Do’s and Don’ts of Dress Codes in the 21st Century

Many companies are opting for casual work attire. The New York Times published an article in 2016 titled, “The End of the Dress Code.” The days of ties and power suits for work seem to be long gone. However, that doesn’t mean anything goes. There seem to be more unwritten rules about dressing for work these days than there are written.

It’s no surprise that many people don’t understand what’s appropriate to wear at work. Creating a well-thought-out dress code for your small business can help your employees understand how to dress in a modern work environment. Here are some of the dos and don’ts for successfully implementing a dress code.

Dress-Code Dos

Do make your dress code very clear. What you think of as business casual may not be what your employees envision.

Do assume people judge you and your employees based on your attire. You may not think it’s fair, but visual information is the first information people use to form opinions, and you never get a second chance to make a first impression. As a business owner, your employees’ appearance reflects on you and your business.

Do consider your employees’ productivity. A paper published in Social Psychological and Personality Science found that people who wore slightly more formal clothing were better at abstract thought, such as creativity.

Do expect employees to dress for their specific jobs. For instance, an outside sales rep who sees customers all day and a receptionist who greets clients should dress more formally than someone who works in a warehouse. If appropriate for your business, consider using name tags and custom license plate frames to help customers and visitors keep track of your brand and your customer-facing employees.

Dress-Code Don’ts

Don’t allow employees to wear open-toed shoes. Even dressy sandals for women can be off-putting to some people. Sandals can also be a safety hazard in the workplace. To avoid personal injury, employees should wear sensible, professional shoes.

Don’t mistake business casual for casual–the two terms can mean very different things. An example of business casual would be khakis and a polo shirt, or tailored pants and a sweater. Examples of casual attire include t-shirts, jeans, sneakers, and hoodies.

Don’t allow employees to show a lot of skin. Too-short skirts and revealing tops make other people in the office uncomfortable and make your business look unprofessional. This includes shorts–employees shouldn’t wear them.

Don’t dress down too much when you’re the boss. Just like clients need to respect you, employees do too. There’s nothing wrong with wearing jeans on a casual Friday, but you need to look like you’re in charge most of the time.

Having a clear dress code ensures that your employees know what’s expected of them. This can lead to better employee morale and increased productivity for your business.