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Relax Your Office Dress Code?


Business attire has been getting more casual for a number of years. In certain industries, shorts, sandals and a T-shirt is considered appropriate apparel for the office. Should you relax the dress code for your office?

Issues To Consider

Before you decide to relax your dress code, consider these issues:
  • Do you have a dress code?

    If anyone in your organization deals with the public, you should have one for all employees.

  • What is appropriate for your region?

    Dress standards differ by area. What is appropriate in Los Angeles, probably isn’t appropriate in New York.

  • Do you deal with individuals from other countries?

    Many countries observe much stricter standards of dress than the US. Know what is appropriate in their country, even if they are visiting in yours.

  • What is appropriate for your industry?

    Bankers dress differently than artists.

  • What business purpose do you want the dress code to support?If your goal is friendly customer service, suit and tie is probably not a good choice. If you want visitors to your office to have a sense of strength and stability, you may want to avoid the torn T-shirt look.

  • Do you have any choice?

    Certain professions require certain attire, either for appearance sake (police, armed forces, clergy) or for environmental reasons (fire fighters, bee keepers, surgeons).

  • What do your employees want?

    Ultimately they will determine the success or failure of your dress code. If they feel uncomfortable or ‘silly’ wearing the prescribed attire they either will be less productive or will find ways to circumvent the policy, or both.

If You Don't Have One

  • How to Set a Dress Code
    My 9-step "how to" create a dress code if your company doesn't have one or needs a new one.
  • Organization By Design
    This Consulting firm focuses on "Helping employees and professional understand the messages they send to customers, superiors and peers through dress." They offer group training programs and individual coaching.
  • Dress For Success
    The Dress for Success video can help you know what a formal business dress code will entail. For helpful information, read the tips under the links for suits, dress shirts, and ties.

What About the Small/Home Office?

Many people have started working from their homes due, at least in part, to a desire to work to a more relaxed dress code. Dennis Scheminske asks in the Denver Business Journal article Why home pros should dress for success "What's wrong with not dressing up, especially when no one's going to see you?"

He answers his own question: "It sends the wrong message to you. It's an "attitude" thing. And, according to experts, over time it can influence the quality of your work and relations with your clients."

Scheminske uses automobile repair shops to prove his point, but it could be any customer service outfit.

Does Your Company Have A Dress Code?

Is it formal? Is it written? How was it developed or changed? Share your thoughts with your peers on how to write a dress code that works.

Go to our Management Forum and post your feeling on this topic. If you are already a member you can go directly to this discussion. If you are not yet a member, you can join here.

Internet Resources

Casual Dress Code This Business Research Lab article argues for a casual dress code as "an inexpensive way to improve the morale of employees." While recognizing "Professionalism is paramount when it comes to client contact", the article finds it "difficult to find a strong argument in favor of non-client-contact personnel being forced to wear formal business attire."

Fashion Statement In Jennifer Lee's article in the Jacksonville Business Journal, she postulates that the "Manner of dress must suit the job". Using examples from different industries she shows how standards have changed, but why having an explicit policy remains essential.

Related Video
Office Fashion Dos and Don'ts
David Kirkpatrick, Senior Editor, Internet and Technology

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