Mickey Mouse Standards

If the animated Mr. Lincoln at Disneyland were as alive as he seems, would he have to shave? That was our first thought when we heard about Disneyland’s struggle to impose its stern dress and grooming code on the 1,600 employees of the Disneyland Hotel, which the corporation has just acquired. The second thought was: Why are they bothering?

Disneyland management says that it bans mustaches, beards and long hair for male employees and eye shadow, long fingernails and dangling earrings for women because visitors expect the staff to be wholesome and well-scrubbed. We don’t want to go on the record against wholesomeness or cleanliness. But it seems to us that it might be time for Disneyland to reexamine its appearance code, largely unchanged since 1957.

Hardly anything else in the world has stayed the same over the past three decades. Michael Jackson, who wears more eye makeup than the Disneyland rules allow female employees, has a toehold inside the Magic Kingdom as Captain Eo. Disney Studios, once the purveyor of kiddie cartoons, now produces slightly raunchy adult comedies like “Down and Out in Beverly Hills” in which, come to think of it, actor Richard Dreyfuss sports a mustache. Facial hair might once have been associated with hippies, peace marches and un-American activities, but not anymore; now even the Marines allow mustaches, at a commanding officer’s discretion.

Before Disneyland forces all the hotel employees to conform to outdated standards, its management ought to consider that public expectations have changed since the 1950s. Americans are more tolerant, less likely to believe that trim mustaches or long, well-groomed nails bespeak moral corruption. No one expects to get into Disneyland for $5.95 anymore. And no one really expects to find everyone at work inside the Magic Kingdom or at the hotel, a monorail ride away, still looking like the Mouseketeers.