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Ditch Your Dress Code and Other Interesting Advice

I am a child of the 60’s;  a hippie and a non-conformist. I worked in Corporate America for over 2 decades. I enjoyed it and I learned so much. What I didn’t love was figuring out what to wear.

First… there’s no such thing as business casual for women. As much as I’d like to show up in a pair of Dockers and a sport shirt (NOT) … or it’s equivalent… I’d be glad to.. but there is no equivalent.

Second … The idea that “clothes make the man” is passe and needs to be rethought.

Third… Check out this article titled,” 5 Reasons to Ditch Your Dress Code”  You may get more out of having a culture of flexibility in employee dress than maintaining strict standards.

Fourth… Diversity of  people can lead to creativity in thought and action.

This doesn’t mean having no standards in dress. Clearly there are certain clothes that are inappropriate in a business environment. Also, a culture that allows casual dress but tolerates disrespect isn’t doing itself or it’s employee any favors. Hard work, communication, listening and customer focus are more important than whether someone wears jeans. Build trust with your employees and peers and we’ll all benefit.

Photo credit: Photographer Irum sneaker

5 Responses
  • Carl Hoffman
    October 6, 2012

    Off and on since I was 7 years old I wanted to be bald. So over 15 years ago when I worked for small outfit “X” I shaved my head. A few months later it was taken over by big outfit “Y.” After I was at outfit “Y” for 3 months I was called into my supervisor’s office and asked to consider growing out my hair. He claimed it was better for business. After a respectable time and consultation with an attorney my reaction was “If the place was that shallow I did not want to work there.” He backed down and asked me to not say anything about this to anyone. He wore a nice looking rug on his head. I worked there another 8 years with a shaved head that was allowed in the company dress code. Another supervisor in outfit “Y” did not allow facial hair on men. When I left outfit “Y” I promptly grew some facial hair. Outfit “Y” also did not allow “suggestive sandals” on women or Capri pants. Outfit “Y” now has a new leadership team. I did not leave earlier because I had a child starting college and I am not much of a risk-taker in my opinion.

  • Deborah
    October 7, 2012

    Carl, What a great story! I have always thought of ‘dress code’ as dress. It also makes me think that men run into the same discrimination as women!

    I really appreciate this. I’m going to include when I do my — multigenerational communication workshops. Thank you so much, As always…

  • Mildred Talabi
    October 19, 2012

    Hi Deborah,

    Interesting read – funnily enough I’ve just published a guest post on my blog on ‘How to dress for a casual job interview’ ( and though the writer talks about women having more “free rein” than men when it comes to the range of casual work clothes on offer, I do agree with you that men can get away with the ‘business casual’ look a lot more than women.

    I think the ultimate freedom in work clothes comes from when you’ve “made it” – like the likes of Zuckerberg or Branson, then you can pretty much wear whatever you want at any time and get away with it!

  • Deborah
    October 21, 2012

    Hi Mildred, thanks for your comment. I’m not trying to whine about dress codes.. I’m actually very excited that things are getting more casual, but of course, it’s always appropriate to be respectful of your customers, audience or whoever. Sometimes dressing down can be disrespectful and I never would advocate for that.
    I enjoyed your blog and encourage people to check it out! need CV help… job search help… check out Mildred!

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