There was a time, and still suggested today, when it was advised to dress for the position you wanted, not the one you were in. Dress codes were and still are about empowerment―but the question is, whose empowerment?

Traditionally, dress code policies were designed to set white collar apart from the blue-collar worker, the executive from the administrative staff. They were individualized to the industry one was in or to distinguish the workers from the industry being served (retail, hospitality). Policies focused
their objective on a definition of professionalism that related the clothes to the business attitude of trustworthiness and reliability.

Today, it is still about empowerment. Aligning with the DNA of the generation(s) that employers are focusing on attracting and retaining, dress codes established today focus on setting that individual company culture. Take for example the “dress appropriately” dress code policy at General
. Such dress code policies allow for the actions of the company, its product, and the service-minded ethics of the workforce to exemplify reliability and the attire of the personnel then become about relatability. What becomes created is a culture where supervisors and employees are empowered to think for themselves in determining what is appropriate to wear to work and for them to come together to provide viable solutions when challenges present themselves.

The relaxation of today’s dress codes also allows for more personal expression advancing the forms that diversity in the workforce can take. Whereas men’s haircuts may be longer, non-existent, bolder colors in women’s hair, tattoos, large, bulky jewelry, transgender employees, religious customs, and generational norms, are just a few of the consideration’s employers are looking at within the make-up of the workforce. For many companies, the line being drawn is focused on what
is not distracting or disruptive to the workplace and what falls within non-discrimination guidelines.

In some industries, i.e. tech and marketing companies, the CEO now may be hard to tell apart from the staff. With today’s entrepreneurial-minded generations moving quicker up the corporate ladder, they are the dress code trendsetters versus what may be considered the “suppressed” (ties, dresses, pantyhose, etc.) dress code of the prior generations.

There even seems to be less “casual Fridays,” as every day is business casual or casual. In addition, having the ability to work remotely from home also promotes an unmonitored dress code. Remember the bunny slippers commercial?

In designing or updating dress code policies for today, and as in any policy development, Human Resources needs to define the objective of the dress code. What is the message the company wants to convey to its employees and the customers it represents? Some dress codes are meant to send a
message about the company’s image or style―think about a trendsetting salon or restaurants… [Read the full article]

Written by Bobbi Kloss, Benefit Advisors Network Director of Human Capital Management Services, published in Entertainment Human Resources Network.