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.
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.
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.
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.