What Not to Wear to Work: More Style Rules for the Modern Worker

Workplace attire is a topic that just doesn’t seem to go away. Dress codes and style rules for the modern worker get continuous coverage in the media.  Apparently, fashion is not just for the fashion columns anymore.  Fashion is a part of the business world, like it or not.  This modern-day fashion challenge is especially prevalent with Gen Y employees. 

Gen Y is known for its casual approach to work attire.  A generation that grew up wearing flip-flops and baring their belly rings can be particularly defiant of a conservative dress code.  The Millenial mantra for fashion may be coined, “Comfort Is King.”  But that position often conflicts with the expectations of management.

It can also prevent Gen Y job candidates from landing the job in the first place.  Candidates who come to an interview dressed in clothing that stands out as casual, trendy, or “young” will have a more difficult time making the cut.  And they may never know why.

So what’s a 21st-century fashion savvy job seeker to do? Generally speaking, don’t take chances.  The interview is not the place to demonstrate your appreciation for cutting-edge couture.

And what about the rules of engagement for employers?  Although some will surely disagree, my position is to err on the side of caution.  If a potential employee comes to the interview with hot pink fingernails and Cyndi Lauper-style eye shadow, don’t assume that she’ll magically know better by the time she arrives for orientation, or that she’ll “get the message” once she start work and sees that her colleagues are all dressed in more conservative garb. They won’t.

Gen Y is known for its fantastic sense of entitlement and are unlikely to be particularly understanding or appreciative of the message that their clothing choices are unsatisfactory.  So, if you hire a candidate who makes his first impression by wearing a vintage Van Halen t-shirt under an Armani suit blazer, just be aware that you’ll either have to accept his particular style choices or be prepared to have the uncomfortable “dress-code discussion” that will inevitably be required.

Accenture has come up with a great way to communicate its dress code and, with any luck, to prevent that dreaded conversation from ever being necessary in the first place.

Related Posts on Dress Codes:

I’m Too Sexy For This Job: The Beginnings of a Failure-to-Hire Lawsuit

“Are You My Lawyer or the Janitor?” The lawyer’s dress-code pendulum swings back.

Gender Discrimination & Dress Codes. Who wears the skirt, I mean, pants in your office?