Establishing A Dress Code For Your Staff

Barbara Weltman Appearances matter – they create important first impressions with the public. The National Basketball Association in October 2005 adopted a dress code for off-the-court attire and you can create a dress code for your business.

Without standards, employees may go to extremes. A survey conducted by The Creative Group ( reports that bosses have observed the following garb on days other than Halloween: a scuba diving outfit, a plastic nose and even sumo wrestling gear.

Setting standards
Legality. You are not prohibited from setting standards provided they serve your business needs and are applied on a nondiscriminatory basis.Exceptions: You usually cannot ban the wearing of certain religious attire, such as yarmulkes (head covering worn by male orthodox Jews), turbans (worn by male Sikhs) and hijabs (scarves worn by many Muslim women).

The dress code you set should be reflective of your industry and your company’s identity. Banker’s standards may not be necessary for a software development company. Sixty-eight percent of companies set a dress code for staff; business casual is the most popular code (business casual, is used by 64% of those companies with a dress code, according to BizRate Research Study for

In deciding between formal or casual attire, consider that 30% of employees polled by BizRate thought casual attire made them more productive.

Are you legally permitted to set standards regarding hair cuts, facial hair and body-piercing and tattooing?

As in the case of attire, you can apply social norms as a standard, as long as this is done on a nondiscriminatory basis. For example, one company was legally permitted to require male employees to cut long hair without violating employee rights. Restrictions on piercings and tattoos can be justified on business grounds.

Casual Fridays?
Even if you usually require formal business attire, should you adopt or retain a casual dress code for Fridays? Many companies do so because it boosts employee morale.

If you want to adopt this policy for your staff, make sure you clearly define the standards of dress that is acceptable. Casual dress code suggestions include:

  • Button-down shirts or sweaters for tops. No T-shirts allowed.

  • Slacks (or skirts for women). No cut-offs or shorts allowed. If you want to permit jeans, be clear about their look (frayed bottoms or decorated jeans may be taboo).

  • Leather shoes (boots in winter). No sneakers allowed.

    Fewer companies have Casual Fridays. A study by the Society for Human Resource Management reported that about 55% of employers allowed casual dress once week in 2005, down from 60% in 2001. The reasons: It has been difficult to craft a casual standard and employees have taken the opportunity to dress down too far. The Creative Group survey noted that some employees thought casual wear included bedroom slippers, pajamas and bibbed overalls.

    Copyright © 2005 by, Inc.

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