Who should be dictating what you wear?

February 21st 2021

I wouldn’t often be drawing comparisons between our NZ Parliament and the Aussie Open tennis tournament, but this month I am. Corporate dress codes are interesting, but are they needed?

Because both were in the headlines this month for stories associated with clothing.

The Aussie Open focused on Serena Williams.  The chatter wasn’t about how she was playing, but about what she was wearing (the image alongside shows her chosen attire).

And only a matter of days later, the parliament chatter was also about clothing, as they announced that ties were no longer mandatory.

So it got me thinking.

Are corporate dress codes a good thing or a bad thing? 

Do they drive conformity, formality and professionalism?

Or do they suppress individuality and restrict the ability for someone to express themselves and feel more comfortable?

It’s a debate worth pondering, particularly in reference to the workplace.  Arguably, being comfortable allows individuals to flourish, to excel, to contribute, which ultimately increases engagement.   There are also enormous diversity benefits that come from allowing individuals to express themselves in the workplace.

But of course, there is a caveat to all this.  The way employees’ present themselves reflects on the organisation, and customers and clients will make judgements and assumptions based on that first impression.  That means it’s important that you drive a culture where employees taking pride in their appearance and have an inherent understanding of what is acceptable in the workplace, even if there isn’t a strict dress code.

So whilst Wimbledon has maintained the tradition of whites, I think we’ll see an increasingly relaxed attitude to uniforms and dress code as the years go by.

If you’re not restricted by health & safety or brand guidelines dictating a uniform must be worn, then why not give it a go.  Step back from a specified dresscode, and allow your employees to choose their wardrobe, and hope they choose wisely!


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