What’s your work image?

I recently wrote a blog piece talking discussing how most US schools don’t have a school uniform yet some have taken to monitoring the clothing worn by their females students, this include the length of skirts and shorts, wearing legging, spaghetti strap tops etc, anything that could be deemed a distraction to male students. You can imagine the stir this has caused.

What has the fashion police in US schools got to do with workplaces? Dress code. Most places have some form of dress code and with the warmer weather finally making an appearance in the UK I started thinking how as adults many of us are mindful of how we dress for work. Schools are a different environment to the workplace but how we dress and the image we portray through our appearance is learnt early on. With attention on millennials entering the workforce, are attitudes towards work fashion changing? Are offices still considered a conservative environment or are companies becoming a bit more flexible?

banner-blue banner-blueWe express ourselves through our clothes, piercings, body art, depending on the working environment some companies are ok with excessive piercings and tattoos being on show. Others would prefer to have them toned down or covered for maybe health and safety or to keep in line with the company’s image. I can’t have a blood test without crying let alone a tattoo. If I’m speaking to someone who has a piercing in an uncommon yet visible place I’m curious to know how the piercing stays put, I have asked a person about their lip piercing which resembled a mini spike. They were very polite about it and I even ended buying some hand cream from them. In this instance, though customer facing the sales persons appearence helped to build up a rapport and resulted in a sale.

Sticking with an office environment every company has a different set of rules with different dress codes. Some are more corporate and prefer to keep the setting professional including the way their employees dress, others are not so strict and have a more relaxed, causal approach that is reflected in the dress code. Regardless of which environment you work in do you think there some items of clothing / shoes/body arts/piercings etc that should be vetoed for the office?

Even in a causal environment should shorts, short skirts, spaghetti strap tops, flip flop be allowed or best worn outside of the workplace? Would you take a work colleague seriously, male or female, if there was a bit too much flesh on show?

Yes, you go to work to work not to put on a fashion show but how a person feels can be linked to their clothing. Dressing a particular way may make you feel more confident, wearing that power suit gives you the extra boost you need to lead a presentation. Wearing a particular accessory with your outfit may make you feel happy with yourself and bring an upbeat tempo to the office. So is it fair to enforce a dress code in the first place?

We may not like it but first impressions do count so it’s important to dress according to a company’s image whether that be a shirt and tie or jeans and a t-shirt. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use your own common sense, dress codes are in place not only to keep in line with the company culture and image but to also ensure everyone can work in a comfortable environment. Not everyone is comfortable working with someone who is wearing a revealing shirt, this can apply to both men and women.

I’m not saying that you should go to work in a bikini or those holiday shorts that should have been destroyed a long time ago but a little bit of deviance surely can’t hurt?

banner-blue banner-blueWhere I currently work the dress code is casual, I wear whatever I am comfortable in which is usually jeans, and whatever top I decide to wear that day. Though the air con as other ideas so generally no matter what the temperature is outside I am dressed like an Eskimo in the office! That doesn’t mean I don’t like to  accessorise with ear rings that some may not approve of and I don’t always wear conventional coloured nail varnishes but thankfully this hasn’t been a problem in any of the places I’ve worked in.

The people you are surrounded by for those average 8 hour working days can also influence the type of clothing you decide to wear. I work with mostly men who don’t care what I look like, they wouldn’t even notice if I looked like I had just crawled out of bed! There have been a few occasions in the past where you hear on the rumour mill how so and so is dressed as if there were going clubbing, no one wants to be talked about like that especially when they would prefer to be talked about because they are fantastic at their job.

I once worked with an individual who was transgender and had a tendency to deviate from the corporate dress. This led to a few complaints from colleagues, these complaints were not just about the way this person dressed but used by some colleagues who were uncomfortable working with someone who was transgender.

This example highlights how our appearance is a powerful tool, we use it to reflect our personalities, and create an image for ourselves, but it can also be used against us.

No matter what you wear at work there is always going to be someone with a comment or two, as much as you would like to flirt with the dress code try and stick within the boundaries. Causal or smart keep it tasteful, smart doesn’t mean you have to be frumpy, casual doesn’t mean you have to be a slob and neither styles mean you suddenly have look like the office sex kitten.

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