Why Dress Codes Are Doomed to Fail

In theory, dress codes seem like an excellent idea. If everyone conforms to a set of rules on how they should dress, everyone will look professional and represent the company’s corporate identity to the best of their ability. Sounds easy enough, right? Wrong.

The reality of dress codes is that they aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. With the tech industry having more and more influence on corporate life, millennials coming of age and demanding balance, and the current conversations about gender equality and fluidity in the workplace, dress codes simply don’t have the same appeal they used to.

So, what exactly is wrong with having a dress code policy in place? And why are dress codes becoming increasingly relaxed? Ahead, we share a few of the most prominent reasons.

1. Dress codes don’t always represent equality

Heels don’t necessarily boost productivity. | MoustacheGirl/iStock.com

When it comes to office dress codes, they aren’t always considered equal. For instance, in the past, many dress codes had strict policies about women wearing heels to the office. With the current political climate and conversations surrounding gender equality and fluidity, comments on gender-specific dress code are increasingly viewed as sexist and inappropriate.

2. The tech industry is taking over — and it has different standards

Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg loves the casual look. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Another reason dress code policies are on the fast track to failure? The tech industry. With tech executives such as Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg donning hoodies and tees as their preferred work attire, dress codes are becoming more and more relaxed — and, quite frankly, irrelevant.

However, these tech executives aren’t trying to look unprofessional. In fact, they make their argument for relaxed dress codes with the quality of their work in mind. Case in point? Zuckerberg has been asked about his infamous gray T-shirt a handful of times. His answer? He prefers to turn his attention and energy to other — i.e., more important — decisions than his wardrobe.

3. Work-life balance is becoming increasingly important

beautiful businesswoman talking on mobile phone while standing with her baby girl

They have to dress for it all. | G-stockstudio/iStock.com

As the separation between work and home life continues to shrink, those who need more work-life balance are demanding more balance in their dress codes, too. Between work meetings, picking up the kids from school, and trying to make that 6 p.m. yoga class, many employees don’t have the time to dwell over their business attire.

4. Not everyone has a customer-facing job

No customers will see those socks. | iStock

Some dress codes — like ones for customer-facing jobs — are completely necessary. That being said, not everyone has a customer-facing job. Dress codes and uniform requirements for jobs that require distinction between employee and customer — think: museums, fast food joints, Disneyland, etc. — are set in place for a reason. However, dress codes for non-customer-facing business operations don’t necessarily need to be as strict.

5. Personal expression is more important than corporate identity

handsome African black young business man

Personal expression is important. | Warrengoldswain/iStock.com

The root source of dress codes is corporate identity. But with younger generations coming of age and entering the workplace, it has become increasingly apparent that their personal expression is just as (if not, more) important as corporate identity. Having the freedom to express oneself through clothing choices at work can make an employee more comfortable in their work environment.

6. Millennials are demanding flexibility

young woman working with laptop

Times are changing. | Nensuria/iStock.com

Speaking of younger generations, millennials bring a whole new meaning to office life. As millennials continue to move up the corporate ladder, they’re demanding more and more flexibility in both their work-life balance and their dress codes.

7. Employees want to feel like themselves at work

Smiling young woman in white shirt

When employees are at their best, everyone wins. | SanneBerg/iStock.com

In addition to self expression, another important thing to consider is an individual’s need to feel like themselves at work. Many employees identify who they are with their careers. Therefore, they want the freedom to be themselves within their work environment.