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Heyl: Shades of gray popular — unless you're state police commissioner

| Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015, 7:12 a.m.

People are seeing red over Brown's decision to wear gray.

Acting Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Marcus Brown's choice of occupational attire is ruffling feathers in the state police ranks. He has committed a serious crime of fashion that seems certain to be spotlighted during his upcoming Senate confirmation hearing.

Brown's offense?

He wears a state trooper's uniform.

Brown would look odd wearing, say, the typical garb of a circus clown, seminarian or shepherd. Yet great agitation exists that the state force's top cop audaciously dresses like, you know, a cop.

As of Tuesday, more than 3,200 people have “liked” a Facebook page called: “He didn't earn it, he shouldn't wear it.” The page, whose administrators include at least one retired trooper, criticizes Brown's decision to don the troopers' gray uniform.

“He should wear a suit or attend the (Pennsylvania state police) academy” to earn a gray uniform, it states.

Though it's true that Brown didn't attend the academy, he's a former Baltimore police officer and former head of the Maryland Transportation Police. Most recently, he was Maryland State Police superintendent.

It's not as though Gov. Tom Wolf rescued him from shelf-stocking duties at Costco.

The uproar over Brown's attire continues a peculiar pattern of concern about clothing and accessories among those involved in apprehending and incarcerating suspected criminals.

When Pittsburgh had a police chief vacancy last year, newly appointed Public Safety Director Stephen Bucar could have sifted through resumes for the position. Instead, one of his first actions was to mandate that officers eschew wearing baseball caps in hot weather and don traditional, uncomfortable service hats.

Around the same time, Allegheny County Jail Warden Orlando Harper instituted a dress code at the lockup. Not for inmates, but for visitors. Wear your latex leggings or Lycra outfits to the symphony if you desire, but don't think you're getting through the jail's metal detectors dressed in anything but your Sunday best.

Let's hope this warring over wardrobe doesn't become prevalent in other professions. Think of what might occur if snobbish clothing standards seep into jobs at:

• Trendy restaurants

“Listen, Chef Andre, it doesn't matter if you came here from that fancy French bistro uptown. You need to demonstrate you can make a superb soufflé before you get to wear a toque and double-breasted white jacket in this kitchen.”

• Construction sites

“How dare you disrespect us by donning a hard hat, Mitch! Either get your driver's certificate like we all did from Atkinson's Academy of Excavation Equipment Operation or put your skull at risk every day.”

• Gentlemen's clubs

“That G-string has to be earned, Krystal.”

Eric Heyl is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7857.

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