Trim your facial hair, please

Posted on June 20, 2006
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Economy & Development, Religion, Society
27 Comments
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Adil Najam

I have no idea what to make of this one, so let me just quote from a news-item titled “Habib Bank revises dress code notification at one branch” in The Daily Times (20 June, 2006). According to the report, Habib Bank Limited (HBL) sent a notification to all its Branches declaring a Western dress code (suit and necktie) and trimmed beards ‘mandatory’ for all bank employees, but then rescinded in the case of only one branch (as of yet).

Sources said the notification declaring formal dress ‘mandatory’ had [now] been reworded as ‘optional’ for the bank’s Lawrence Road branch.

HBL Senior Vice Presidents Zafar Aziz Usmani and Jamila A Khan on June 13 notified (by circular number STF 24/2006) bank employees to strictly follow a Western dress code and trim their beards. “The bank’s performance is poor because clients are put off by the unkempt look given by wearing shalwar kameez and having long beards,” they said.

The story then goes on to report the case of Khalid, a Grade-II officer at the branch, who had resigned to protest the bank’s decision to enforce the dress code but later took back his resignation letter “after senior bank officials assured him the dress code was optional.”

He called the HBL’s order against the spirit of Islam. “I have been working at the bank for the past 30 years and submitted my resignation to protest against the Western dress code being made mandatory,” he said. His religious beliefs stopped him from following the dress code, and he couldn’t sacrifice his beliefs for man-made laws, he added.

In what was quite clearly a ‘damage control’ measure, the dress code mandate was made ‘optional’ for this branch. It is not clear whether this will be followed in other branches, but…

Khalid Pervaiz Malik, the branch manager of HBL Regional Head Office, said the first notification was correct because staff members wearing suits and neckties looked more professional than those wearing shalwar kameez. “Authorities should take strict action in this regard because HBL wants to meet international banking standards, and clients notice such things,” he said.

So, dear readers, do help me make sense of this one. Is the implication that one cannot be presentable in a beard and wearing shalwar kameez? I hope not.

I can understand a bank wanting its employees to be presentable and look trustworthy. I have seen Pakistanis go to work with unkempt shalwar kameez. But I have seen even more looking not just unpresentable but silly and uncomfortable in misfitting, unkempt trousers, shirts and ties. If you want your employees to be presentable; ask them to be presentable. But, to think that one can look presentable only in western clothes is plain wrong and shows a sense of kalla saab cultural insecurity.

As for facial-hair-discrimination… do we even want to go there?

Dr. Abdus Salam? Abdul Sattar Edhi? Sir Syed Ahmed Khan? Presentable? You bet. Trustworthy? More than any banker I ever met.

P.S. If you are wondering, the picture on the right Sir Syed Ahmed Khan; on the left it is Dr. Abdus Salam receiving his Nobel Award; yes, wearing both a shalwar and a beard!

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27 responses to “Trim your facial hair, please”

  1. Pakistani says:

    I got here through the “ATP 2 years ago” button. Fascinating post. I do not like beards myself, but I agree that no employer should have the right to decide if I shave or not.

  2. perfectlymadebirds says:

    I do not know what happened in my above comment I posted yesterday but some how by error the comment got doubled up when it posted. Please excuse the error. Thankyou.

  3. perfectlymadebirds says:

    I am going to make a simple suggestion to a solution no one seems to know about or even figured out yet. It seems people’s natural awnser is to abandon salwar kameez or other local dress in favor of western dress because they seem to think it equates trust, worthiness or professionalism but people seem to fail to look to alternatives by drawing awnsers out of one’s own culture. The solution simply is do not enforce a western only dress code in Pakistan or all nations of the world to adopt a global uniform. The awnser I have found is to simply build upon your culture for a smarter looking image drawn from your own culture. People keep saying salwar kameez or beard equates laziness or sloppy image but that in reality is not true. Salwar kameez worn in the professional place such as a bank can be dressed up to a professional level with waistcoat and neatly placed subtle embroidery and cuffed sleeves. What this bank and other businesses in Pakistan should be doing instead of trying to force the people to dress western or be western is to create pakistani based professional attire based on the salwar kameez worn in the professional work place. Think about neatly tailored salwar kameez with waistcoat or tailored sherwani and well groomed beard. This is a solution, a very good solution that could someday influence world trends in the professional setting where eastern attire will also be equally as much a norm as western attire is. Don’t destroy the culture you have, adapt it and make even better than ever. It’s every pakistanis’ heritage and a part of you. And so you know I wear the salwar kameez every day in the west which is accepted and respected in the professional work place and formal setting. I have adapted the dress for casual, professional and formal settings and it is still a salwar kameez I wear in every sense of tradition.I am going to make a simple suggestion to a solution no one seems to know about or even figured out yet. It seems people’s natural awnser is to abandon salwar kameez or other local dress in favor of western dress because they seem to think it equates trust, worthiness or professionalism but people seem to fail to look to alternatives by drawing awnsers out of one’s own culture. The solution simply is do not enforce a western only dress code in Pakistan or all nations of the world to adopt a global uniform. The awnser I have found is to simply build upon your culture for a smarter looking image drawn from your own culture. People keep saying salwar kameez or beard equates laziness or sloppy image but that in reality is not true. Salwar kameez worn in the professional place such as a bank can be dressed up to a professional level with waistcoat and neatly placed subtle embroidery and cuffed sleeves. What this bank and other businesses in Pakistan should be doing instead of trying to force the people to dress western or be western is to create pakistani based professional attire based on the salwar kameez worn in the professional work place. Think about neatly tailored salwar kameez with waistcoat or tailored sherwani and well groomed beard. This is a solution, a very good solution that could someday influence world trends in the professional setting where eastern attire will also be equally as much a norm as western attire is. Don’t destroy the culture you have, adapt it and make even better than ever. It’s every pakistanis’ heritage and a part of you. And so you know I wear the salwar kameez every day in the west which is accepted and respected in the professional work place and formal setting. I wear salwar kameez to all occasions wether it be casual, professional and formal settings and it is still a salwar kameez I wear in every sense of tradition.

  4. ayesha sajid says:

    Every institution has a dress code, wether its a suit or a shalwar qameez in not the question here. we are just making it an issue where there is none.
    If employees browbeat the organization into giving in on this issue by demanding to wear what they want and then justifying it by making it into a west/east, muslim/non-muslim issue then that is exactly the mind set that does not let the third world countries (specifically muslims) develop.
    For arguments sake , if the employers and companies keep giving in to these kind of demands , if banks keep giving in to the demand of facial hair and shalwar qameezes , then where does it stop and more importantly who gets to make a parameter on where to stop.
    The next thing we know , employees will be demanding to wear dhotees and sleeveless vessts, keeping long hair tied/untied in a pony tail, wearing shorts because its so hot or jewellery because its so trendy…. ladies and gentlemen the list goes on.
    The army personell will want to wear pajams/shalwar qameez to war, the police man will come in his night clothes on duty , children will want to wear coloured clothes to class.
    If the debate is on what to wear where (justification being ours or thiers?) then it would be all right to wear whatever you want where ever you want.
    The world does not run like this …. wether we like it or not , we have to conform to things or a small issue makes way for chaos !

  5. Akif Nizam says:

    A bank is a private institution; they can decide whichever dress code they want to impose. If I have a choice of going to a bank where people look like Osama and one where people look like Bush, I would go to the later one (even though I hate them both equally).

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