How to establish a useful workplace dress code.

The seasons have finally changed across the northern third of America. We can safely put our Icelandic sweaters, mukluks and buffalo robes away for the next 6 months. It’s time to bust out our warm weather wardrobes. Which means revisiting an old issue in the workplace: dress code.

My First Job

Before I started my first job in advertising I had no idea what to wear. So I called the agency for guidance. They assigned me a Fashion Mentor named Shannon. She called me and told me that, ‘polos and khakis were pretty much standard’. While I dressed respectably on my first day, I saw that the creative team wore jeans and t-shirts. So I quickly adopted the more comfortable creative attire. Thanks for nothing Fashion Mentor Shannon.

The Weaponry

Today I face a new challenge. As the Founder of the advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I now have to set the dress code for the entire agency. This spring is the first time we have had warm weather since we moved into our new office in the fall. So I have to determine what types of summer clothing are acceptable, or preferable. The challenge is that they didn’t cover establishing a dress code at the Harvard Business School. Trust me. I read a book about it (Ahead Of The Curve).

I considered writing an explicit dress code. I thought it would be fun to have rules like a strict English boarding school, that said things like, The hem of the broadcloth covering your lower hemisphere must fall within a ruler’s width of your knee’s equator.

IMG_0198
At The Weaponry, a team t-shirt is always up to code.

But I don’t believe in a complicated dress code. Instead, I believe in a very simple rule of thumb. Here is the dress code at The Weaponry:

Dress the way you want people to see you.

Breaking It Down.

This is a bit more complex than it may seem at first glance. Sometimes this direction means dressing up. It means looking professional, polished and well-coordinated.  Sometimes this means looking more interesting, more fashionable or trendy. And sometimes this means dressing down. Some people should look more relaxed. Or more creative. Because you need to dress for the role you want to play in the minds’ of your co-workers and clients.

To that end, I have worn jeans to every client meeting I have had for the past decade. Because I believe clients don’t want their ad agency creatives to look like bankers and lawyers. Then again, they don’t want you to look homeless either. But I’ve found there is a fairly wide field to play with between the two.

Key Takeaway

Ignore the limits of your current workplaces dress code. Instead, dress the way you want people to see you. Make a statement. Use your wardrobe choices as sign that you are ready for the next step in responsibility. That may mean not partaking in Casual Friday. It may mean wearing an elective tie. Or bow tie. But it may also mean that you rock the Ramones T-shirt for the next client meeting.

Don’t ignore your clothes. You can bet your clients and coworkers won’t ignore what you are wearing. So unless you work at a nudist colony, think about your threads. Because every day on the job is a day in costume.

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Published by

Adam Albrecht

Adam Albrecht is the Founder and CEO of the advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry. He believes the most powerful weapon on Earth is the human mind. He also authors two blogs: The Perfect Agency Project and Dad Says Daughter Says, a Daddy-Daughter blog he co-writes with his 12 year old daughter Ava. Adam can be reached at adam@theweaponry.com.

4 thoughts on “How to establish a useful workplace dress code.”

  1. Brilliant. After 30 years in the corporate world, including 20 in HR, your simple dress code is brilliant. You cannot come up with a ‘rule’ for every situation. Guidance and feedback, when required, is the far better course. That said, the idea of YOU having to come up with a dress code made me smile. Just glad you didn’t enforce an “All Packer” rule.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Maggie! Yes, it is a bit of a humorous twist to be the one now setting the policy. Our direction works well if you hire responsible people. But that is the goal. Hire good people and enable them to make good decisions. Regardless of their NFL biases.

      Like

    1. Same thing. Dress the way you want to be seen. For most roles this means looking professional. For creative roles I think it is nice to show off a sense of style and taste. This is easier for the art directors and designers to do than the writers.

      Like

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