Dress Codes

Although resented and resisted by some employees (and fewer employers), a dress code, which specifies what attire, grooming, bodily adornment and art and level of hygiene are acceptable, serves a number of functions viewed as vital, from the organization's perspective.

These functions include creation of a sense of organizational solidarity, consistency and identifiability; communication of relative status (both within the company and between the company and its rivals or the broader society); inculcation of employee compliance as an organizational value and norm; elimination of potential workplace distractions, disruptions or hazards (such as stiff spiked hair); compliance with law, e.g., allowing or prohibiting turbans, or political or sexual messages on T-shirts; and demarcation of employee roles, tasks, authority and responsibilities.

A dress code can also benefit employees in various ways: Where uniforms are required, the costs of acquiring a diversified wardrobe are reduced and the likelihood of fashion rivalry and resentments are diminished. Although some may lament not being allowed to wear revealing clothing, others may welcome the prohibition of such distractions. Workplace conflicts and resentments that politically, sexually or otherwise highly charged messages on clothing might cause can be averted by prohibiting them (where and if the right to display them is not legally protected).
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A dress code is a set of guidelines that informs employees about what attire and grooming is acceptable and unacceptable in the workplace. It is partly based upon what is generally accepted within similar organizations and within the law (e.g.,Osaka city's visible tattoo ban), as well as in the local, broader culture. It is not necessarily limited to clothing, and sometimes includes hygiene, hairstyles, facial hair, body art (including tattoo and piercing) and other grooming guidelines.

Appearance expectations and standards should apply to all employees equally, except for those based on distinctive rank or duty, e.g., security guards, judges and nurses. When human resources departments, executives, and managers forge the rules they must be careful not to discriminate against or offend anyone. In particular, management must be sensitive to potential legal ramifications of a dress code, e.g., codes that prohibit turbans, burqas, etc.
All employees should abide by the dress code and should strive not only to make a good impression, but also to conform to safety regulations, e.g., use of hairnets while operating machinery.

Codes are important because they maintain a consistent, professional appearance within an organization, even when different roles require different attire. They also reduce the risk of employees from offending one another or customers by their appearance, e.g., slovenly, politically inflammatory or vulgar. Codes also help enforce health and safety regulations to protect employees.

How one prefers to dress projects what (s)he thinks and feels about himself or herself, the job, coworkers, and the customer. When an employee dresses to code, (s)he projects what he or she is expected to think and feel with respect to the corporate bottom line.

Most organizations expect employees to have good personal hygiene and wear clothing that is clean and well-maintained, is not too revealing, does not have offensive writing, or otherwise cause a distraction within the organization. Frequently, safety, comfort, convenience and utility determine industry standards regarding what is acceptable. For example, many manufacturing jobs require steel-toed, close-heeled shoes and clothing that permits free movement. Food industries require hairnets and gloves to prevent the spread of disease. Healthcare providers are expected to wear scrubs or lab coats that can be changed when they become soiled. Again, codes are based upon and evaluated by what is usually expected within a similar organization and by the job descriptions within it. For example, one would not be offended by a mechanic on duty with dirty fingernails; however, a banker with dirty fingernails would be frowned upon.