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To save power, Bangladesh bans suits and ties

By Blogger / September 5, 2009

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In an inspiring display of sensibility, the prime minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, has ordered male government employees to stop wearing suits, jackets, and neckties.

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In addition to eliminating pointless and uncomfortable decorative elements from men's clothing, the move will help minimize the need for air conditioning. Accompanying the government's laudable decision was an order not to turn air conditioners in government buildings below 75 degrees F.

According to the BBC, Bangladesh has been suffering from a major energy shortage, with daily blackouts as the state-owned power plants are unable to meet demand. The British news service reports that the plants' output has not been able to keep up with the country's economy, which has been growing 6 percent annually for the past five years.

Additionally, the energy sector has been plagued by allegations of corruption, which, if true, could possibly be exacerbated by the low morale that inevitably results from forcing workers to tie useless strips of fabric around their necks every day.

Under the new dress code – which applies even to the highest levels of government – men may also wear their shirts untucked, instead of stuffing the bottom portion into their pants for no good reason other than to conform to some arbitrary display of professionalism.

The BBC reports that the government plans to encourage private businesses to follow its example.

As can be expected, Sheikh Hasina was praised for her compassionate and pragmatic – albeit long overdue – change to the official dress code. Writing in The New Nation, an independent English-language news source in Bangladesh, columnist Maswood Alam Khan suggests that the new attire, in addition to saving energy, might help restore a sense of national pride.

Wearing suits and stuffing our necks with a tie, in spite of ourselves, is a sartorial fashion we have borrowed from the British who were our colonial rulers. Our ancestors enjoyed punishing themselves by mimicking the British style and fashion, which was seen as synonymous with being chic and modern. They wanted in vain to be 'brown sahibs'! So, as a legacy our office executives-the fashion victims-now find it prestigious to chill their car and office chamber to [64 degrees F.] so that they and their guests can wear pinstripe suits and silk ties wrapped over the designer shirts when the weather outside is extremely hot and humid and when the general people are sweating and panting due to power outage.

Despised by all but the most inveterate masochists, the necktie traces its origins to the uniforms of 16th century Croatian mercenaries in the employ of King Louis XIII of France. In a sartorial choice that has baffled and dismayed people ever since, upper-class Parisians adopted the mercenaries' knotted scarf, which they called a "cravat" – a mispronunciation of the word "Croat" probably caused by a restricted larynx.

The cravat eventually "evolved" into the modern necktie, which was eventually paired with an outfit consisting of a heavy jacket and flimsy slacks, a design that guarantees that its wearer will be uncomfortable regardless of the ambient temperature.

The predecessor to the modern suit and tie emerged in Britain the early 1800s, with Beau Brummel, an influential fashion arbiter and friend of the Prince Regent, the future George IV. Brummel, who claimed to have spent two hours getting ready each morning, can also be blamed for introducing the expectation that men should have to shave their faces every single day.

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Speaking of archaic practices, the use of homing pigeons is making a comeback.  At least it is in South Africa.   Internet speeds are so slow that one business held a race between email and a pigeon.  Who won?  Click here to find out.

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