Saturday, August 18, 2012

Thoughts On: Workplace Dresscodes

Hello all! Along with my regular post today, I wish to share some news with you: Today marks my one-year anniversary on blogger! I would like to thank you all once again for following me, as you all really make running this blog fun. Hopefully this coming year will be just as pleasant. Now, readers, the topic of today's post was inspired by none other than the lady of the manners herself. Mrs. Venters has appeared this week in an article on CNN in their lifestyle section entitled Decoding the Workplace Dress Code, all about exploring what is appropriate for work and what is not in the wake of "Mohawk Guy" on Curiosity's team. After reading the article, and the comments section, I began thinking about what I thought about dress codes and the like. Oddly enough, my thoughts led me somewhere different than I was expecting. Care to see?




Despite turning eighteen this Thursday, I am not yet a part of America's work force. School and family life keeps me busy enough. Therefore, this article's musings have little basis in actual workplace experiences. However, in my new-found adulthood, I've been thinking about my future dress codes at work. You see, unless I somehow get published and make a living off of my writing, I plan to go into teaching. While every county and school is different, this means that certain things are expected of me as far as my wardrobe goes. Very few parents want their teenager to be taught by someone who wears a lot of skulls and black. I fully anticipate turning in my puffy, bell-shaped skirts for slimmer ones, covering up my (already planned) tattoos with long sleeves, and saving my usual jewelry for the weekends. Am I upset by this? Well, not really.


Not really. There, I said it. I'm not terribly fussed or upset by it, and here's why: to me, school has always been a place that should be mostly devoted to learning. Anything that distracts from that in any significant degree isn't something that I accept readily, as I've mentioned in posts cautioning huge hair in school (for the sake of the kid behind you) and bangles that clink on the desk. I like to think that the clothes I love and adore have a sense of whimsy about them. Whimsy can, in such circumstances, be distracting and prevent me from being taken seriously. While I by no means want to be a dictator towards my students, I would prefer that they learn something from my class and not just think of me as that one Goth teacher with the weird clothes.

So, I thought myself fairly aligned with the article, who's main point was that as long as the employee's clothing is not distracting or detracting from the business, they should have a certain degree of freedom in how they dress. (If they're not going to cause anyone harm, I certainly look forward to sneaking a pocketwatch or similar into my daily outfits.) I thought that they seemed fair in their judgement, and similar to myself. While I adore self expression in clothing, some items just do not belong in the workplace.

Then, I looked down at the comments.

I always tell myself I shouldn't do that in these kinds of situations, but I can never resist. Perhaps I'm masochistic in that way. Anyway, what struck me was one by a creature called moiraesfate. Moiraesfate was petitioning that people with alternative looks should save them for after business hours. So far, so standard, I thought. Then, I read on in their comment: "would you want to rent a hotel room from ppl with nose rings, covered in tatoos and had a shaven head? of course not." Now, readers, I had a glimmer of understanding, and it goes thus:

While employers are certain to have their own prejudices, many do not care about the appearance of their employees as much as they care about their productivity and, thus, how much money they are making the company. However, due to judgmental customers who would walk out of an establishment because an employee was pierced, tattooed, and shaved, they have to be more judicious about what they allow their employees to do with their bodies. It's easy to think that perhaps the company should take the moral high ground in this case and just tell their customers to suck it up, but that's not what a company does. A company exists almost solely to make money. That's their job. And, since a person with an alternative look might drive away paying customers, they have to limit what they will accept in this regard just to keep revenue up. In an ideal world, this would not be necessary. But, it seems that way.

The situation gets more complicated in the worlds outside of the service industry. Tech writers like Mrs. Venters or scientists like Mohawk Guy aren't likely to drive away customers because their workspace is not in the realm of customer service. Then, I suppose, it becomes a matter of finding out if someone's clothing choices are distracting from their work. Even if you have your little black heart set on, say, a red velvet corset, someone who works behind the scenes in a theatre company would possibly be slowed down by it. Their work place rules are designed to keep them on track and not distracted or inhibited. Perhaps here it is easier to see if an employer is factoring in their personal tastes to what they deem appropriate for work, unlike with the service industry, but in many cases it does continue to be about revenue.

So, basically what I'm saying here is that instead of ragging on companies for their policies against certain looks, maybe we need to refocus our efforts on our fellow consumers. And, of course, that means changing what the public associates alternative looks to mean. Then, we're right back where we started. So, readers, what do you think?

20 comments:

  1. This is a close one to my heart. I am hopefully going to be employed next year and am thinking about clothing choices. The thing is, women's work suits have always made me gag, I hate them with a vengeance. (Sorry to anyone who likes them) MY Victorian inspired style is a part of who I am and I feel more myself in it. When I try to dress normally I actually feel miserable and angry. I don't mind not wearing black, I like other colours too. But if I was told I couldn't wear long skirts and ruffly blouses, I would be really upset.

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  2. Covering up my arm tatt is unfortunately also probably going to be an issue, which sucks as I have a lot of beautiful sleeveless tops.

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    1. I agree about it being a future issue, my current one I have planned to be on my wrist so I suppose it's long sleeves forever! Haha.

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  3. Congratulations on your one year Blogger Anniversary! Here's to many, many more - and hopefully lots of posts and pictures from Scotland!! :D

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    1. Thank you! I hope I'll be able to post some interesting ones. If you're interested in seeing more pictures from Scotland, you can check out my study abroad blog:

      http://www.theeverydaygoth.studentsgoneglobal.com

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  4. I live in Germany, my company doesn't have a dresscode (as far as I know), this seems to be the norm around here. And nobody comes to work naked or in a fluffy pink bunny suit. XD

    I never understood the need to regulate your employees clothing to the smallest detail, at this point you might as well give out an uniform and employ a company tailor to make it fit right.

    Can someone please enlighten me where this difference in mentality comes from?

    For myself:
    As long as I have a choice you can't pay me enough to feel ugly all day. I'm okay with not wearing nosey things or stuff that scares your average granny to death (fancy contacts for example).
    I hate pantsuits too (with passion) and things like 'business casual' would likely mean that I have to purchase a second wardrobe full of things I would never want to wear outside of work.

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    1. I'm quite envious that you all don't have a dress code! I wish that were the norm at other places. Perhaps the difference in mentality comes from what you expect from your employees and from customer reactions.Maybe it affects profits over here?

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  5. I read the article Mrs. Venters did with CNN that you referenced (and love the goth at the office photos they used). Changing negative stereotypes is a slow process. Many companies that hire young people such as retail (which I am currently doing due to a bad economy despite have a degree) have very strict dress codes and will not hire someone who does not look like the image they are selling to begin with. My mother is a teacher who works with interns from the local university and yes they do have a dress code as well. The best policy I found is to try to strike a balance between your personal style and dress code. When I hit my 20s I tried for a while to look more mainstream (and wear bright colors that looked asinine on my genetically pale skin and dark hair) but felt like I was losing my identity. Now I have developed a more professional image that is still me. This is true of many goths past college age. Though I am 23 most of the goths I know through my local club scene are mid 20s-50 and have developed a happy medium stylistically in order to acquire a job and afford their $300 corsets and $400 New Rocks. However, if you want to dress more elaborately might I recommend becoming a college professor? Academia is very open minded depending on the department. I have had instructors with extensive tattoos and dyed hair. One of my academic friends was in shock a work place would even have a dress code. Teaching the 18-21 year age bracket puts you in the position to influence the next generation of CEOs without all the restrictions you encounter with K-12. If you show them that someone can be a professional but still be alternative then perhaps they will take that knowledge with them when they start their own companies.

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  6. I would love to be a teacher, so a lot of times I thought about how it would affect my wardrobe ..

    Also, congratulations on the one-year mark! I haven't the slightest clue for how long I've been blogging. LOL.

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    1. Thank you! I just checked when I did my first post and, low and behold, I was at my one-year mark! I look forward to seeing how being a teacher affects mine as well...

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  7. I guess I'll be some kind of designer.. I really hope to make and sell goth clothes in the future.
    But works clothes are different from the place you work at. I mean, you can't obviously dress full time goth as a doctor, whereas as a tattoo artists you most certainly can.

    Btw I have a question- how can I subscribe to you? I can't seem to find that button...O_o

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    1. I'm sorry, my blogging html has been absolutely impossible lately. It should be working now on the sidebar with a "Subscribe" link.

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  8. I actually worked as a substitute primary school teacher and my mother, herself a teacher, said that your clothes should "attract but not distract"; basially, you need to be interesting enough for the children to look at you but not be distracted by sparkly bits, vibrant colors or busy patterns.I tried therefore to wear at least a bit of color (a galaxy print tee, a dusty pink cardigan) with simple shoes and plain jeans.
    When I worked in an office I had to likewise tone down my look and makeup as to not frighten all the elderly villagers in need of veterinary assistance. My dad, who was also my boss, apologised but said that there was too much paperwork for me to waste my time running away from a lynch mob armed with pitchforks.

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    1. I think that's an excellent way to look at it, especially with younger children and older persons. I know my wardrobe seems to attract attention from children, so maybe I ought to go into primary school teaching! Hahaha.

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  9. Hi everyone !

    I am blessed with a nice workplace.

    It's a former 19th century bank now an early 20th century hotel with flair : we have a couple of ghosts from a bank robbery that went bad 125 years ago !

    I can't let my dark side all out but steampunk or romantic goth seams to be ok with the boss (and the ghosts) since it fits the decorum. I toned down the makeup and accessories.

    The clients are astonished that my outfits are not the hotel's uniform but my own clothes.

    I think that if you absolutely want to keep a certain style at work you have to choose a workplace that fits it.

    I am very lucky with this job.

    I wish this would be the case for all of you.


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  10. I work at a primary school, and keep my outfits in darker colour-schemes, but all mainstream work clothes. I think things like black velvet jackets, blouses from more Victorian inspired collections, etc. mean that I'm not completely "normal", but I'm also still pretty mainstream looking at the same time.

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