Business Attire: Dressing Like You Mean Business

A lot of businesses tend to have dress codes for their employees. This is particularly true in industries where image-building is a necessary part of the success strategy, and jobs which involve regular face-to-face interaction with customers.

If you run a business and would like to set a dress code for your employees to adopt, then you need to ensure that it is reasonable and in keeping with the type of work involved. That should make it easy to implement.

A restrictive or an excessively detailed dress code can not only make it difficult for employees to adhere to it, it may also make them want to rebel. Also, if the dress code is unclear and vaguely defined, the employees can take undue liberties with it and conveniently transfer the blame on the lack of specificity in the details of the dress code.

It is crucial for an organization, that its employees come to work in proper business attire as it helps set the tone for the rest of the day. Studies have shown that the way employees dress at work goes a long way in determining their productivity. According to these studies, the level of alertness takes a hit when employees dress casually.

As per Dr. Karen Pine, professor of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire and fashion psychologist, “When we put on an item of clothing it is common for the wearer to adopt the characteristics associated with that garment. A lot of clothing has symbolic meaning for us, whether it’s ‘professional work attire’ or ‘relaxing weekend wear’, so when we put it on we prime the brain to behave in ways consistent with that meaning.”

Most responsible organizations make it a point to bar the following type of clothing –

  • Garments with offensive and/or intolerant prints or words
  • Tank tops, halter tops and/or vests
  • Tattered clothes
  • Gym clothes or sports wear
  • Hats or caps, unless it is employee-issued headgear

When deciding the dress code, organizations need to ensure that it is –

  • In keeping with the nature of the job and not based on personal preferences. The dress code should be set in accordance with industry standards and customs.
  • Sensitive to gender, nationality, race, creed, etc. The dress code should not encourage the treatment of one person less or more favorably than the other.

Here’s why having set office attire is important.

1. It Conveys Company’s Expectations Accurately

It is important to set clear guidelines and policies with regards to the workplace attire will go a long way in lessening uncertainty among employees.

If your employees are inclined towards dressing casually, but you would like them to be more professionally dressed, you will do well to mention this in your workplace guidelines to set clear company expectations and leave no room for doubts. The workplace today is culturally diverse and the office attire should underpin your policies on diversity and workplace inclusion.

2. Helps Make the Right Impression

Having set guidelines about office attire can be highly instrumental in shaping the image you want your organization to project. Asking employees to dress formally can be extremely beneficial for a startup that wants to look more established and professional.

The way in which you and your employees appear to the rest of the world can help immensely in setting the kind of impression you want to make. Apart from that, you can use the workplace attire to create a more progressive image of your company.

3. Bring a Culture of Professionalism

Many a time, a company’s dress code can help increase the pride that the employees have of being a part of it. A professional appearance can give rise to more professional attitudes and behaviors, and this will reflect in every aspect of your business, thereby lending your organization a more refined demeanor. For instance, tailored suits can work well in offices occupied by male employees holding higher ranks. Formal shirts and a pair of trousers/skirts or a formal dress in a solid color could make for the perfect dress code for female staff.

4. Influence Your Customers

A set workplace dress code can help you make customers see your business in a favorable light. This can work wonders if you regularly host client meetings in the office, or conduct face-to-face interaction with your customers on a daily basis. Having an appropriate, industry-specific dress code can inspire trust and ensure that your customers view your business as the preferred organization.

5. Convenience to Employees

If you haven’t had a dress code so far, putting one in place may cause a few employees to cringe initially. But, it may actually turn out to be more convenient for them in the long term because it will make every day dressing and grooming very specific and hence, there will be less (or no) second guessing involved. They will no longer have to worry if they’re over or under-dressed for work. All they will need to do is stick to the dress code.

6. Sense of Consistency

When all your employees abide by the set standards of the dress code, it will create not only an atmosphere and a culture of professionalism, but also a sense of visual consistency. Apart from that, a dress code also acts as a familiar thread that binds the employees together and work unitedly, thereby promoting positive team dynamics. This holds particularly true if the dress code is specific about clothes in a certain color, or its different hues.

7. Steering Clear of Unnecessary Trouble

By having a set dress code, your employees can steer clear of making unsuitable dressing decisions which could eventually lead to safety hazards, cause a human resource issue, or a PR disaster. For example, if the workplace is an oil factory, it would make sense to wear anti-slip shoes, helmets and gloves to reduce the risk of slipping and injury. If the workplace is a regular office, the dress code should stipulate certain details such as the minimum hemline length for skirts, and the number of buttons which may be left open in a button-down shirt.


Having a dress code can be helpful, but it is also important to see to it that you convey it well in advance to your employees, so that there is ample time for feedback and modifications. Updating certain aspects of the dress code every few years will ensure easier acceptance and compliance as the code will be fresh and relevant time after time. The above recommendations should help you understand the various nuances of having a proper workplace dress code in place.

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