At least two senior parliamentarians are batting for a comprehensive review of the dress code not just for females but also for males.
The current Standing Orders – the rules of Parliament – state that “members’ dress for meetings of the House or committees should consist of a business suit and necktie for men ...”.
Long-standing Kingston East and Port Royal Member of Parliament (MP) Phillip Paulwell is of the view that the Standing Orders should be amended to reflect a modification in the dress code for men.
“You are not going to come to Parliament in slippers and shorts, but I think Mr (Michael) Manley had set a tone, we need now to formalise that. In fact, you don’t need a formal Kariba suit, but the type of shirt-jacket and pants with proper shoes should be allowed,” Paulwell told The Gleaner.
A two-piece suit created for men, the Kariba was popularised by Manley in the early 1970s and was said to be a Caribbean replacement for the European-style suit and a visual symbol of decolonisation.
Paulwell recalled that as energy minister in the Simpson Miller administration, he proposed a complete revamping of dress code in the public sector, owing, in part, to the tropical environment in which Jamaicans live.
Last week, Portland Eastern MP Ann-Marie Vaz moved a motion for a review of the Standing Orders regarding women’s dress code in Gordon House. Her motion received overwhelming bipartisan support.
“Now that Ann-Marie Vaz has put that forward, there should be a comprehensive review of the dress code for both men and women,” Paulwell added.
Veteran Clarendon Central MP Mike Henry is not averse to tweaking the stipulation in the Standing Orders addressing how men dress.
“We went the route of wearing bush jacket, the formalisation of that, and I don’t think that has even been rescinded, so I think you are still entitled to wear bush jacket,” said Henry, who has been a lawmaker for more than four decades.
“So many things around us are becoming outdated that I think we would have to look at all of those things overall.”
First-time MP Robert Miller is not quite ready to revamp the current dress code for men.
“I believe that the dress code for males should remain as is,” he told The Gleaner.
However, Miller said there could be some relaxation “in the sense that as it currently is now, you have to wear the same texture in terms of material and design pants with the jacket. You have multi-suits now in which you have solid pants and a striped jacket that matches the colour of the pants,” he argued.
Miller is insisting that certain events call for a specific type of dress code.
“While I am in agreement with my colleague Ann-Marie Vaz in terms of relaxing the dress code for the females because of the tropical environment that we live in, but in terms of the males, there is not much relaxation where that is concerned,” he said.
The Standing Orders state that the dress of members and other users of the House must at all times reflect sobriety in order to maintain the chamber’s dignity and decorum.
It says strict adherence to the rules must be observed.
The dress for media personnel and persons who attend meetings of the House or committees should accord with standard for parliamentarians.
The British Erskine May, often referred to as the bible of parliamentary procedure, indicates that members should dress in businesslike attire, with the proviso that this need not include a tie.