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A recent report by the Guardian revealed the troubling ways dress codes can hinder new graduates from being accepted for a job position, particularly in investment banking.

Unwritten guidelines such as ‘polish’, ‘aura’ or donning brown shoes rather than black, have all been heard to damage chances early on.

With such archaic rules used as an excuse to determine if a graduate is from an affluent background and those not, it’s hard to see if dress codes are at all relevant anymore.

While there are some small businesses that need a uniform for hygienic or branding reasons, such as in the hospitality or retail sectors, there are many small businesses whose employees’ outfits aren’t restricted by a uniform.

These small business directors must decide for themselves whether there’s any advantage to a dress code.


One of the main arguments against having a dress code for small businesses is that it’s an outdated method of working. While few small businesses require a suit and tie, the formality of a dress code, and what it represents, is the underlying issue.

Take the Guardian’s recent article, for instance. Hopeful graduates’ saw chances damaged because they were wearing the wrong colour shoe, or because they looked uncomfortable in a suit.

Rather than reflecting badly on job applicants, it’s the industries that are under fire. Their dress code do’s and don’ts were a way of discriminating against applicants not from wealthy backgrounds.

Implementing any kind of dress code doesn’t represent the same qualities, but it does project an image of being unapproachable.

Allowing employees to wear a personal style can give a business a human component, which can make small businesses appealing to customers, and seem approachable.

Professional appearance

One of the principal arguments for implementing a dress code is being able to maintain a professional appearance in the workplace, which in turn is said to affect staff productivity.

If your small business deals with clients on a regular basis, you may be expected to enforce a dress code to ‘keep up appearances’.

Some would also argue that having a strict dress code in place is important for promoting a work mentality, and for getting employees to maintain a work ethic.

However, there’s no conclusive data on a dress codes’ psychological impact on an employee’s productivity.

The perfect combination?

Many small businesses now opt for the ‘smart casual’ business dress; but is this any better than a strict dress code?

Sometimes there can be even more unwritten rules on what’s appropriate, making deciding what to wear an even more difficult decision.

In September 2015, CV Library conducted a survey of employees that found one in three are against their colleagues displaying ‘personal style’ (tattoos, piercings or unique clothing) in the workplace.

Of the respondents who said that they have expressed their personal style in the office, 17% said that doing so made them feel uncomfortable.

Is remote working the answer?

A rise in the number of employers that allow employees to work remotely may meant the battle over dress codes will come to an end in the foreseeable future, leaving employees to dress however they like, in the comfort of their own home.

While it might not be advisable to hop into your pajamas and slippers just yet, taking a more relaxed attitude on your employee dress code may make for a more comfortable workforce, until remote working takes over completely!

Does your small business enforce a dress code? Or are you set against telling employees what to wear? Leave your comments in the section below!

About The Author

Karl Bilby

We work very closely with our expert accountants to bring you the latest factually correct tax and accounting news. We also enjoy writing about small business news that we hope you find useful!

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