I’m starting business school this year, so I hope this post doesn’t stop me from getting a job one day (and I certainly hope it doesn’t get me fired). Anyway, the dress code for the first day of school is “business formal” aka full suiting. I don’t know about you, but where I live, it’s still the middle of summer and it’s hovering around 30 degrees Celcius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) over here. It could always be worse, but to me, that’s hot. At least hot enough for me to want to avoid walking around in a blazer.
So last night, the only question on my mind was “WHY BUSINESS FORMAL?!”. No, seriously. I just sat on my bed and asked myself WHY, and I then I really thought about why, and I really couldn’t come up with a good answer so I just distracted myself with Facebook.
Humor the philosophical side of me here. Who decided what “professional” looked like? When was it determined by a high-quality, tailored suit, and why? When women started working in business, who decided that women should also wear suits? Should men and women be dressed the same in professional settings? Why are women allowed to wear skirts in corporate offices, but not shorts? Why aren’t men allowed to show leg when women are? WHY IS THERE EVEN A DRESS CODE?
In my quiet mind, I think that dress code stifles creativity. They force you to mold yourself into somebody else’s image for you. For example, if you’re at a wedding, you wear something fancy, but not too fancy, to create the image that the bride and groom want for their big day. Therefore, you might be asked to bring a mask for a theatre-themed wedding, and might very well be denied entry if you fail to do so because it’s not about you.
That’s all fine and good for a wedding, but what about adhering to a strict dress code each and every day? The way that we choose to dress reflects who we are. Corporate dress codes take away this method of self-expression and replaces it with “professionalism”. It forces you to paint yourself in the company’s image. Suddenly, it doesn’t matter who you are as an individual, nor does it matter what you personally think. You are representing the company as well as yourself. But company first, because that’s your job.
More questions: is it just a coincidence that more artistic/creative jobs have lax dress codes, or even no dress code? What is the point of “Casual Friday”? Why do you have to look professional if you never see clients? (Why are suits so damn uncomfortable?!)
Like most of my sitting-on-my-bed thought streams, this doesn’t really have a point. I’m just saying, I like to express myself through the way that I dress, and people can learn a bit about you through the way that you present yourself. Yes, that’s reason for a company to implement a dress code, but when did we start hating on creativity so much in the first place? And why should we? Are the efforts to “bring creativity back to workplaces” real, or is it just hot air?
Speaking of creativity, if you haven’t seen my favorite TED talks yet, hop to it. Sir Ken Robinson is #1 in my heart.
What do you think of dress codes?
Image courtesy of Looking Glass via Flickr (CC-BY-SA-2.0).