In the last few years, the Internet has been set aflame with stories about dress code controversies. There is something about telling people how to dress that strikes us in a very personal and provocative way, tapping into our deep hatreds of social injustice, bureaucratic incompetence, and just plain meanness on behalf of the administrators that adopt dress codes for their organizations.
At DressCodeRules.com, we love that this debate is finally being made so public. It’s a conversation that must be had. Sadly though, the public discussion on dress codes has not been very productive because we are normally not hearing the full story. These reports are rarely more than provocative memes posted with little attempt at dialogue.
In this modern age, when people who don’t like their assigned dress code, instead of engaging in true dialogue with the schools or offices that have adopted the code, they run to the media to air their grievances. Unsurprisingly, we rarely hear about resolutions to these controversies. Here is what is missing from the current dress code debate and what we should all acknowledge in our discussions surrounding dress code rules.
6 Guiding Dress Code Principals
- Dress codes DO serve a purpose. They are not there just to oppress you. They are the foundation of what makes us professional in our jobs and civilized in our common gatherings.
- If you are in a position to institute a dress code, take that responsibility seriously. You are controlling an important part of how people express themselves. If you wield that power capriciously, you will rightly have people questioning your authority.
- A dress code should fit the cultural identify of your organization. This has been done nearly to perfection by companies like Fashion PR and Starbucks who recently crafted their dress codes to fit their companies’ identities and the working environments they want to foster.
- You must be exceedingly sensitive to the cultural and physical needs of the persons who follow your dress code. This is not only just a decent thing to do, but it is a good way to avoid litigation against your company. Abercrombie & Fitch learned this lesson the hard way last year when the Supreme Court had to order them to accommodate the religious dress requirements of their employees.
- An organization should be open to input when forming a dress code. The best way to achieve a dress code policy that reflects an organization’s common identity is to have the organization as a whole buy in to the policy, instead of having it thrust upon them from one person at the top. That being said, once a discussion has been had, you should follow the dress code adopted by your administrators. A group of interns recently took the wrong approach by actually submitting a petition to their bosses to relax their dress code (they were summarily fired).
- A dress code must be clear. Even the best dress codes, such as the one adopted by Starbucks, miss the mark by, for example, issuing 15 pages of do's and don’ts to thousands of employees, even delving into nearly 20 variations of hats that are and are not allowed under their code. This still leaves too much room for confusion. And where there is confusion there is always room for claims of unfair treatment and harassment.
By creating a much more streamlined dress code, organizations can avoid lawsuits and increase morale by leaps and bounds.