This story comes out of Swaziland. Not Switzi. Swazi.
"Swaziland," begins a report released Tuesday by Reuters news service, "will ban miniskirts in schools to try to halt the spread of AIDS."
It is the kind of first sentence that makes you definitely want to read the second sentence.
"The aim is to stop sexual relationships between teachers and their female pupils, in a country where at least one-quarter of the population is infected with HIV."
A hell of a second sentence, no doubt about it.
"School girls are widely blamed for enticing teachers with their short skirts," the story continues.
Swaziland, bordered by South Africa to the south and Mozambique to the east, will expel girls 10 years or older who come to school in skirts shorter than knee-length, according to a representative from the ministry of education there.
"We are living in tough times because of HIV and AIDS," this source says. "We need to address the profile of dress code among students, because it all starts there."
So, what do you wear to work? To play? To school? To dinner?
Here on the West Coast, where dressing up for a fancy restaurant means wearing a clean T-shirt under your blazer, dress codes are as obsolete as dinosaurs and disco. Is there a single dining establishment anywhere in Southern California that still demands a jacket and tie?
The saying "clothes make the man" doesn't seem to apply much anymore to anybody, including women.
Many men do still wear neckties, in a society that places an absurdly high value on a strip of cheap fabric dangling from a throat.
And women do still dress up for certain functions, often in shoes that make them walk like a flamingo.
Does a suit make someone suitably dressed? Does anyone's dress influence anyone else's behavior?
How about in Bermuda, though? This week a legislative committee on the island voted to give approval for the first time to members of parliament to come to work in the native dress -- Bermuda shorts.
Suppose dress codes didn't exist? Picture certain people at work: Al Gore or George W. Bush coming to the office in shorts. Yasser Arafat and Ehud Barak coming for a summit meeting in shorts. Mike Wallace doing "60 Minutes" in shorts. (Probably with sandals and black socks.) Jay Leno in shorts. Roger Ebert in shorts. Marcia Clark and Johnnie Cochran in shorts.
Would it affect your opinion of their work?
Probably not, although in some cases it might affect your lunch.
A surprising number of business executives quoted recently were giving thought to abandoning "casual Fridays," that fad permitting employees to get a jump on the weekend by dressing down for work.
What a dirty shame. Most of us men don't take advantage of casual Fridays -- we come to work in clean jeans, not in Harley Davidson jackets and mesh shirts. And it isn't as if women dress for the office like Jennifer Lopez for the Grammys.
On the other hand, there is Ricky Bourdouvales.
Ricky just won $2 million in a lawsuit against his employer, Wal-Mart, for the way he was treated over what he wore to work.
A judge sided with Ricky, saying the company had no right to do what it did to the 27-year-old cashier, just because he dressed like a woman.
Everybody at the Wal-Mart store in Piscataway, N.J., apparently thought that Ricky's wardrobe was fine and dandy as long as Ricky was a female. But that was before a superior double-checked Ricky's job application and saw an X was checked by the sex box next to "male."
Ricky explained that he was about to undergo a sex-change operation. Soon thereafter, he got the ax.
At a soccer game in Afghanistan a couple of days ago, visiting Pakistani team members were seized by police during play. Why? Because against the ruling Taliban regime's laws, they were wearing shorts.
Afghan athletes must wear long pants. The police reportedly rounded up the Pakistani players and, as punishment, publicly shaved their heads.
So, beware what you wear.
That especially goes for you Swaziland girls. If you can't wear skirts, wear Bermuda shorts. There are nice ones available at Wal-Mart.
E-mail the writer: mike.downey(at)latimes.com
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