Life is tough on the front line of accountancy. For more than five years, our intrepid correspondent has been bringing us news and views from a typical West Country practice.
Dress to impress, or just for warmth?
It has been all over the Internet since Swiss bank UBS AG issued staff with a 43 page tome on the corporate dress code.
Naturally, the eagle-eyed staff over at Accountingweb.com spotted it too and took the opportunity to castigate the over-zealous bankers for sounding like sartorial control freaks.
Here are some of the highlights that caught my eye:
Suits only in dark grey, black and navy blue (conveying competence, sobriety, formalism) - no problem with that.
No trendy eye-glasses - yep, go along with that too. No need to try to look like an architect or graphic designer.
Requiring light make-up for women (foundation, discreet lipstick, mascara) to enhance one's personality - hmm, a bit sexist, not sure they could say that in the UK.
"Properly cared for hair and a stylish haircut increase an individual's popularity" - what???
No wearing short-sleeved shirts or cuff links (obviously not together) - definitely not for UK consumption then.
No allowing underwear to show - let's call a spade a spade, I think they mean bra straps
And though it can't show, underwear should be of good quality and easily washable - no, I'm not joking, they actually say that.
No using tie knots that don't match face and body shape - now this one has me completely baffled, I only know one way to knot a tie. I suppose bow ties are completely out too!
Wristwatches are encouraged because they suggest "reliability and great care for punctuality" - or in the case of my £4.99 Casio watch, that I'm a cheapskate!
Most worrying for the short-sighted like myself is the dictat that 'Glasses should always be kept clean. On the one hand this gives you optimal vision, and on the other hand dirty glasses create an appearance of negligence.' Just avoid eye contact, I say!
Any organisation that dictates when jackets must be buttoned and unbuttoned is not one that I would care to work for. Sadly, I can't find a leaked copy of the full dress code on the Internet, butI'm sure it's only a matter of time!
But closer to home, should a small UK accounting practice have a dress code for its people? I have never worked for a firm that had one, or if it was unwritten I never transgressed, although I should admit that my father was a gents outfitter so maybe I inherited some of his style.
If I DID have a dress code it would outlaw such style disasters as those awful coloured or striped shirts with white collars - I thought they died out in the late 1970s, but I still see a few around. And what about the 3-piece versus 2-piece suit debate? Has the 3-piece had its day or does it still have a place in the dynamic young accountant's wardrobe? Personally I think waistcoats belong on Status Quo guitarists, not in the modern office.
And that's before we get on to the whole dressing down thing. I don't suppose UBS AG lets its staff come to work in jeans and T-shirts on Fridays! Many accounting firms do, and in our experience it doesn't seem to bother the clients. In fact, I have some clients who INSIST that I don't wear a suit when visiting them.
I'm heading back to Google to see how many ways I can find to knot a tie!