follow up and prosecute.
Either way, some are lamenting the new standards. Says Graham Hodges, a former cabby turned history professor, “People would frequently wear T-shirts that would state antiwar expressions… It would be nice to see cabdrivers expressing their opinions again.”
We’re pretty sure most cab drivers don’t need a t-shirt to express their opinions — but as far as we’re concerned, our cab drivers can wear whatever they want.
That Cabby Dress Code? It’s Getting a Makeover [NYT]