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The Conversation: Office Dress


The workplace is filled with rules to abide by and protocols to follow. But while most are black and white, there is one with plenty of room for interpretation: dress code. Does a job necessitate a certain style of dress? Or can every day be Hawaiian shirt Friday? Here to discuss are Press writer Brad Pareso, Editor-in-Chief Michael Patrick Nelson and John Rossini, senior recruitment relationship manager at CA.


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Brad

Bathrobe and slippers—working from home sounds mighty enticing right now…

Michael

This may sound like an exaggeration, but it’s not: When I was in college, trying to decide on a major, my primary consideration was, “Will this career allow me to dress like a college student?” Because I had no interest in wearing a suit. And I still don’t. Hence journalism. Still, even in this field where code of dress is especially relaxed, I’ve seen some people who really need to put in a bit more effort. Unless you’re a lifeguard, I can’t see any workplace in which flip-flops and shorts might be deemed acceptable.

Brad

A thinly veiled insult directed at me? (Back story: Last Friday, I wore a V-neck T-shirt, plaid shorts and sandals to the office. There were quite a few looks of shock on the faces of fellow Press staffers.) It’s clothing. That’s all it is. I was just as productive wearing that as I am in jeans and sneakers. If the work gets done and I’m not at risk of a citation for indecent exposure, why does my outfit matter so much?

John

Guys, the job does signify what people wear. If you are in sales, you will always wear a suit no matter what the day—it is required for both companies that I work for. I have seen employees dressed in everything from beachwear pretty much to suits. Recruiting is dressed in business casual, which is the primary dress.

Michael

Right, of course, it’s a question of workplace and role—UPS drivers and NBA players have to wear shorts to work; congress people and CEOs have to wear suits. Brad, to your question, I guess it comes down to perception: The work getting done is the main thing, yes, and as long as a person is covered enough to not be a major distraction, that’s important, too…but at what point does the person come to represent the workplace, and at what point does appearance really change an outsider’s perception? I’m not referring to your shorts-and-sandals ensemble here, but let’s say you went to a funeral home or a bank—wouldn’t it be a bit off-putting to see the staff in shorts?

John

Mike, I agree with you it would be a distraction in the workplace if that is not the norm. Obviously it is what is required by your job. Basketball, baseball, police, etc., have uniforms they wear, but what if there weren’t uniforms? Shorts and skirts are the norm in tennis but look at the uproar Venus Williams received when she wore the see-through outfit at the French Open. What about the Citibank worker who says she was fired for dressing too provocatively? Most companies have dress codes based upon the role you hold, and they can terminate one’s employment for not adhering to it. The work getting done is the main thing, but if the dress distracts others from doing their work, then it is going to be addressed.

Brad

I don’t plan on rocking a mesh shirt to work anytime soon, but I can’t believe people get distracted by shorts and sandals. If my exposed feet cause them to lose productivity, I imagine sitting in front of a computer with the entire Internet at their disposal is hampering their work even more. And who’s to say a suit isn’t distracting? I spent four years at Chaminade, and believe me when I say it’s entirely possible to look like an absolute slob in slacks and a blazer.

Michael

Again, it all depends. Shorts and sandals may not be distracting in a newsroom (and I wear concert T-shirts and Nike Dunks to work, so I’m in no position to throw stones), but I can see places where they might be. I suppose it is a question of drawing the line based on environment. Still, if I’m being completely honest, I watch Mad Men and think maybe we’ve lost something as offices have grown more casual. I wouldn’t want to wear a jacket and tie to work every day (much less smoke two packs of Luckies at my desk, whilst the air around me is filled with the secondhand smoke of everyone else on the floor), but it does look kinda cool.

Brad

Tell you what—you let me start drinking Scotch at 10 a.m. and disappear for days at a time without telling anyone and I’ll wear a suit to work every day.

John

I don’t know about the Scotch but I think we all agree it really depends on what is right for the workplace. Suits work, shorts work, casual works. Each individual, when interviewing, should not only get a feel for what the environment looks like but should ask about dress code.

Brad

Yeah, if we started the morning with Scotch, by lunch there would be no dress code because there would be no clothing. Any dress code is better than that.

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