Remember when your mom used to tell you that “just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t mean you have to.” I guess mom was right, except when it comes to knowing what to wear and what not to wear to work.
One of the best ways to determine what is acceptable is to look at how others in your workplace dress. Is it a culture of suits, ties, skirts and stockings or more a more casual culture of khakis and slacks? For those of you working in an environment where uniforms are required or where a dress code policy exists - the decision as to what to wear to work has already been made for you. For the rest of us it requires some thought.
I recently brought this topic up on Facebook and on the radio and found that many of you are very passionate about what is NOT ok to wear to work. Responses included, “I don’t want to see anyone’s underwear”. “I don’t want to see too much skin.” “If you would wear it to the beach, you shouldn’t wear it to the office.” Yet others were quite adamant about being allowed to wear flip flops to work. Many folks spoke about wearing what’s appropriate for the work they have to do that day. If they’re going to be in the office in meetings with colleagues and clients they would dress for the office. If they were going to be on the road meeting clients or working on projects, they would dress appropriately for those situations.
I recall when I was a small business lender with the SBA a client who owned a pig farm gave me a really nice compliment the day I went out to do a site visit of his farm. I was dressed in nice jeans, a fleece top and boots. He said, “I love having you as my lender because you come out here ready to really understand and see my business. I can tell by the way you’re dressed that you “get” what my business is all about and that you’re not afraid to really get into it and get dirty!” He said that other folks who come out in heels and suits seem intimidating and he has to worry about getting their shoes dirty and on top of that he feels that they are showing him and his business little respect by not dressing appropriately for the farm. He makes an interesting point.
How we dress really is about showing respect for our co-workers our clients, our customers and even ourselves. We show respect by not making others feel uncomfortable because of what we are wearing. Granted there are days when you arrive at work dressed to do one thing and then you are called upon to perform another duty that you are not “dressed” for. It’s not a bad idea to keep a pair of farm boots and a fleece jacket in your car for that very reason!