Dress Code, A Sticky Business

Cinna-MAN-buns inspired today’s professional attire topic. In an era of hyper personalization, traditional dress code inadequately keeps pace with evolving trends challenging everyone’s patience around compliance. Something’s gotta give.   

Are you wearing that to work? Balancing outdated protocol with current trends aggravates organizations lacking flexibility, consequently guideline amendments resemble defeated acquiescence. (Case in point, tattoos) An equal opportunity fashion culture, proactively administered and updated often, is praiseworthy management in action. Gone are the days of stodgy work uniforms but not all traditional policies shall perish. Instead, recalibration is in order ensuring organizations attract top talent now and in the future.

Cinnamon Rolls

Let’s review modern business attire through the lenses of common sense. To clarify; not your version of common sense, instead your HR Department’s interpretation, which prevents a variety of silent but deadly career-debilitating judgments. While skirt length and side burn size is debatable, these pointers will keep you away from controversy.

What not to wear, ever:

  • For those clip-clopping on steel posts without caps, fix your stilettos because the message, no matter how sharp your outfit, conveys a broke down hot mess of a situation. Maintain shoes in mint condition.
  • In conventional offices, save micro garments for weekends to avoid irrevocable word-that-rhymes-with-booker references.
  • Hang up your suit. Rumpled slept-in-looking jackets make one speculate, in the wrong way.
  • Casual Friday should never be misconstrued as dirty wrinkled what-I-garden-in Friday.
  • Go easy on after-shave/perfume. Our olfactory senses resent the eau du toilette assault.
  • Flip-flops sabotage your presentation. Similarly, skip the dandifying slippers Hef, along with pipe, smoking jacket and handsomely framed Mardi Gras debauchery collage for your desk.
  • For your safety and the safety of those around you, keep your bosoms in your blouse at all times. Reserve deep plunging necklines for personal sexy time by keeping the girls buckled in and out of sight.

Note: Mountain man beards are out-of-hand but dudes receive a pass because women take part in fads without censure. Enjoy, but know the rest of us are suffering. Pigtails, scrunchies and frosted lipstick also made the please don’t list.

Chaffed by apparel guidelines, employees imagine their own style captivating, arbitrarily inserting embellishment. If fashion expression is of paramount importance, above financial and professional goals, then go on and shave half your head because you’ve got to do you. If this resonates, then seek atmospheres embracing expression and explore limits of artistic grooming while interviewing to find your tribe. Be warned, extreme trends and frequent alterations to appearance may relegate opportunities to minimum-wage and back-of-house jobs depending upon the industry so carefully consider experimentation.

Above all, understand the expected etiquette before signing on to an organization and plan business attire accordingly.

Back to Business:

  • Take the handbook seriously asking questions when in doubt. For the record, open-toe mules are not business proper. #Candies
  • Recall your interview attire selected to make the best impression. Are you dressed to impress? Don’t be naïve, pretending image doesn’t matter; an inconsistent presentation hinders career advancement.
  • As more casual outfits pervade offices, opportunity for misinterpretation magnifies. Subsequently, we ought to expect feedback when we veer off the well-lit path that is our employee handbook.
  • Even if raised by a pack of Siberian wolves, one can still use a looking-around method. Take cues from upper management and avoid emulating trendsetters experimenting with wound make-up.
  • At the least, please shower, brush teeth and wear deodorant daily. P.S. Skip natural antiperspirant from health food store.

Furthermore, nobody enjoys playing fashion-police so ease up on blatant transgressions. Managers require updated instruction for image coaching due to rapid culture change. Regardless of the state of your guidelines, these tips will improve the effectiveness of feedback.

Tips for Managers:

  • Be direct. Making general statements, hoping offenders take the hint is ineffective also avoidance delays inevitable confrontation, further jokes and dodging methods backfire.
  • Seek alternative opinions before coaching. If Anna Wintour is unavailable, try Human Resources before issuing an edict on the downfall of society due to man buns and demise of panty hose. Style is a matter of interpretation; avoid lampooning trends that don’t suit your aesthetic by sticking to handbook guidelines.

This trend shall pass, only to be replaced with something equally entertaining.

  • Better to have a second opinion for borderline judgments regarding fit. For example, fitted to one person equals sardined to another.
  • Verify if transgressions deemed glamorous on some associates go disregarded while others are counseled. Guidelines apply to everyone or become null and void due to inconsistent enforcement. Judgments mired in personal biases haphazardly administered spell danger.
  • Be gentle but honest specifying handbook infringements to decrease defensiveness. Appraise employee after coaching ensuring emotions never fester unattended.
  • Don’t blame others. Deflection is playing the good guy at the expense of others:

HR is making me tell you those six-inch glitter sparkling exotic dancer boots are not work appropriate. I think you look a-mazing, but Housekeeping is complaining about extra vacuuming from the sparkle bits everywhere.

If you receive image coaching, don’t dwell in indignation. You are not your hair color, crop top or ripped-at-the-seams jeans and the person giving the feedback has your best interest in mind.

For leadership, examination of the organization’s litmus test for reasonable dress code is in order. Topics such as body shaming, gender identification and sexist protocol (mandatory high heels) is on notice to be amended proactively or legally. It’s uncomfortable to face biases, challenge traditions and tolerate fads; nonetheless, the war for talent is real so clinging to out of step doctrine has consequences. What does your dress code policy say about your organization? Is it sustainable?      

Reframing dress code standards will challenge organizations lacking systems for feedback. A willingness to adapt and communicate expectations is the solution so everyone knows what to wear. Ironically, dress code drama vexing us all will soon disappear, as artificial intelligence replacing our jobs will never be a victim of fashion faux pas.

Cinna-man-buns
Dupar’s Cinnamon Roll

Recipe for Cinna-MAN-buns

Disclaimer: The story and recipe above should not be considered advice as the readers and users of Chocolate Cake Mondays are not clients and therefore CCM is not liable for reader’s reliance on the information herein.

Please share the dress code guideline that challenges you or your team the most. I’m planning part two for this story and would appreciate your feedback. Thank you!