Lately in the news, I've noticed more and more comments about mandatory dress codes being enforced within companies, and people trying to rebel or change the code. For twenty-two years of my life....I was in the Air Force and played along with their dress code. After that period, I left and entered the corporate world, and met up with another dress code (for 11 years) and finally put in 3.5 years within the Pentagon's world of civilian dress codes.
The thing about dress codes is that you are trying to establish a threshold where people look professional in the work-place. In 1999, as I went into the contractor world....our big-name company had a dress code but if you went through what was three or four paragraphs.....it was mostly a simple deal. All shirts had to have a collar....no tennis shoes....professional image. That was it.
About a year into this period, I noted that the company had hired some 20-year old gal as a admin person....who was wearing the shortest possible dress possible. This came up one day as a topic among the five or six guys in my group, and we were curious how long this would be allowed to continue. She actually made it six months into the job when the boss of the section had a private meeting and laid out the rules. The next day....she showed up with the same type dress. A week later....he had another conversation with her. Nothing changed. Several months would pass and one day....they just let her go.
I worked with one contractor from another company who wore sweatsuits to work everyday in the winter....with no collar. For one whole winter....the company said nothing. As the second year came around....they got all hyper that this couldn't continue. So, he came in the next day with a shirt collar appearing with the sweatshirt. That was acceptable. What they didn't know....was this was just a fake shirt collar that some South Korean sewing shop lady had fixed up for the guy, and he had three or four fake collars for his winter garb.
At the Pentagon, my organization had actually existed for thirty-odd years without a civilian dress code. For some reason, things hit some wall and the military officers decided that they needed to be a code. They argued about this for two years and never got anywhere. Down the hall from me....another organization had some rules in place that went to the extreme.....you had to wear a wool-like blend in your trousers from mid-October to mid-March. They also had a rule about black socks being mandatory.....all year round.
I brought this up one day with a guy who'd been around the Pentagon for thirty years. As he noted, there really wasn't a problem existing until you get to the 1990s. It didn't matter whether you were talking about inside the Pentagon or just in DC itself....a whole group of people came out of the university system in the 1990s and just didn't agree with dress codes, period.
I was reading a piece this week where they discussed at one company....the rule that shoes all had to be leather, and people had noticed 'fake-leather' shoes on some folks. They had posed the fake-leather issue with HR, which brought up some frustrations with people.
Personally, I think you need some rules or you'd end up with a bunch of folks pushing the limit (showing up with green hair, men wearing red business suits, or women wearing men's business suits). The sad thing is that once you start writing these rules......you end up writing 300-percent of what you really needed. And then people start to get cynical about the whole business.