Tell Us Your [Dress Code] Story

Tell Us Your [Dress Code] Story

Welcome to a new periodic feature, exclusively offered for our members. “Tell Us Your Story” is your chance to get feedback from ELGL members about a specific topic or policy. Today, we’re tackling local government dress codes.

Here’s the email from an ELGL member:

crocs“We’re looking to update our dress code policy. Yep, that seemingly innocuous document that governs everything from our attire (no jorts/crocs – can you believe it!) to our grooming (no piercings other than earrings/no caveman beards).

I’ve been working on this outdated way of thinking for months and we’re at the point finally that we are ready to make some changes. I think our leadership is finally understanding that the policy we have is not conducive to attracting young talent.

polls_packer_2830_207962_poll_xlargeAbout the only good thing in it is that we can wear our Packers gear on Fridays during the season. Although my Packers hoodie still isn’t allowed.

What we’re ready to do is have a policy that basically states “you’re an adult, dress appropriately.” However, as we all know nothing in local gov is that easy.

So, wondering if anyone has a truly simplistic policy that they’d be willing to share so I can give examples to our mayor/HR dept. to model our new policy after.”

Here’s the draft of the current City of Appleton Business Dress Code Policy in case someone wants to comment directly on the policy instead of sharing their own ideas.

Tell us what you think, using the comments below, or send an email to with “Dress Code Suggestions” in the subject line.  

Have your own “Tell Us Your Story” you want to pose to ELGL?  We’re happy to collect information for you with the caveat that you’ll compile and share what you’ve learned back with ELGL when your research is complete.  Email Kirsten with your “Tell Us Your Story” request.

9 comments on “Tell Us Your [Dress Code] Story

  • I use the “grandma rule” for office clothing decisions. What would your grandma say if you wore that to her dinner table? My grandma’s are very honest and blunt women – they’ve always told me if it’s too short, too tight, too low, too casual, not clean enough, see-through, wrinkled, or even (gasp!) stinky. Channel your grandma’s reaction to your outfit and you’ll never go wrong!

  • Christa Bosserman Wolfe says:

    The dress code policy mentioned above is extremely conservative. I have never seen such a detailed list of no-nos before. Nylons were ditched at least 10 years ago. Dressy jeans are acceptable here in the Northwest – they look great when paired with a jacket and nice shoes. Maybe it is time to just say, “Business casual” and leave it that?

    • The problem with that is the defintion of business casual seems to be more and more subjective to people. What I consider BC is much dressier than what some others consider BC. Then if someone comes in to the office wearing something completely off it makes it difficult for HR or someone to address it because there’s no specific rule against it.

  • joshmahar says:

    Whoa, no flannel?? That may be a sacrilege here in the Pacific NW.

    Personally, I’d say this may be an area where a no-policy/minimum policy is the best policy, similar to the growing trend of unlimited vacation policies. Using simple guidelines instead of a prescriptive policy shows your employees that you trust their judgement, which really you should anyway since you are presumably trusting them with work tasks and activities.

    If your goal is to attract younger talent, this is also valuable, as “appropriate work attire” is different depending on the age demographic you’re talking to, and that should be okay. If wearing a hoodie sweatshirt to work makes someone feel more comfortable, and ultimately allows them to be more engaged and productive in their job, where’s the issue?

    I’d say stick with the “less is more” principle, but provide for management intervention in any cases where issues or problems arise.

  • When I used to work for an unnamed city (“fourth largest city in Oregon”) HR opted for no policy and left it to managers to take care of issues on their own. I will say, it would have been nice to have a policy to point to when we needed to coach people with issues, particularly those who interacted with the public.

  • I know I’m in the minority here but despite being a Milennial I think dress codes are important and I like strict dress codes. What’s wrong with requiring professional dress at work? Aren’t we requiring professional behavior? Studies show that people act the way they are dressed-I know I feel more “business minded” when I am dressed up compared to when I’m wearing jeans. Having a looser dress code gives too much room for people to wear things that just shouldn’t be worn in an office environment (and I know what I’m talking about because I’ve seen some things I wish I’d never been exposed to!) There needs to be standards and a clear distinction that when one is at work they are to be at work. If you need to be comfortable and wear sweatpants-wear them as soon as you get home.

  • It’s 2015. We should not be policing what people wear, so long as there is little risk for negative impact on job performance. I don’t buy “the business minded” argument– sure some people feel more confident and focused when they wear a power suit, but others feel super uncomfortable and awkward. Not all bodies are the same. What looks “business casual” on one body might look “downright awful” on another.

    If there needs to be a policy, make sure it’s gender neutral. Transgender people have a hard enough time without having to worry about whether they’ll be fired for wearing nylons instead of socks.

    These days, I’m actually surprised if I meet someone my age who doesn’t have body piercings or tattoos. Let’s not cater to a disapproving generation who didn’t grow up with these things.

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