Ditching the Dress Code at Work

From double-breasted suit jackets, to traditional gender-specific attire, to the Facebook uniform, we’ve come a long way in terms of office fashion. Over the past few decades, office dress code rules have changed substantially – but some employers may still be hesitant to follow suit.


What was once a very buttoned-up environment has, in many cases, become far more relaxed, casual or even creative. How your employees dress is a large part of their identity and an even bigger part of the collective work culture that can positively or negatively impact recruitment.


If you haven’t already, it may be time to throw the dress code rulebook in the trash and focus on how your employees deliver results rather than their fashion. You can do this all while keep keeping your employer brand, culture and reputation intact, too.


This isn’t to say a dress code has little impact or impression at work, but rather, it demonstrates that employers can look to the questions of, who, what and where to determine an effective framework for fashion in the workplace.




It’s likely your office or company already has a certain type of dress code or collective sense of style that is clearly defined or has been set out from the beginning. For example, a more creative work environment probably has employees wearing brighter colours and patterns versus a more traditional and corporate setting filled with black, grey and navy dress clothes.


When revising or ditching an already-established dress code, be sure to consider the people who are doing the work – and actually sporting the clothes and office fashion. Depending on the work, there may be different levels of expectation and sophistication in a dress code. If you’re a public-facing company, you’ll generally expect your staff to present themselves differently than they would at home or out and about on the weekends.


If you’ve established a sense of pride in your employees, consider adding to wardrobes with branded clothing like hoodies, collared shirts and even t-shirts. This also gives your staff an opportunity to represent your company outside of the office and can perhaps impact recruitment efforts.




If your company dress code rulebook is outdated, you can start fresh and include employee opinions and ideas for a new guide on fashion. In fact, PwC in Australia changed its office dress code rules to empower employees to make the decision for what’s dressy or not dressy enough. Not every function in an organization has the same need for more formal clothing, so this evolution reflects that reality.


At the end of the day, it all depends on what kind of work you’re doing. Wardrobes and culture should reflect the services and capabilities of employees and the company. If the type of work varies from day to day, fashion choices should be more flexible to meet different needs and expectations.


And most importantly, dress codes should ensure all safety codes are met. Specific footwear is often mandatory for outdoor jobs – especially when there’s heavy machinery involved. Any evolution of dress code standards should always reflect the reality of any safety concerns, no matter the size or impact.




In general, fashion sets out to complement the environments within which we live and work. We select our outfits and sense of style based on our personalities, lifestyle and versatility.


If your work takes place in an office, the dress code will be much different than at home, on a construction site or even an airplane. Keep in mind with where your employees travel to and from work as well. Whether you see it or not, they present (and wear) the work culture on their commute to and from the workplace.


Ditching the dress code can be a win-win for employers and employees. Employers may attract a new kind of talent via recruitment and employees may find it to be less stressful picking the “right” outfit each and every morning. Empowering your staff to make more choices in their wardrobe encourages creativity and less judgement for what others are wearing.


If all this sounds great, but you don’t know where to begin, consider launching a series of days to make fashion in the office more fun – like great shoes Tuesday or denim Fridays. Dress code changes don’t have to happen immediately. You can give your employees time to adjust as they continue to focus on their work.


For more recruitment tips, or for the latest hiring fashion trends, visit hiring.monster.ca