What is a company dress code?
A dress code is a set of guidelines that stipulates what a company considers appropriate for work attire. It creates an expectation for the image that the company wants to portray.
Related: How to Manage Employees
Advantages of having a dress code policy
There are a number of benefits to instituting a dress code policy. A well-written one:
- Mitigates concerns over attire: With a clear policy in place, you can communicate to your employees a guideline for what to wear to work and how they can make decisions related to casual and formal wear.
- Impresses customers: If you have a customer-facing business, a dress code policy ensures that when customers interact with your employees, they see people who represent your brand and are a visually cohesive part of your business.
- Promotes inclusiveness and equality: A clear dress code policy that clearly outlines what’s expected of everyone in relation to appearance promotes feelings of inclusiveness and equality, eliminating any competitiveness over who’s wearing fashionable attire.
Tips to determine if you should institute a company dress code policy
If any of the following apply to your company, you may wish to institute a company dress code policy:
- Your employees encounter customers: If your employees are in a customer-facing position, you may want to consider a dress code so your employees appear professional and welcoming.
- Safety is a concern: If your employees perform labor-intensive work or work in an environment where accidents are more likely to happen, you may want a dress code that stipulates what protective clothing employees must wear.
- What’s appropriate for work isn’t clear: If employees are arriving at work with improper outfits or customers have complained to management, then it’s time to create and communicate a dress code that employees can follow.
- How your employees dress doesn’t reflect your corporate culture: How you dress can influence how you act. A lax dress code may not put employees in the proper mindset to carry out your professional workplace culture.
Consider having a team meeting or creating a focus group to invite employees to provide input on the new attire changes.
Example dress code policies
Here are some example dress code policy language samples for different kinds of environments that you can modify to use in your own organization:
Formal dress code policy
“Because our company frequently sees visits from clients, customers and consultants, we expect our employees to dress appropriately in business attire. Appropriate attire can include suits, a sports jacket and pants, skirts with a jacket or pantsuits appropriate for a business environment. All team members are expected to use good judgment in evaluating their attire.”
Business casual dress code policy
“Because we frequently encounter customers and because the quality of those interactions impacts how our customers feel about our organization, we expect our team to dress appropriately in business casual attire. Examples of business attire are polo shirts and slacks or a blouse or sweater with a skirt or dress pants. We expect all employees to use good judgment when deciding whether the attire they wear to work is appropriate.”
Casual dress code policy
“At [COMPANY NAME], we encourage our employees to dress comfortably in casual attire. Employees should use their best judgment to dress with professionalism and not wear anything that would make other employees uncomfortable. Clothing should not include profanity or appear distracting or revealing. Our goal is to promote an inclusive environment for all employees.”
Prohibiting certain apparel and accessories in a company dress code
The above dress code policy examples focus on what employees should wear to comply with your new rules. You may also wish to make a list of any apparel that is inappropriate for the workplace. Expressly stating what types of clothing or accessories are not suitable under your new formal, casual or business casual dress code policy can help ensure compliance and give your team a clearer understanding of your expectations.
You can add the following example to the sample dress code policy language and customize it as you see fit:
“Under the new company dress code, the following items are inappropriate to wear in the workplace:
- Muscle tees
- Backless tops or dresses
- Facial piercings
- Shorts or skirts with inseams of less than 6″
Anyone wearing these items is in violation of the dress code.”
As you can see, this example dress code policy uses specific measurements and references when describing items that are inappropriate for the workplace. This leaves no room for interpretation and is clearer than simply saying, “no short-shorts” or “no miniskirts.” Not only will employees find it easier to follow specific guidelines, but your management team will also have an easier time enforcing the code if the rules are explicitly stated.
Taking the company dress code beyond clothing
So far, the reviewed dress code policy examples have dealt only with clothing and accessories, but the rules you establish for your company may not stop there. Some companies also create rules regarding:
- Visible tattoos
- Hairstyles and hair colors
- Facial hair
Although tattoos, long beards and non-natural hair colors are generally more common today than they were a decade or two ago, your company may decide that they do not reflect the corporate image you hope to project. As a result, you may wish to include language that prohibits them in your casual, formal or business casual dress code policy. If you do, you can add these requirements to a bulleted list like the one shown in the above example of dress code prohibited attire.
Handling company dress code violations
While most of your team will likely comply with your new dress code, you may find some employees intentionally or unintentionally break the rules. Deciding in advance how you will handle dress code violations and adding language that describes the consequences may increase compliance and make it simple for managers and supervisors to discipline employees who repeatedly ignore the rules.
The following violations description can be customized to suit your business needs and used at the end of any of the example dress code policy statements shown above:
“Managers and supervisors will enforce the new company dress code policy beginning on [EFFECTIVE DATE]. Any employee in violation of the dress code will be asked to immediately bring their attire into compliance. This may include being asked to leave work, change clothes and return in suitable attire. Employees will not be compensated for lost work time if they must return home to change.
Repeated or extreme violations of this dress code policy will result in more severe disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.”
Company dress code policies FAQs
Can a company change its dress code?
Yes, a company can update its dress code policy at any time, but remember that making drastic changes to what employees wear every day could negatively impact your team. For example, your employees may not have the necessary attire to suddenly shift from casual dress to a business casual dress code policy. When making a big change, consider rolling out the dress code policy in phases or warning employees two to three months in advance so they have adequate time to update their wardrobes.
Is it legal to have a company dress code?
Although employment laws vary from state to state, dress codes are generally legal. However, you must be careful about instituting rules that discriminate against employees based on gender, race, sexual orientation or disability. For example, prohibiting African-American or Black employees from wearing certain natural hairstyles could put you at risk for litigation.
How do you announce a dress code?
Communicate with employees via a company-wide email or newsletter or post the full policy in break rooms or restrooms. Regardless of the method of communication you choose, make sure you provide an example of dress code compliance and specify exactly which types of apparel are acceptable.