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Are Workplace Dress Codes Necessary?

Add this to the list of terms that have become nothing more than meaningless business jargon: Workplace attire.  After all, when considering the following workplace stories, it’s hard to say what even constitutes appropriate “workplace attire” anymore…

First, there’s Esquire magazine recently naming Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg its ‘Worst Dressed Celebrity.’ While I’m confident the billionaire isn’t losing any sleep over the title, there is a bigger implication here: ‘Dressing for the job you want ’ evidently no longer applies in the business world. After all, if someone can reach Zuckerberg’s scale of success without so much as having to ever step foot into a Brooks Brothers, why bother ever changing out of your pajama jeans? Does Zuckerberg represent the new executive style – and the death of professional attire as we know it?

For those who are alarmed by this notion, rest assured that there are still some employers that will go to any – however uncomfortable – lengths to preserve the good name of businesswear.  Consider the following stories…

No Red Undies and No Garlic – After generating ridicule for a 44-page dress code – in which employees are instructed to avoid eating garlic for fresher-smelling breath and wear only nude-colored underwear, among other advice – Swiss bank UBS recently announced that it would revise the existing code. While the new code is said to be less micro-manage-y, UBS maintains that a code is important to uphold “the perfect look” of the staffs at its banks.

Bosses Get the Final Say on Bras – Arguing that “being told to wear a bra and keep fingernails to shorter than half-a-centimetre does not impinge on personal rights,” a German court ruled recently that employers in Cologne have the right to make certain demands on workplace dress – including asking female workers to wear bras and male workers to trim their beards.

Aside from wondering which poor intern would have the unfortunate duty of ensuring employees keep within these standards (“Pull down your pants a bit. I just need to see the color of your skivvies…okay, now let me smell your breath…”), I also can’t help but think…are all of these rules really necessary?

Sure, I understand the need and the expectation for employees in certain roles and industries to look presentable…but if you’ve hired them for that position, shouldn’t you already be able to trust that they can decide what is or isn’t appropriate attire?

What do you think? How much control should employers be able to have over their employees’ personal appearance?

Mary Lorenz

About Mary Lorenz

Mary is a copywriter for CareerBuilder, specializing in B2B marketing and corporate recruiting best practices and social media. In addition to creating copy for corporate advertising and marketing campaigns, she researches and writes about employee attraction, engagement and retention. Whenever possible, she makes references to pop culture. Sometimes, those references are even relevant. A New Orleans native, Mary now lives in Chicago, right down the street from the best sushi place in the city. It's awesome.
6 comments
Miguel Ángel
Miguel Ángel

Dress codes should be completely eradicated. Suits were invented in the seventeenth century and maybe they were the day-to-day clothing in the 60s, but nowadays, there is no reason we males should be forced to wear them. Besides, business casual dress code is awful, lacks style, and honestly, a rockstar could be more stylish than anyone in khakis (khakis should be banned out of this world).

RecruiterGirl
RecruiterGirl

YES - companies that care about the image their employees are portraying on the company's behalf need (and are forced) to put such expectations in writing. JUST SO ITS CLEAR and an employee cant say "oh I didnt know I couldnt wear this Ozzy Tshirt and ripped jeans to work".

RecruiterGirl
RecruiterGirl

YES - companies that care about the image their employees are portraying on the company's behalf need (and are forced) to put such expectations in writing. JUST SO ITS CLEAR and an employee cant say "oh I didnt know I couldnt wear this Ozzy Tshirt and ripped jeans to work".

JDT
JDT

The reason we have dress codes at work is because not everyone has the same "common sense"... Sad, but true.

Kristen
Kristen

I do not feel like the Mark Zuckerberg example is a good one for the possible point that dress codes might not be necessary. Mark Zuckerberg is a entrepreneur. Someone who created his own business and his own rules. He answers to no one so can create his own environment. But do you think the lawyers and sales staff at facebook dress in pajamas, undergarments, and unkempt attire? I think not! I personally feel the workplace attire is still in full force with MAYBE a few exceptions

Fran
Fran

Why does workplace attire go out the window on casual fridays??!

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