11.17.2009

dress for success

A brief manifesto on office dress codes:

I understand, in certain industries, the necessity of enforcing a formal dress code for the office. White-shoe law firms, banks, psychiatrists, and so forth: the tip-top in professional dress seems appropriate and even necessary (to say nothing of industry-mandated dress codes for those in the medical field or whatnot). And although it's never been spelled out explicitly, I've worked in several offices where an implied "business" dress code was certainly the norm.

Recently, I received an email re: office dress code. This particular office happens to define itself as "business casual", which is no surprise at all. However, the email ended with the line: "no jeans". And mostly, I get that. Really. But there's this great disconnect happening here in the huge grey area between "business casual" and "no jeans".

For example, I'm 100% convinced (and oh, how I would bring you photographic evidence of this!- if only I were able to photograph people without being noticed!) that the example ensemble of dragging-hem, wrinkled, and faded black "dress pants" (ha) with a shapeless t-shirt layered over another dingy t-shirt is in no way at all to be considered "business casual" or office-appropriate. On the other hand, something like this (from my Lazy Sunday a few months ago) includes jeans, but I'd wager that it looks worlds more professional than the more-than-casual abomination criticized above. Or, horrors, the black gym pants I saw today, paired with a black t-shirt and drapey wrap cardigan. Now, is that outfit perfectly appropriate and perhaps even flattering for a run to the grocery after your yoga class? Absolutely. And I've likely worn it myself on several occasions, but none of those occasions have been to work.

The "no jeans" clause bugs. In my mind, it should be enough to say "please dress in accordance with our Business Casual standards." If that means that well-fitting jeans devoid of rips and the like may be worn, so much the better. But people, as Beckett reminds us, are bloody ignorant apes; they will find a way to attire themselves in sloppy-but-technically-standard-following ensembles.

Oh, my delicate aesthetic sensibilities are aching.

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