What Not To Wear – Office Dress Code Edition

by | Jul 16, 2013 | Blog

  • Amy Letke

    Amy Newbanks Letke, SPHR, GPHR, is the Founder of Integrity HR, Inc. Amy provides workplace solutions to improve performance, reduce liability and increase profits. She is passionate about helping other entrepreneurs and business owners achieve success. Contact us for more insights - 502-753-0970 or info@integrityhr.com

The Do’s and Don’t’s of Office Dress Code and
How To Explain It To Your Employees

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Thank you for visiting Integrity HR. Today we are going to talk about What Not To Wear – Office Dress Code Edition.

One of the biggest challenges we have as managers and as business owners is communicating to our employees and associates what not to wear to the office. The business dress code has become a challenge over several years and letting our employees know our expectations is a bigger challenge than it ought to be.

What Not To Wear Office Dress Code Edition

While we know what we want our employees to wear, getting them to understand that expectation is proven to be difficult. When we use words like professional, business casual and casual, what we often find is that employees come in with an entirely different set of expectations. While it shouldn’t be a challenge, letting our employees come in wearing jeans, sundresses, sandals and high top tennis shoes is not our expectation of what a business associate should look like.

So how do we expect our employees to know what to wear if we don’t tell them? Well that proves to be the problem. And telling them often isn’t enough. What do we need to do if telling them isn’t enough? We need to show them.

In today’s session, we’re going to let you know exactly how to show your employees what not to wear at the office.

How Short Is Too Short?

You need to let your ladies know if they are going to wear a skirt and that skirt needs to be a certain length, telling them that wearing a skirt of appropriate length isn’t quite enough. You need to tell them exactly what that length needs to be. If you expect skirts to be no more than two inches above the need, you need to tell them exactly that.

What About Revealing Clothing?

Well, what’s revealing to you and me might mean something totally different to someone else. Let your employees know that leggings and low cut tops and dresses are not work appropriate. Tank tops, shorts, midriff shirts are not permitted and that undergarments should not be exposed. If all shirts need to have sleeves, you need to let them know that as well. And if sleeveless shirts are permitted, let them know how wide the straps need to be

Unkempt Appearance

Now, what do you do if your employees wear the appropriate clothes, they just don’t wear them appropriately? Let them know that they do need to keep a good, clean appearance. All men’s shirts should be tucked in. Clothing should be ironed, clean and free of holes & stains. T-shirts, sweatpants, sweatshirts, and athletic wear are not permitted at all. And if they are going to wear any logo wear, it needs to be limited to company issued polo shirts and dress shirts.

Do’s and Don’ts For Jeans in the Workplace

Now what about jeans in the workplace? Some businesses limit jeans to “jeans days” or Fridays while other companies say that jeans are fine for every day as long as they are clean and professional.

So let’s tell our employees exactly what we mean by that. Let them know that shoes and items worn on jeans day must follow the office dress code. Jeggings, baggy jeans, tight jeans, ripped jeans, faded jeans and jeans with rolled cuffs are not permitted.


Shoes are as much as an expression of individuality as any other item in our wardrobe. But we need to let our employees know what is appropriate and what is not. Shoes should be clean and provide safe, secure footing while offering protection against hazards. Men must wear socks. Athletic shoes, slippers and flip-flops are prohibited. And be sure to let your ladies know that some shoes, no matter how pretty they are, need to be reserved for the dance floor.

Offensive Body Odor

Now even once we have all the clothing in order, we need to let our employees know that personal hygiene also needs to be taken care of. Good personal hygiene needs to be addressed and all offensive body odor needs to be avoided. Sometimes the flip side can be just as bad. Perfume, cologne, aftershave and the like should be used in moderation or not at all in some workplaces.

Tattoos, Piercings and Extreme Hair

Now it comes down to tattoos, piercings and extreme hair. Facial jewelry, visible tattoos, extreme hairstyles are not compliant with the professional appearance expectations for employees. When it comes time to explain to your employees what the extreme hairstyles and extreme hair colors mean, tell your employees this: While the hair color may not be natural to you; it should be natural to someone, somewhere.

Remember this when you talk to your employees about office dress code:

  • “Jeans Day” is not casual dress day.
  • Men please tuck in your shirts.
  • Ladies please watch the length of your skirt and the dip in your shirt.
  • Leggings, flip-flops, sweatshirts/sweatpants and tennis shoes are not appropriate business wear.

We hope this has proved useful to you the next time you go to talk to your employees about the appropriate office dress code.

If there’s anything else you need, please remember that Integrity HR is only a phone call away.

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