Jeans, Verboten!

A co-worker of mine just got sent home to change. His crime? Wearing jeans on Friday. Apparently it isn’t allowed in my office, which strikes me as strange, as it’s a very casual dress office anyway. Hearing of his expulsion another co-worker slipped out to change – she too was wearing jeans. Mind you, these aren’t inexperienced workers either, nor are they low on the food chain. It may be Friday, no VIPs visiting the office, everyone starting to leave for Thanksgiving break, but there are “no exceptions” to the rule.

It’s made me think about the changing dress code of DC offices. I remember going on some of my very first interviews as a callow youth (back before the New Economy made khakis acceptable) and being told quite plainly that in Washington, many offices outlawed pantsuits for women, and I would be wise to adjust my attire. My Yankee blood boiled and I vowed never to work for such an organization. Had they never heard of Katharine Hepburn? How about Marlene Dietrich? Later, as pantsuits broke through the glass ceiling, the rule to break became the “always wear hose even in the deadly DC August heat,” which I found to be insanely backward. My personal rule has always been, if you are dressed appropriately for the occasion, the day, and the season, it shouldn’t matter about the “rules” – they are certainly different by region and by country, anyway.

Any similar experiences with the office fashion police?
What do you think is acceptable/unacceptable?

4 Comments so far

  1. webjedi (unregistered) on November 18th, 2005 @ 11:06 am

    Working for a Fortune Global 500 / Fortune 200 firm here in Baltimore, we’ve been dictated that from our move from the IT Department into another rung in the corproate ladder under our Risk division, that we can no longer wear jeans. Also, we, as males, must wear collared shirts (um, when it’s cold out, I like a sweater or pullover, sans dorky dress shirt under it… I’m not a preppie, I’m a geek for chrissakes)

    My co-worker bikes into work, thus wears jeans and shorts on occasion before he changes into kakhi’s, however, they even got pissy about leaving his nicely folded kakhi’s folded at the end of the day over the back of his chair.

    It’s stuff like that (among all the other politico stuff now since the org move), that has both of us looking to possibly move on.

    I had an interview this week with a potential employer (Federal government), so I “suited up”, walked into the interview, and found myself horribly, and I do mean horribly, overdressed. Everybody was in kakhis, and if I looked around I could have seen untucked shirts, jeans and maybe a random t-shirt poking through.

    I think if you work at a place that suffers from the fashion police, it totally screws with your sense of right and wrong fashion faux pas… then again, ask my wife and I just can’t dress myself period… oh well!

  2. Tiff (unregistered) on November 18th, 2005 @ 11:29 am

    Dress code is a weird issue at my workplace. The official company standard is “professional,” but in my division, we place geeks and artists with other geeks and artists, so we tend to err more on the “business casual” side- after all, IT guys tend to distrust people in suits. Our coworkers in other offices *hate* that.

  3. fashion-oppression (unregistered) on November 18th, 2005 @ 1:16 pm

    I have a crazed work enviro. We’re an NGO and I’m running a tech-focused program, and yet its business casual per a Fortune 500 company – collared shirts and dress slacks every day. How out of touch!

    I went on a road show a month ago to four big NGO’s, companies we model ourselves after I’m told, and I was the only guy wearing a tie, much less a collar, in all four offices. Even the Directors were t-shirted.

    Its even hard for me to recruit sometimes – techies see all the ties in the office and freak. Agh. The life of the fashion oppressed.

  4. Don (unregistered) on November 18th, 2005 @ 1:35 pm

    It is not my experience, but my father once gave us all a good laugh when he was an exec at Ryder by telling us of another exec at his level who sent one of her employees home for what she felt was a dress code violation. The woman’s shoes showed too much (this is a direct quote) “toe clevage.”

    Apparently she felt proper business shoes covered more of the top of the foot. “Toe clevage” still makes me giggle almost 20 years later.

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