I have a friend who regularly drives without a shirt on during summer since he refuses to turn on his AC if he can avoid it. He works on a military base, and as such has to pass a security point every morning where he has to show his badge to be allowed on base.

He has told me that about 1/3 of the time the guard's manning the check point will require him to put his shirt on before allowing him to drive onto the base.

Do these guard's have a legal right to require him to put on his shirt? I suspect the answer is no, I'm pretty confident that the man has the right to drive without a shirt when on regular roads, and I doubt that federal bases have any law explicitly written to require him to wear a shirt.

Assuming that there is no law requiring him to put on his shirt would he technically have legal recourse for his rights being violated, as the guard was compelling my friend to act based off of presumed legal authority imposed by the federal government he worked for? Admittedly I doubt that the 'harm' of having to put on a shirt is severe enough to warrant perusing, or would lead to any significant compensation if it was found he was wronged, but I'm curious what his theoretical recourse would be.

Since he is entering a federal base I believe only federal law matters, so his specific state shouldn't be relevant as I understand.

  • 1
    I take it your friend is not a member of the military? It seems obvious now, but I had to read the question twice to be sure you hadn't said one way or the other. I expect there are laws surrounding military personnel and dress codes, so it may be worth making this point explicitly in the question.
    – Wildcard
    Dec 24, 2019 at 1:27
  • @Wildcard no, he is a civilian, but your right that is a detail I should have mentioned.
    – dsollen
    Dec 24, 2019 at 15:09

1 Answer 1


There is ample evidence that there is a dress code applicable to military installations, e.g. here, here, here and here. 32 CFR Part 809a grants authority to the base commander to enforce order within Air Force installations, and I believe that there are similar provisions in Part 631 which grant authority to enforce order to the base commander of an Army base. These codes apply to civilians as well as members of the military. I doubt that there is a specific "no shirt, no service" statute passed by Congress. Instead, it is a consequence of the fact that the base commander can establish rules of conduct that includes a dress code, when a person is on a military installation (where permission is required to enter). However, it is difficult to find a official online written statement of dress code which is also applicable to civilians.

If we suppose that on this particular base there is no dress code but the guard mistakenly / over-zealously thought there is one, (military) disciplinary action could be taken against the guard. You might plan to sue the government, as long as the act is not exempted from the Federal Tort Claims Act. There is an exemption (a) for

Any claim based upon an act or omission of an employee of the Government, exercising due care, in the execution of a statute or regulation, whether or not such statute or regulation be valid, or based upon the exercise or performance or the failure to exercise or perform a discretionary function or duty on the part of a federal agency or an employee of the Government, whether or not the discretion involved be abused.

Then the allegation would presumably be that the guard did not exercise due care in enforcing a non-existent order.

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