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Dress Code

Dress Code

Dress Code

Our firm currently adopts a "business casual" philosophy for office dress.  The policy is vague on purpose with the intention being able to dress comfortably yet professionally.

Due to a couple of internal complaints and the idea of "professional" being taken a little too liberally, we're rethinking the policy.  Should ties be required for everyone, just for meetings, or at all?  The women's clothing requirements are where it gets really tricky..

What are some thoughts on office dress? Are there any standards? We consider ourselves to be a professional engineering consulting firm and we want to come across that way. But... the office world is different than it was twenty years ago and the employees have a lot more options - people aren't just happy to be working, so we also have to be sensitive to the fact that no one wants to wear ties. We don't want to make the employees uncomfortable/unhappy either.

You can certainly do the same design in a golf shirt as you can in a tie, but there is something to be said for a professional appearance.

RE: Dress Code

Where are you? I find that location also drives how casual is casual.  Now on the left coast, I find it's way more casual then NYC.  Also, how I dress depends on the client.  If I'm meeting someone new, I dress to impress.  If I'm going to the machine shop or a field site, I wear my steel toe boots and jeans.
It's hard to come up with a written policy that covers all that.  And mandating ties does make it difficult for women.  We used to have those little silk "MBA" ties, or scarfs built into dress shirts, but I haven't seen those for sale for years.
What do your competitors wear?
Sorry this isn't more helpful, but dress codes can be a black pit that you may never climb out of.

RE: Dress Code

While it may get picked apart by those who have intentions of pushing things to the limit (what else are they taking liberties with?), guidelines should be just those... guidelines, not hard and fast rules.

Guys are easier, as you've found out.  You could say button down shirt, tie optional, dress slacks, dress shoes (no open-toed or tennis shoes) and socks.

Women will be the difficult one.  Specify a skirt length... 'X' inches above/below the knee, no sandals or silicone-based footwear but heels smaller than 'Y' inches are acceptable, stockings optional but no fishnets, shirts/blouses must cover the shoulders and have arms of 'Z' length and go no lower than 'Q' inches from the neckline.

Any printing on clothing must be no more than clothing-company logo specific, no tie-dye.  Lengths and styles may change depending upon outside temperatures.

That covers a lot of ground right there, and if someone finds a way around those rules then change the rules, if need be, or change employees if they are continually trying to push the boundaries just to see what they can get away with.  Those types of employees tend to cause problems no matter what the rule...

Dan - Owner

RE: Dress Code

Your dress should mirror that of your clients in general and dress codes should be in line.  

Personally I think a professional should dress and act like a professional.  Would you go to an interview in jeans (okay, some would), but I think you should be prepared to make an impression every day on the job, you never know when you may run into a client or have an impromtu meeting called.  

Look the part, act the part.  You're represneting not only the company, but yourself.

Greg Lamberson, BS, MBA
Consultant - Upstream Energy
Website: www.oil-gas-consulting.com

RE: Dress Code

When I started working, I wore either a business suit or when I was being really casual a sport coat and slacks.  10 years later, a collar shirt and slacks with dress shoes was ok.  10 years after that we fervently hoped that no one would have anything obscene on their tee shirts and that their jeans weren't so torn up as to pose a safety hazard.

I don't see that we did more or better work with coats and ties than we did in grunge.  The performance in ties wasn't necessarily worse either.  People weren't happier in either scenario.

When I retired and started my business I always wore kahkis, dress shoes, and button-down shirts.  Four years later it is jeans (intact), sneakers, and Carhart shirts (still button down collars, but not at all delicate).  I have a lot more work today at my fourth aniversery than I had at my first or second aniversery.  I don't think that dress code is a driving factor in my ability to get or keep clients.

I was in public school (U.S. version) in the '60s and the social mores were seriously pushing the envelope of the dress codes and the school systems were trying unsuccessfully to shovel water back over the dike.  When I think back on it, I really can't describe a more pointless exercise.

Imposing a dress code implies that someone will be charged with enforcing it.  Totally counter productive.  Maybe even anti-productive.

If my company every gets big enough to have professional employees (god forbid) my plan is to use my absolutely subjective judgement to say if I'll let someone meet with clients.  I think that saying to an engineer "we need to meet with the client, but your choice of clothing doesn't project the image that I want the firm to project, I'll take the meeting" about one time would prevent future problems.  This technique applies to both men and women.  If you specify "skirts must be terminate no more than 2 inches above the knee when standing" or some such tripe you'll end up with someone pushing the envelope or suing you for single-gender policies.  On the other hand, if you don't have a written policy and just look at someone and say "No" to their meeting with clients they'll straighten up or leave.

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering
Please see FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies for tips on how to make the best use of Eng-Tips Fora.

The harder I work, the luckier I seem

RE: Dress Code

I agree. I like the idea of generalities and not specific lengths, etc.  We are a construction consulting firm in Ohio.  

There are days when dress-down is appropriate as we spend large amounts of time crawling through steam tunnels and dingy mechanical rooms.  But, the construction industry is still a (for lack of a PC term) "old-men's club."  Business is still done on the golf course and half of our business is engaging company's moneyholders and convincing them to invest in their infrastructure.  It's just as foolish to say that appearance doesn't matter as to say that it does.

Our competition ranges from business casual, like us, to shirts and ties.  

I don't think we've ever lost work because of our attire, but we don't want to get to that point either.  We basically want clients to meet us, or come to our office and have their first impression be that we have our s#$% together.

RE: Dress Code

Dave, I definitely like the idea of telling an employee they won't be joining myself and a client in a meeting due to their dress... I agree with the message it sends.  However, you could also end up with a lawsuit because of it.

It's a fine line, but in the end, someone will sue you for either having written rules or not having them at all.  I say, do what feels right and cross your fingers... if someone is going to get cranky about it, it really won't matter what side of the line the line you're standing on.

Dan - Owner

RE: Dress Code

Sounds like a wonderful reason NEVER to have employees.


RE: Dress Code


Dave, I definitely like the idea of telling an employee they won't be joining myself and a client in a meeting due to their dress... I agree with the message it sends.  However, you could also end up with a lawsuit because of it.

You're kidding, right?

We've had to implement some rules at our relatively small company.  Dress was one of the areas we addressed.  We deliberately kept the code vague, as we didn't want everyone to immediately sink to the lowest common denominator.  I think the only hard rule was "no t-shirts that were free".  It seems to have worked.


RE: Dress Code

Work from home so that you can walk around the (home) office naked.

RE: Dress Code

3 days out of the week my computer screen does not care what I look like. That is the only thing judging me those 3 days and the other 2 I like to dress up just because I am in touch with my feminine side! Communicating with my friend AutoCAD, or my colleague Excel.... they don't care what I look like at 7:30 in the morning or 7:30 at night.
Not to mention the tie guy that owns my office, doesn't know my friends too well and he dresses the part for his company in case one of his clients inadvertently stops by. I think he does it because it is his job and he likes what he does.

If I show up to work in a thong with nipple clips I can see how that would have a problem. But if it is Friday an I decide to wear shorts, what is wrong with that?

RE: Dress Code

What is wrong with nipple clips anyway!

RE: Dress Code

Business suits for manangers and up - men and women. Ties are not for all suits - can't wear a tie with a mandarin collar for example, but still very professional and business looking.

Nice shirt with collar, khaki pants, shoes for everyone all the rest of the guys.

Your on your own with the women's requirements.

"Do not worry about your problems with mathematics, I assure you mine are far greater."   
Albert Einstein
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RE: Dress Code

Over the years I've had quite a few employers, supervisors and coworkers who looked very professional. Too bad that their professionalism didn't go beyond their appearance.

I personally wouldn't care if my coworkers looked like that "Lizard Guy" that I saw on some TV documentary about "body modification".

I feel that we should focus a little bit more on what's in someone's heart than what's on their outer skin.

RE: Dress Code

If it were only so easy, Eddy.... personally, I would be hard-pressed to hire a company who had a representative that looked like The Lizard King.  The rep (and company) may be a highly intelligent think tank, but we all have to deal with the impression of professionalism.

Dan - Owner

RE: Dress Code

There is someone in our office that wears a long sleeve shirt, tie and jacket every day. His cube is an appalling mess. He’s definitely the biggest slob in the group.

I don’t know much about his skills, he works in another group. I haven’t recognized any great talent, but he did recently get a promotion.

Who knows, it takes all kinds.

RE: Dress Code

At out IT consulting company, my business partner tried to implement a dress code. I was completely against it for fear of the potential liability due to interpretation differences between employees and the different dress codes for men and women.

I have always believed in letting people choose the dress that is appropriate for the business situation. I would like to think that most engineers and professionals would know when they should be dressing up (meeting with customers, for example), versus when they can probably come into the office in shorts and flip-flips (on a saturday, for example).


RE: Dress Code

Funny this came up.  We have a new CEO coming round this week and everyone’s been told to tidy up, managers have been told to wear ties etc.

My office is in Santa Barbara.  It grew (at least partly) out of a spin off from the local college/university with a corresponding ethos.  When I started here people were wearing fluffy bunny slippers etc, and one of the chief scientists only stopped when a VP asked him not to as a personal favor!  Shorts and T shirts are standard and at least one of the VPs is rarely seen in a tie.  At my formal orientation I and a couple of others converting from contract positions actually laughed when they showed the dress code slide, it bore no resemblance to what people actually wore.

The day I started I turned up in shirt and tie and got told to lose the tie.  None the less for the last 20 months or so I’ve always had a tie in my suitcase (I work out of town) just in case.  A couple of weeks ago I finally took it out.

So I get in to work today and am told a tie may be a good idea on Thursday, well bad luck.  I don’t have one with me and none of my short sleeved shirts I have with me actually close at the collar!

At my last place in the UK the dress code was suit if you had a meeting with an important customer.  Otherwise for non managers in the office a shirt you could wear a tie with (the actual tie could be in a draw somewhere just in case) and ‘dress’ pants/trousers was normal.  My first year or so there I always wore a suit but after I ruined one with grease etc from the shop floor I moved to Teflon coated black pants and short sleeve shirts with no tie!

I actually thought that was a pretty reasonable dress code, being a small company it wasn’t really formally implemented but anyone who strayed got enough grief/leg pulling that they usually learnt.

I always wondered with the sex discrimination aspect of dress codes.  My wife works for the government and it’s actually in their dress code for women to wear pantyhose, I’ve no idea how they get away with it!

KENAT, probably the least qualified checker you'll ever meet...

RE: Dress Code

My humble opinion is to keep things business casual, (slacks/khakis, polo shirt, or button down shirts).  I only wear ties on the occaisions I meet with clients for the first couple of times.  

I personally think there are a lot of options out there to look polished and professional without wearing ties.  Wear blazers, sweaters, things like that to mix it up.

Sometimes a strict dress code can go way to far and give a "stuffy" type of feeling to the employees and clients.  

If you want to impress or stand out to your boss over others, make note of what they wear, and go one notch above!!!

RE: Dress Code

csd72 I do work form my home office and let me tell you that working nude has advantages at lunch time and the wife is home!

RE: Dress Code

Reading all these responses reminds me of my corporate "dress for success" bull$%$$ days.

I left that ratrace and started my own company.

I am pretty strict with my employees. I insist their shorts and tank tops be clean, with no pizza stains, as I hate pizza.

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