Swedish train drivers skirt the dress code

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Swedish commuters have been shocked to witness male train driverswearing skirts this summer. No, wait, these are Swedes we are talking about, so shocked is not the right word. More likely they might have raised a polite eyebrow over their morning coffee and herring sandwich and murmured "Correct me if I'm wrong, but that driver was in a skirt, yes, Sven?" "You are right Bjorn, knee-length I believe."

The new sartorial style on the Roslagsbanan line, north of Stockholm, is down to the idiotic rules imposed by operator Arriva that refused to allow drivers to wear shorts during the summer. Drivers were allowed a choice of long trousers or skirts, and male drivers took the opportunity to ridicule the rules.

"We have always said that when summer comes, we will get some skirts and wear them," the driver Martin Akersten told the BBC. "It's very warm weather here so we would like to wear shorts but if we can't then we have skirts for comfort."

Although Sweden is not known for sultry heatwaves, temperatures can get uncomfortably high in the drivers' cabs on the trains. Arriva has been made to look foolish, because in egalitarian Sweden they cannot be seen to discriminate.

Communications manager Tomas Hedenius was the poor sap pushed forward to try to defend Arriva's stance. "Our thinking is that one should look decent and proper when representing Arriva and the present uniforms do that. If the man only wants a skirt then that is OK," he said through gritted teeth, although the company plans to rethink the rulings in September.

In the meantime Sweden has joined Scotland as a European nation where men proudly don a skirt for the working day. In Scotland they insist on calling them kilts, but everybody knows they are skirts really.

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