A few days ago I visited a company that works in the field of uniforms: airlines, police, security firms, dress uniforms for officers, etc. The encounter with this wonderful sector made me reflect on the theme of dress codes at work. If the answer for this segment is obvious (we are speaking of uniforms, after all), it is not so obvious for all the other companies. I was born in a time when formalwear (jacket and tie) was the prevailing look; today the impression is more a “do-it-yourself” atmosphere. So, does it still make sense to talk about a dress code at work? I am thinking, above all, of the people who work in sales and who are, therefore, in contact with customers.

I agree that “the suit doesn’t make the man”. We must not judge people by their appearance – what we see outwardly doesn’t always correspond to the inner value of a person – but I believe that the point should be another: when you introduce yourself to a client, the clothing you wear does not only communicate your individuality but it also speaks of the company that you are representing. It doesn’t make sense to be careful about how our corporate communication is coordinated (website, catalogues, social media, etc.) and then not reflect on how our sales staff present themselves. Obviously, this isn’t the only aspect we need to worry about! Competence, respect for people, paraverbal communication, etc. are very important! But I am convinced that even the “wrapping” plays its part. As an old saying goes, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

It’s clear that we can’t turn back the clock 30 years: the way of dressing has changed! To impose a too detailed dress code would be anachronistic, ridiculous and also detrimental to the individuality of the people. But it is also my opinion that we cannot risk going in a completely opposite direction and leaving the option of wearing whatever one wants open. Without mentioning that in some fields a limited kind of dress code can also be a type of product promotion, with some clothing chains allocating an annual sum to each clerk to wear that brand’s clothes.

In conclusion, I believe that between the uniform that the airline staff wears and “do what you want” there is a space for each company – depending on the corporate identity and the product – to find / recommend its own dress code!

I have already talked about these issues relating to etiquette in the sales sphere in my post INFORMALITY IN BUSINESS RELATIONSHIPS