Moderated Caucus: Should We Scrap Western Business Attire?

by Sam Povey on January 12, 2017

Welcome to Moderated Caucus, a new series from Best Delegate examining the questions that keep delegates, chairs and secretariats up at night. Should closing ceremonies have guest speakers? Does crisis actually count as MUN? How do you explain to your non-MUN friends what you’re doing in a suit on a Saturday?

Want to get involved in Moderated Caucus? Send your topic suggestions to sam.povey@nullbestdelegate.com and you’ll get the chance to put your case to Best Delegate readers. 

This week, we’re looking at Western Business Attire. This dress code has become a staple of MUN conferences across the world, but is WBA now outdated and should we scrap it as the dress code of choice?

WBA? No thanks…

In favor of scrapping WBA: Sam Povey

Sam Povey is a member of Best Delegate’s Media Team and a former student of the London School of Economics. He is 21, from Aberdeen, and has been participating in MUN since 2010

WBA: one of the many MUN acronyms that separates a delegate from your ordinary student. For men, “Western business attire” is a suit, shirt and tie. For women, a sensible skirt or dress. So far, so boring. But not only is WBA a poor dress code, it’s an unnecessary one. MUN conferences should ditch it and trust delegates to dress themselves.

It is a shame that MUN conferences seek to deny the cultural diversity that exists amongst the member states of the UN by straitjacketing delegates into a prescribed dress code. National dress is one of the most visual ways of expressing a delegate’s culture, but conferences have come to resemble a Brooks Brothers catalogue launch. Worse still when this dress code is the product of one particular culture. WBA: an act of sartorial imperialism!

Moreover, WBA has become so outdated that it no longer resembles “Western business attire” at all. In most Western offices anything as formal as a tie is the exception, not the rule. We shouldn’t be surprised that WBA has become so outdated, this is the nature of dress codes. They are naturally conservative and make it difficult to keep up with natural developments in fashion tastes.

Of course, conferences should give delegates some guidance about what to wear. I’d recommend we’d look at the UN’s own dress code. Unlike so much of the UN, it is succinct and straightforward:

“dress appropriately for the international diplomatic environment of the United Nations”

Seems good to me – let delegates decide whether or not they want to wear a tie, trade oxfords for brogues or forgo a jacket in hot weather. It is what delegates say and do that matters, not what they wear. Let’s scrap WBA and focus on what’s important.

”A well-tied tie is the first serious step in life.” – Oscar Wilde

In opposition to scrapping WBA: John Salchak

John Salchak is a Media Associate for Training Content on the Best Delegate Media Team. He is a senior in High School and has been doing MUN for four years.

The United Nations General Assembly is an event of great pomp and circumstance, a who’s who of world leaders, clad in dark suits, surrounded by guards, and ready to address grave threats facing our world. Obviously, the most important thing to note here is: they are all wearing suits! They look professional. If Model United Nations is a simulation of the UN, it is only logical that we, as delegates, not only play the part of leaders, but also look the part.

Students will take MUN more seriously when they are required to wear business clothing. When students look professional, they feel professional and when they feel professional, they will act professionally. Requiring students to wear Western Business Attire (WBA) elevates the debate and the experience of MUN.

There are some other less readily apparent reasons to require WBA. If formality is in question, students will have to answer a question that for some like me is nearly existential: what to wear? Is business casual going to be the norm, or will it be as casual as jeans and tennis shoes? WBA requirements take that guess work out of the way and applies a standard and well known dress code to all those attending.

Furthermore, it gets high schoolers used to wearing professional attire. For many students, MUN will be one of the only times before leaving high school that they will have to wear a suit, something almost required in the professional job market. “Dressing up” can be intimidating at first, which means that conferences are doing delegates a favour by exposing them to the world of WBA.

Finally, most other serious competition activities such as debate and Mock Trial require their participants to dress professionally. If MUN doesn’t follow suit (pun intended), it will make the battle it faces to ascend to the same level of prestige the others enjoy even harder. MUN will be taken more seriously if the participants dress up. Conferences requiring WBA not only helps delegates, but the image of MUN as a whole.

Want to get involved in Moderated Caucus? Send your topic suggestions to sam.povey@nullbestdelegate.com and you’ll get the chance to put your case to Best Delegate readers. 

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