New York: New York taxi drivers, many of them immigrants from dozens of countries, are notorious for being unkempt and even obnoxious.
But in updating 20-year-old rules to set a new standard for drivers - that they maintain a "professional appearance" - the city`s Taxi and Limousine Commissioner on Thursday made sure to communicate sensitivity to the Big Apple`s ever-growing collection of global ethnic and religious groups.
Commissioner David Yassky took the bull by the horns, anticipating questions about whether such a vague standard as "professional appearance" might exclude driver who wear turbans, robes or other identifying garb.
"Turbans are absolutely professional dress," declared commissioner David Yassky. "Any religious or ethnic garb is absolutely professional."
The new rules do not specify what kind of clothes taxi drivers should wear.
Yassky said high fashion dressing is not expected of cabbies. All they need to do is be clean and neat.
"There will be no fashion police," he said.
The new rules "update a dress code rule written 20 years ago that was written for a different time", he said, referring to the rapid growth of the immigrant population from beyond Europe.
The nod for religious and ethnic garb is a reflection of the legion of taxi drivers from South Asia and the Middle East in New York`s melting pot population of more than eight million. Over 70 nationalities live in the Queens and Brooklyn boroughs alone.
The issue of cabbie fashion popped up in August 2010 when a passenger attempted to kill a Muslim driver during the heat of controversy over the building of an Islamic culture centre near the Ground Zero site of the 2001 terrorist attacks.
The dress code decreed 20 years ago banned underwear worn as outerwear. Tank tops, T-shirts and swimsuits were prohibited even on hot summer days.
For all the complaints in the media about unkempt and drivers, it appeared that fewer than 50 summons for violating the dress code have been issued in the past 20 years, New York officials said.