On occasion, especially during difficult weather conditions, players are allowed to wear additional clothing, such as long pants in cold weather, or a sweatshirt under their uniform. The league or tournament usually tells the referees to allow this, or sometimes I do this on my own if I feel it’s appropriate. But what about the referees? I’m talking about such things as long pants or a hat in cold weather, or more importantly for someone like me who wears eyeglasses, wearing a cap in the rain so that I can actually see the play! Who has the authority to allow or deny deviation from the official uniform? Is it the SRA, the SDI, the referee assignor for that particular leagure or tournament?

USSF answer (April 2, 2008):
As to caps or other hats, Federation policy on hats was published in the October 1999 issue of Fair Play and has been reiterated several times in this venue:

Q. May referees wear caps and sunglasses?
A. With regard to caps, the policy of the United States Soccer Federation was stated in the Spring 1994 issue of Fair Play magazine: “Under normal circumstances, it is not acceptable for a game official to wear headgear, and it would never be seen on a high level regional, national or international competition. However, there may be rare circumstances in local competitions where head protection or sun visors might sensibly be tolerated for the good of the game, e.g. early morning or late afternoon games with sun in the officials’ line of sight causing vision difficulties; understaffed situations where an official with sensitive skin might be pressed into service for multiple games under strong sunlight or a referee who wears glasses needing shielding from rain.” Sunglasses would be subject to the same considerations. In addition, we ask referees to remember that sunglasses have the unfortunate side effect of suggesting that the referee or assistant referee is severely visually impaired and should not be working the game. They also limit communication between the officials and the players by providing a barrier against eye-to-eye contact. Sunglasses, if worn, should be removed prior to any verbal communication with players.

We know from Law 4 and “Law 18” (Common Sense) what equipment the players may wear. We also know that the intelligent referee will try to make an exception for players due to severe weather conditions, such as knit caps or gloves on very cold days. This would even extend to tracksuit pants, provided everyone on the team wears the same color — which need not be the same as the color of the shorts. The same is true of the officiating crew.

There should be no need for a written statement regarding referee attire. Referees are expected to look professional for every game they do, regardless of the level of play. Referees should exercise good sense in choosing what to wear — and what not to wear. Indeed, they should be certain to take care to protect themselves from severe weather conditions just as the players do. However, the intelligent referee will ensure that the officiating crew is not dressed more warmly than the players for whom they are officiating the game.

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