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“We are thinking of a dress code” said the CEO of a fast growing company.” What do you think of the idea? We have no rules as of now and I find people coming to work in just about anything”

Dress code in the office has been in the news for many years now. The views I shared with him were:

  1. It depends on your business. As long as people are appropriately dressed, there is no need for everyone at work to be terribly formal.
  2. Having said that, what constitutes “inappropriate” wear is a good start point. Torn jeans, low neck line tops, jeans worn so low that they bare more than what most people are comfortable with, are a few examples that come to mind.
  3. I see strong co-relation between the job function and the extent of formality in dress. Some jobs in some businesses require traditional, conservative dressing. You would be aghast if you walked in to deposit a cheque and were met by your banker wearing shorts and a bright t-shirt.
  4. A rule of thumb I have always observed is that it is better to be over dressed than under dressed. If you are wearing a jacket and tie, you can always take it off if you feel most others are not similarly dressed. But you can’t ask around for a coat and tie, to find on reaching a place that everyone else is more formally attired.
  5. The old adage of ” When in Rome do as the Romans do” serves me well in the dressing aspect too. If people in a client organization dress in a particular manner, it is appropriate for me to do so too.
  6. You don’t have to be ultra chic but your clothes should be clean and neatly pressed at all times. I came across a case recently where co-employees refused to sit near a person because of the unclean clothes he habitually wore.

These issues are not pertinent only to us in India. The world over people and organizations are wrestling with such issues. Jane Han writes in the Korea Times that business casuals are on the wane. Particularly in times of economic crisis, organizations seem to prefer tighter standards of dress and a more formal approach, she says.

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This is the 61st of the “A Step A Day “series : To provide perspective and provoke thought to facilitate self-development across a wide spectrum of issues- big and small- crucial for executive success.

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