Why Dress Codes Work and How To Establish The Rules

office dress code

Create an Environment of Professionalism

Dress codes in the office are not uncommon.  Establishing wardrobe guidelines is a simple and effective way to shape your company’s image which projects onto you, your business partners and your customers.

While the definition of “appropriate dress” may depend on the nature of your industry, the fact remains that what you wear sends a message about your commitment and professionalism. Here are some ways you can begin to construct and implement guidelines.

Establish Clear Expectations

A known and easily identifiable cause of career stress is job ambiguity, and yes, that trickles down to wardrobe. If your office tends to lean casually on the day-to-day but you prefer employees spruce it up for business meetings, it’s important that you establish that guideline outright. Make clear what is appropriate and what is inappropriate. Sharing a written policy will eliminate guessing games about what it will take for employees fit in around the office.

Create an Environment of Professionalism

Appropriate dress is most commonly associated with first impressions and overall perception of professionalism.  You want your company to stand out as distinct and trustworthy and the way your employees are presented carries that message.

Beyond first impressions, studies have shown inappropriate dress can dampen productivity as well as create an office distraction. Don’t let these minor intrusions negatively impact your company’s performance.

Lead By Example

To support the clear boundaries and expectations you’ve outlined, it’s important you act the part. As an employer, you may face pushback from employees who will argue their right to dress and groom as they deem appropriate. That’s one reason it’s important for you to set the tone. Lead by example and dress by your own standards. If you raise the bar with your own actions, it will be difficult for your reports to ignore.

Here are some other items to consider while developing your company’s dress code:

  • Seek employee input to ensure the general consensus is that your rules are fair. This might also decrease the policy pushback you receive once enforced.
  • Keep restraints reasonable and in line with industry standards, not your own personal preferences.
  • Keep the policy simple and to the point. Anything overly complicated will make it difficult to understand and comply.
  • Ensure you’re not treating one gender, religion, race or individual less favorably than the rest.
  • Allow a reasonable frame of time for employees to execute final changes.

A dress code doesn’t have to be complex or strict, but setting guidelines for appropriate appearances in the office will help everyone. Giving your employees an opportunity to clearly understand your expectations while leading by example will positively mold your company’s image in the eyes of current and future customers.


Do you need to set policy around dress codes or other initiatives? My executive coaching services can help you hone your message and set clear guidelines to achieve your goals and objectives. Also offering Corporate Coaching for Organizations

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