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From uniform accounting standards to standards on uniforms for accountants
July, 06th 2006

Once upon a time, when Jenny Wren was young, she danced so daintily and sang so prettily that Robin Redbreast lost his heart. You know, he was a gallant bird. "So he doffed his hat to Jenny Wren, requesting to be heard." Thus chimes the good old nursery rhyme.

Okay, what did Robin Redbreast say? "Oh, dearest Jenny Wren, if you will but be mine, you shall feed on cherry pie and drink new currant wine, I'll dress you like a goldfinch or any peacock gay, so, dearest Jen, if you'll be mine, let us appoint the day."

Did Jenny accept the attractive proposal? No, she didn't, though she blushed behind her fan. Jenny declared her mind thus: "Since, dearest Bob, I love you well, I'll take your offer kind. Cherry pie is very nice and so is currant wine, but I must wear my plain brown gown and never go too fine."

To accountants, it seems, Jenny is the role model, when it comes to dressing. For, the president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI), T. N. Manoharan, has declared that he wants a `dress code' for CAs. "The ICAI has decided to recommend professional dress code for its members, which shall be applicable when they represent in any statutory proceedings or when they participate in official meetings," he informs in a mail.

In the process, Manoharan joins the elite club of the dress-addressers. Such as the principals that The Daily Sentinel ( speaks of in a story dated July 1: They insist, "Shirts must be tucked in, pants must sit at the waist (no lower than the hip bone), and earrings on boys, flip-flops and spaghetti straps will not be allowed."

Students will have to wear a belt if the same is necessary to keep their pants from falling below the hip, explains one of the principals. "Clothing should cover stomachs and cleavage. Caps, bandannas, rags and other head accessories are prohibited." Daily Times, Pakistan, speaks of how Habib Bank Ltd has revised a notification declaring a Western dress code (suit and necktie) and trimmed beards "mandatory" for bank employees.

Elsewhere, though, the dress code is being relaxed: "The old dress code required that `all T-shirts, polo-style shirts, and all other types of shirts that are designed to be tucked in, must be tucked in at all times and stay tucked in,'" informs in a report dated June 22.

One understands that the rule had to be dropped because it was so difficult just to determine if a shirt was supposed to be tucked in. "The newly approved dress code states that tops must fall at least one inch below the waist." Jamaica too is easing on the dress norms for the policewomen; they'll be allowed to sport cornrows, rope twist braids and weaves, states "They can wear one pair of stud earrings while in uniform, two rings, inclusive of a wedding band, and colourless lip gloss."

CAs, breathe easy for now, because nothing final has emerged from the portals of the ICAI, where the dress code is still `under formulation', more like a bitter medicine. "It will include Indian national dress, besides suggesting full hand sleeves shirt, trousers and shoes for gents; saree, salwar kameez or pant and shirt for lady members," assures the prez. "Subject to conducive climatic conditions, wearing of suit or blazer with tie shall also be recommended," he promises.

But he seems to be firm on a taboo: "Wearing of T-shirts, jeans and snerckers while representing or participating in official capacity shall be not desirable as per the code." Perhaps, we should suggest that the ICAI honcho takes a walk through the apparel section in a mall to identify other garments that don't suit the image of the bean counters.

For, only then we'd be able to apply to the professionals this line of the Bard in King Henry IV: "Came there a certain lord, neat, and trimly dress'd." But if you doubt the efficacy of dress codes to be like cut-in-stone edicts that always elicit adherence, you aren't alone. There can be slips and they may show.

For example, Gulf News reports in a July 1 story, `Dress code fails to curb nudity in hotel health clubs.' Most health clubs do have notices that advise people to `dress appropriately,' but they do not state clearly that nudity violates the UAE law, writes Shakir Husain on

Looking back, you'd realise that accountants have always had problems with dress. How unkind it was when the phrase `window dressing' was slapped on their toil to euphemistically refer to "accounting gimmickry used to make a balance-sheet and income statement depict a more positive condition than what actually exists," as explains.

"Statistics are like a bikini. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital," is a quote of Aaron Levenstein that many enterprising souls have long discovered and deployed in CA gatherings, variously substituting `statistics' with accounts, balance-sheets, financial statements and so on.

So, be ready when the premier professional body shifts gear, from uniform accounting standards to standards on uniforms for accountants.


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