Please don’t be confused – this isn’t a post with suggestions of what to wear for Halloween. It’s actually about one of the most hated HR guidelines – the Dress Code. Believe me when I say that those things are as painful for us to write as they are for you to read.
I am not a fashionista, or stylist, or dictator, so I am generally uncomfortable with telling people what to wear. Maybe it’s a little easier now – back at the turn of the century, such lists had to include references to cargo pants and Juicy Couture tracksuits. And then we saw the launch of Casual Fridays – forever to be misunderstood by those in their late teens and early 20s, who seemed to forget that a day in the office stood between their arrival at the nightclub.
Now, the concept of “business casual” is confusing a new generation of employees. And good luck to those working in a startup or tech company, with their Star Wars t-shirts, ripped jeans and sneakers – may you never need to be constrained by wearing a belt, or combing your hair, or taking off your hoodie.
At Work Tips For Humans, we’re here to help. Our general advice on dress codes? Remember that you’re going to work. Sounds obvious, but it means that when you look in the mirror, you should probably see something different to what you see when you’re going to the shops, or the pool, or the gym. (Unless you work in those places, but even then, please double check yourself in the mirror.)
In an article on Monster entitled “What Not To Wear To Work“, Amanda Frank outlined a long list of things to avoid. I’m not sure about some of the items on the list, including, “heels that clank”, “jingly jewellery”, and “hood ornaments”. But “dresses without underwear” are also out, as are “dirty bra straps”, which sounds like pretty good life advice right there.
I think ladies can also look to almost everything worn by Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City. And disregard it for work.
Men’s Journal featured an article called How to Look Like Don Draper: A Beginner’s Guide and since that gives me an excuse to include a photo of Jon Hamm, I am going to take it. I think the article is about grooming, or hair products, or something like that. Whatever, here’s the picture.
In my professional opinion, a big price tag doesn’t automatically make your outfit work-appropriate. Exhibit A: the finance analyst at a big corporate (admittedly, we had a very relaxed dress code) – I saw him lounging at his desk and said, “Ummm, Garry*, are you wearing a tracksuit?” His response, “yeah, but it’s Ralph Lauren”. In my caring way, I asked, “HAVE YOU GIVEN UP ON LIFE? YOU CAN’T WEAR A FREAKIN’ TRACKSUIT TO WORK, GARRY.” And then he explained that he was going to the gym at lunchtime anyway, so thought it was fine to be wearing a tracksuit. Yeah, well, I might be going to McDonald’s at lunchtime, but you don’t see me dressed in a curly red wig, yellow jumpsuit and giant red shoes, do you Garry? (I wish I thought to say this at the time, instead I think I just walked away in shock.)
And now, I think we have solved all of your workplace fashion issues. We can deal with grooming and hygiene in another post – there’s another source of delight for HR professionals! If you’re still not sure about dressing for success, maybe scrawl this mantra on your mirror as a reminder: Whoever you are, whatever you do, please dress so HR doesn’t come after you.
*Garry is not his real name. But it’s close.