Shabby cabbies in New York City might have to step up their look.
The city's Taxi and Limousine Commission is scheduled to vote on a rule change at its meeting on Thursday, amending existing regulations governing a driver's appearance to insist on "a professional appearance."
Rules about cabbie appearance have been on the books for years. But whereas the current rule requires a driver to be "clean and neat in dress" and prohibits specific clothing from being worn as outerwear - such as underwear, tank tops, and swimwear - the new rule emphasizes broad parameters, that a driver's overall appearance has to be neat, clean and professional.
Cabbie Bertin Kouakou thought the whole idea was silly. The veteran driver, dressed simply in black jeans and a green fleece pullover, said he had never had a passenger complain about his clothing in the more than 15 years he's been behind the wheel.
"No, because they don't pay (for) my clothing," he said, sitting in his cab after letting a passenger out on West 33rd Street.
As for the taxi commission, he said, officials should "do something to improve the service for passengers, not bother the drivers."
Admittedly, drivers face a number of other rules that are more likely to get them in bigger trouble if they're not followed, such as using cell phones while driving.
But "taxi drivers are ambassadors for the city, often the first person a visitor sees is a taxi driver," TLC Commissioner David Yassky told The Associated Press. "We're just trying to make sure taxi drivers think about the fact they represent the city."
He acknowledged that few violations are handed out for breaking the sartorial codes, and that cab drivers weren't about to get citations for wearing last year's pants or mixing the wrong prints.
"We're not going to have the fashion police fan out all over the city looking for schlubbly dressed drivers," Yassky said. "This isn't really something that you enforce in the legalistic way, it's just a matter of TLC setting a tone."
A violation of the dress code carries a $25 fine, the lowest category.
Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the advocacy group New York Taxi Workers Alliance, said she didn't think the rule change would be a big deal for cabbies, and they already understand the requirements of their jobs.
"Drivers know they're going to work, they're not going to the club or a beach party," she said.
Some other cities have rules for cabbie attire as well. In Los Angeles, for example, cab rules state that drivers should wear clothes "that are neat and clean and shall be well groomed at all times while on duty." In Boston, drivers "shall be suitably and professionally dressed, neat and clean in appearance." Boston's rules also prohibit any clothing with profanity and wearing clothing including swimwear and underwear as outerwear.
The idea of a driver dress code was met with indifference by some passengers.
When it comes to her cab trips, taxi rider Erica Bottoni says there's really only one thing she cares about - that the driver gets her to where she wants to go.
Her cabbie's fashion choices are something she doesn't focus on at all. "I don't care what they wear, if they get me from point A to point B, it's fine," she said, just before hopping into a taxi on Eighth Avenue.
In fact, she was willing to cut them more slack than the city was.
"They can wear pajamas for all I care, as long as they get me to the right place," the Manhattan hotel worker said.