Preston City Council has set down strict sartorial standards for the men and women behind the wheels of both Hackney and private hire vehicles operating in the area.
Male drivers will be expected to don trousers and a short or long-sleeved shirt with a full body. Knee-length tailored shorts will also be permitted for warmer weather.
Their female counterparts have been given the option of a short or long-sleeved blouse or shirt with either trousers or a knee-length skirt - or a dress. They, too, will also be allowed to wear tailored shorts which come down at least as far as the knee.
The new regulations governing cabbies’ clobber form part of Preston’s new taxi licensing policy - and are a refresh of rules that were last issued in 2013.
Some of the stipulations in the previous dress code for the city’s taxi drivers have been carried over into the latest version - including a ban on flip-flops, sandals without heel straps and hoodies.
There is also an expectation that clothing is kept “in a clean condition, free from holes, rips, or other damage” - and that drivers adhere to good standards of personal hygiene.
The revised dresswear demands were the subject of a public consultation last year as part of a survey on a raft of suggested changes to Preston’s taxi licensing policy, which were approved by the city council just before Christmas.
Members of the public overwhelmingly backed the clothing rules, but did have some mixed views on the subject - with one respondent claiming that “clean and appropriate” should be the only requirement, while another declared: “I don’t really enjoy seeing and smelling my driver’s lunch on his clothes”.
Several people suggested some sort of uniform should be worn by drivers. While the city council decided not to go down that route, it said that it “recognises the positive image that uniforms can create” and would encourage taxi firms operating in Preston to introduce a corporate uniform of their own.
Stephen Parkinson, a private hire driver in the city for more than 20 years, said that wholly standardised dress would iron out any creases in the new code.
“You notice in some other countries that all the taxi drivers tend to have the same gear on. In Tenerife, for instance, it’s a light blue shirt and navy trousers - and it looks pretty smart.
“I used to be a bus driver and had to wear a uniform - a shirt and blazer - so why not [taxi drivers]?”
However, he added that being smartly turned out should not be too much to ask of drivers who, for some visitors, will be the first face they see in the city.
“You don’t want to someone getting off a train Preston and getting in a cab to go to a nice hotel - and then the driver gets out with tracksuit bottoms and trainers on to take their bags. It’s the same if a driver is going to a hotel to pick someone up and they walk into reception [looking scruffy] and the staff are thinking, ‘Who’s this?’
“Personally, I always wear trousers not jeans, and I don't wear any sportswear.
“The problem will be who’s paying for the clothing - we’re all self-employed, so if you have to go out and buy a smart outfit, will it be tax-deductible? And if the answer is no, then it won't get off the ground - and the council will have to give drivers some sort of financial help,” Stephen said.
For fellow private hire driver, Mike - who only wanted to give his first name - it is a matter of professional and personal pride to be well-dressed for his work.
“We’re all different in life - I used to work in retail and people respect the way you look and that's how I continued when I became a taxi driver.
“In the winter, I wear a nice pair of trousers, shoes and V-neck jumper with a shirt underneath - and, in the summer, a short-sleeved shirt.
“But I actually think passengers notice the car more than the driver - I'd say it's more important that people can get in a nice clean car that doesn't smell. Some of them - I've been in one before myself - are atrocious and that reflects on the driver,” Mike added.
Amongst consultation responses from the taxi trade, there was a 50:50 split amongst private hire respondents as to whether they approved of the new dress code, while 60 percent of those associated with the Hackney trade were in favour. However, it was noted that any new rules should allow drivers to be able to dress in a way that reflects their religious beliefs.
Asim Ditta, a Hackney driver in Preston, said he understood why the new policy outlawed sportswear - “If you’ve got, say, a Manchester City top on and then a hardcore United fan gets into the cab, it could cause conflict," he said. But he is far less happy that the shirt and trousers rule means tracksuits are not permitted.
“The majority of taxi drivers wear tracksuits - because a belt and trousers does get uncomfortable around your stomach if you are driving for a long time. When you are driving, you have got to be comfortable yourself.
“If they're going to be strict on that, I don’t think any taxi driver will be happy,” Asim said.
The previous dress code did also suggest that tracksuits and shellsuits would not be considered acceptable.
The Preston branch of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union for the Hackney trade told the Post that it was unable to comment on the matter, as it is currently “in dispute” with the city council over other aspects of the new licensing policy - including longer bans for those convicted of certain offences - which it claimed had not been the subject of a thorough enough consultation.
The Post contacted more than half a dozen Hackney and private hire firms operating in the city for comment on the new clothing rules, but none responded.
Cllr David Borrow, Preston City Council's cabinet member for planning and regulation, said that the finalising of the authority's taxi licensing policy late last year did not mean that the door was closed to anybody with concerns about it.
"Extensive consultation with all interested parties took place over a number of months during 2021, plus a full and open public consultation exercise via the council’s website between 17th September and 22nd October, 2021, providing opportunity for all to contribute to the review process.
"As a dynamic policy document, it is subject to periodic review and if anybody has any concerns about the policy then we would be happy to listen to any particular representations made via the appropriate channels," said Cllr Borrow.
He added that the council's previous taxi licensing policy was subject to "a number of revisions, including a major review in 2021".
DRESS CODE FOR PRESTON CABBIES
***All clothing worn by licensed drivers whilst working must be in good condition and the driver must have good standards of personal hygiene.
*** As a minimum standard whilst working, male licensed drivers should wear trousers and a shirt which has a full body and short/long sleeves. Knee length tailored shorts are also acceptable.
***As a minimum standard whilst working, female licensed drivers should wear trousers or a knee length skirt or dress and shirt/blouse which has a full body and short/long sleeves. Knee length tailored shorts are also acceptable.
*** Footwear whilst working shall fit, i.e., be secure around the heel of both feet.
Examples of Unacceptable Standard of Dress
***Clothing that is not kept in a clean condition, free from holes, rips, or other damage.
***Words or graphics on any clothing that is of an offensive nature or suggestive nature which might offend.
***Sportswear, e.g. football/rugby kits including shirts, tracksuits in whole or part and beachwear.
***Sandals with no heel straps, flip flops, or any other footwear that does not secure around the heel.
***The wearing of any hood or any other type of clothing that may obscure the driver's vision or their identity.
Source: Preston City Council